Healthy eating habits/Superfoods For College Students

What is a Superfood?


Currently there is not an official definition for Superfoods, or functional foods as they are sometimes referred. However, the term usually refers to foods that provide additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition; they promote optimal health and/or reduce disease risk. [1] Generally they contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats, they are high in dietary fibre, rich in vitamins and minerals and are a rich source of antioxidants. They also tend to be very low in unhealthy substances such as saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugars[1].



The body undergoes oxidation reactions as a part of its normal functioning, however, these reactions can produce free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that can cause damage to cellular proteins, DNA, lipids and other cells. The body has an in-built mechanism that enables it to cope with free radicals, but over time this mechanism becomes less efficient.

The build up of free radicals can cause irreversible damage to the body’s DNA and can contribute to the development of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease, liver disease, arthritis and some cancers. [2] This process can be accelerated by stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight, pollution and ultraviolet radiation.

Antioxidants can prevent the damage caused by free radicals by donating one of their own electrons and ending the chain reaction. [3] Antioxidants are found in many foods in nutrient (vitamins A, C, and E and minerals copper, zinc and selenium) and non-nutrient forms (phytochemicals and zoochemicals).

Phytochemicals and zoochemicals have very potent antioxidant properties and are believed to have greater beneficial effects than individual vitamins or minerals. [4]



Phytochemicals are chemicals that occur naturally within plants; they provide the plant with its own protection against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, cereals and beans. [4]



Zoochemicals are chemicals that occur naturally within some animal products; they that provide the animal with protection against disease. [5] When foods that contain phytochemicals or zoochemicals are consumed the benefit from their disease preventing properties are also received.

5 Superfoods for College Students


The following is a description of 5 'Superfoods' that are great snack options for university students, especially those living at a residential college. For example, blueberries, chia seeds, crushed walnuts and yoghurt can all be mixed together to create a delicious healthy snack.

1. Blueberries


Blueberries are rich in all types of antioxidants including phytochemicals, flavenoids, anthocyans, lutein, vitamins E & C, beta-carotene, B-vitamins such as folate (which helps prevent birth defects in babies) and niacin (which releases energy from food), and numerous essential minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorous. They actually have one of the highest total antioxidant capacities of any food. The major antioxidants in blueberries are anthocyanins, they give blueberries their characteristic blue-red colour. Anthocyanins are believed to boost memory and brain function and to protect the eyes from cataracts and glaucoma. In spite of their sweet flavour, blueberries are low in calories, high in dietary fibre and they have a low glycaemic index so they make you feel fuller for longer.[5]

2. Yoghurt


Yoghurt is much more nutritious than people tend to realise. It is not only a good source of calcium, it is easy for the body to digest even for people who are lactose intolerant. Unlike milk, the live cultures in yoghurt create lactase, the enzyme that lactose intolerant people lack. Therefore people with lactose intolerance are able to tolerate a small amount of yoghurt without experiencing any symptoms. In addition, it is a nutrient dense low glycaemic snack that is a good source of protein, B-vitamins (especially riboflavin which is needed for healthy skin and eyes) and is full of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that suppress harmful bacteria and keep the intestines healthy. As well as this, research shows consuming 3 serves of dairy every day may help the body to burn fat and lose weight more effectively than just reducing caloric intake. [5]

3. Walnuts


Walnuts are extremely nutrient dense and have the highest antioxidant activity of all nuts. They are a rich source of several B-group vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper and selenium. They are also a rich source of phytochemicals, mainly flavonoid and resveratrol. Walnuts have the highest percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.[6] These are health promoting fats that have been shown to help regulate blood cholesterol. In addition, walnuts contain high amounts of plant sterols and fibre which help to reduce the amount of cholesterol reabsorption from the gut. Particularly relevant to College students is the fact that they have been shown to increase serotonin levels and are thus considered mood boosters. [7]

4. Green Tea

Cup of green tea

Green tea is very high in flavonoids which has been associated with a reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease. It contains polyphenols, specifically catechins, which may reduce heart disease by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol; it is also thought to reduce the risk of cancer and stroke. The reduced cancer risk is thought to be a result of the catechins potent antioxidant activity. [8] Green tea also supports brain health and memory, likely due to a key compound in green tea called EGCG, a flavonoid. EGCG is thought to boost the immune system and prevent tumours. [9] Therefore, it is an ideal nutrient dense drink to sip on whilst studying.

5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are very high in protein, dietary fibre, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C, antioxidants and importantly, they are very high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid necessary for maintaining a healthy body that is not produced by the body. Chia seeds contain the highest amount of ALA per serving than any other food source. Studies have shown that ALA may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow down the hardening of arteries. In addition, research suggests that consumption of plant derived ALA may reduce symptoms of depression.[10]

Some More 52 of the Healthiest Superfoods You Need in Your Diet


1. Eggs - Each egg has 6 grams of protein but just 72 calories. No wonder researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that eating eggs for breakfast (as part of a low-cal diet) helps you slim down.

2. Tomato Sauce - It's loaded with lycopene, which makes your skin look younger and keeps your heart healthy. In fact, a Harvard study found that women with the most lycopene in their blood reduced their risk of a heart attack by 34%.

Further Reading


Healthy eating for tertiary students

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

Australian Food and Grocery Council: Functional Foods

Dietetics Association of Australia: Functional Foods


  1. a b [1], Berner, C. 2011. American Fitness, 29(5), 66. Retrieved from
  2. Deakin University: Better Health Channel. (2013). Antioxidants. Retrieved from
  3. Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. R., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D. & Walsh. (2008) Understanding Nutrition, South Melbourne: Cengage learning Australia
  4. a b Stanford Medicine. (2013) Phytochemicals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from
  5. a b c Calvi, K. (2013). Dietetic Care Services: Summer Superfoods. Retrieved from
  6. Vinson, J. A. & Cai, Y. (2011). Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits, Food & Function, 3 (2), 134-140. doi: 10/1039C2FO10152A
  7. Nutrition Australia, (2013). Nuts and health, Retrieved from
  8. Better Health Channel. (2011). Tea leaves and health. Retrieved from
  9. Kim, Y. H. (2008). Health Benefits of Tea, Alternative Therapies in Women’s Health, 10, 9-12. Retrieved from
  10. Holmgren, B. (2012). Chia Seeds. Natural Solutions, 141, 35-36. Retrieved from