In recent years, the term “superfoods” has come under the spotlight. One would imagine superfoods as foods that are generally good for health even though the definition of good health may be obscure. Good health may be the state of being disease-free, especially from cancers, diabetes and heart diseases because these are the common health problems worldwide. Foods are the important environmental factors that influence one’s health. Therefore, “superfoods” sounds extremely fascinating for the general public.

To our surprise, “superfoods” is not a scientific term. This term is not used by the experts such as dietitians and nutritional scientists. “Superfoods” is the marketing term to attract the public to increase the sales. Most of the superfoods we have heard of are rich in nutritional contents but many are unsupported by scientific studies.

While there is no one single food that guarantee the good health or prevent diseases, certain foods are healthier than the others. Considering that, “superfoods” are generally defined as foods (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that are rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fibres, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Not all healthy foods are “superfoods”. Some societies view superfoods as foods that contain relatively low calories but rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fibres even the intake is the small amount.

Each superfood may have different nutritional properties, but they are associated with prevention of cancer, reduction of inflammation and pain, enhancement of heart health, strengthening of immune system and lowering of cholesterol.

Superfoods can be local products as well as foreign ones. There is this common misconception that “superfoods” are always expensive and must be imported from foreign countries with fashionable packages. Actually, a lot of local vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts are the good “superfoods”.

Therefore, for us, Myanmar people, it is okay if we cannot find or afford berries, chia seeds, quinoa, broccoli and other unfamiliar “superfoods”. Foods below are the top 5 local “superfoods” which is rare in foreign countries especially where “superfoods” market is huge.

1. Moringa (dant tha lon)

Due to its rich proteins, vitamins and minerals, it is considered superfood. Like every vegetable, they are the rich source of Vitamin A, C, E. The higher Vitamin K makes bones stronger and folate for the good heart health. It has 7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas. It is widely available and cheap. In Myanmar, both seed pods and leaves are eaten. In foreign countries, it is sold in powders and put in smoothies and yoghurt.

2. Noni (ye-yo)

Being a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, it is famous as anti-cancer food. Some studies shows that it improves joint pains, enhanced immunity and increased physical endurance. Noni juice is the commonest way of intake worldwide. In Myanmar, noni leaves are also consumed.

3. Turmeric

Along with garlic, ginger and chili, it is one of the very basic ingredients of Myanmar curry. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also enhances brain proteins that are responsible for memory and learning which has the potentials to protect the brain from depression and Alzheimer’s diseases.

4. Lentils

These protein rich legumes are prepared widely in Myanmar as soup. Also, a half cup of lentils contains abundant folate, manganese, iron and fibres. Lentils are generally considered all-purpose healthy food. It is a famous diet food too.

5. Coconut

A cultural icon of the tropical region, coconut has many known health benefits since the ancient times. In Myanmar, coconut milk noodle is one of the national foods. Coconut juice, flesh and oil are also widely used. Coconuts are high in manganese which promotes bone health and improves metabolism. It also contains the minerals such as copper and selenium which serve as antioxidants. Coconuts contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs, good fat) which may promote body fat loss in obese individuals.

Rather than the concept of one must take “superfoods” in order to be healthy, one must be aware that the balanced diet is the best for the good health. Healthy diet with variable ingredients is always better than consumption of the large amount of single superfood. Superfoods should also be cultivated with less agricultural hazards for the safety of consumers as well. Buying the local products can also encourage the local farms and the market and ideally win-win situation can be achieved. Most importantly, we don’t have to worry about the local superfood recipes because we have a lot of know-how!

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