Superfoods have garnered lots of buzz in the press over the past couple of years. The words may evoke images of food wearing a Superman cape. This range of foods certainly has the powers of Superman, but not a trace of Kryptonite in sight! So, what’s all the buzz about? Here’s my guide to Superfoods.
What are they?
“Superfoods” – they don’t have a set scientific meaning per se, but they are thought to be extremely nutritionally dense and especially beneficial for our health and well-being. At a very basic level, superfoods are said to be rich in particular nutrients. This could be an antioxidant, thought to ward off cancer; a healthy fat, thought to prevent heart disease; fibre, thought to prevent diabetes and digestive problems; or phytochemicals, the chemicals in plants responsible for deep colours and smells, which can have numerous health benefits.
Why are they so super!?
Let’s first discuss ‘Free radicals’. These are chemicals naturally produced in every living cell which are known to cause cell damage. Think of it as rusting, or oxidisation. Imagine, as humans, we rust over time – well, anti–oxidants slow down that rusting or oxidisation! Antioxidants are chemicals thought to protect against the harmful effects of those Free Radicals.
What is their claim to fame?
Foods that have been elevated to superfood status in recent years include those rich in these antioxidants (things such as such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, flavanoids and selenium) and omega-3 fatty acids.
So, which are the are the most super of supers? Here’s my top 10.
1. Raw Cacao
Cacao (not cocoa) is the raw form of chocolate. It is the good stuff before the big corporations add all the sugar and dairy to make it into the “chocolate” you know and love. It has more antioxidants than any plant food on earth! Its full of natural compounds, some of which are mood enhancing like serotonin, endorphins and tryptophan, all of which have been shown to ease depression and create feelings of happiness. Cacao is laden with antioxidants and minerals and known to elevate the pumping action of the heart muscle and also helps to alkalise the body. Bitter to taste, I like to mix cacao nibs with some goji berries as a tasty snack.
2. Goji Berries
These potent little red berries have been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for more than 6,000 years so they must be doing something right! They are thought to contain more iron than spinach, more beta-carotene than carrots plus vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin A, iron and selenium. They allow your skin to absorb more oxygen, help to improve circulation, protect against heart disease and cancer, move bacteria and viruses out of the body therefore strengthening your immune system! I add them to porridge and juice and shakes. Mixed with nuts and seeds and cacao nibs (see above) makes for a deliciously healthy snack.
3. Fermented Foods
Let’s imagine the inside of your intestines for a moment! There are trillions of live (good) bacteria (probiotics) co-habiting there! Don’t gross out. This is a good thing because these little bad boys help to fight infection, reduce cholesterol, manufacture Vitamin B, and detox the intestines to boot! So, with this in mind – you now know that a healthy gut is vital for a healthy body. How can you increase these good bacteria? The most effective way is by eating foods packed with probiotics (good bacteria that live in your gut) which show up in fermented foods.
Here are my top 5 fermented foods
- Kefir – A fermented milk drink—it tastes a bit like drinkable yogurt—kefir is full of calcium and probiotics.
- Kombucha is a tangy fermented probiotoc drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. It’s benefits include improved digestion, fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth, mental clarity, and mood stability.
- Saurkraut – Made from just cabbage and salt, this fermented food delivers a healthy dose of probiotics and fibre.
- Kimchi – Sauerkraut’s Korean relation. Its a spicy fermented cabbage,
- Yogurt (I don’t mean flavoured low-fat rubbish!) Look for yogurts which say “Live & Active Cultures” will guarantees 100 million probiotic cultures per gram.
You can also purchase good bacteria from reputable brands – my favourite is UDOS Choice. Lactobissilis/ Acidophils – basically capsules which contain love bacteria – hence keeping them in the fridge!
4. Chia Seeds
These little seeds are a powerhouse of goodness. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provide approximately 100 milligrams of bone-building calcium, 7.5 grams of dietary fibre and 3 grams of protein. With the highest content of omega3 fatty acids of any plant food, chia seeds help to fight inflammation, thereby reducing the chances of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Small seed, BIG deal!
The quality of hemp protein is amazing. More importantly, it provides the perfect proportion of omega6 to omega3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation. The seeds are also full of vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body, and magnesium, which is needed for muscle growth. I sprinkle hemp all over my salads, put into smoothies, and even into my soups.
I LOVE this powder, and have been taking it for years. Dried maca is a near perfect food because it contains 59 percent carbohydrates, 8.5 percent fibre, and slightly more than 10.2 percent protein. It is also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and iron. Not to mention the vitamins B1, B2, and C, making it the perfect superfood! It has a malty taste so i add it to my porridge and smoothies.
This green giant is a water alga packed with nutrients. It gets its superpowers through photosynthesis (remeber that in science class?!) and has all the protein, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and chlorophyll your body could need. It is fab for building muscle, losing weight, and fighting disease. Near-perfect nutrition! Add to juices and smoothies, and even oats for a green tint!
Ahhh. Quinoa. What a star grain! Quinoa contains oodles of vitamins such as B6,potassium, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, plus minerals such as magnesium, copper, folate and zinc AND also phytonutrients which fight inflammation and disease. Quinoa may look and taste like it’s high carbohydrate content, but it’s high in protein – the amino acid in quinoa is Lysine – a nutrient not found in many other grains. This puts quinoa high up on the protein scale, almost up there with milk. It is low in fat, but it does contain omega3 fats.
The nutrition in these little fresh beans and seeds is much higher than their full grown counterparts. Within a few days of germination, they develop a high nutritional value, becoming rich in protein and also C, E and B vitamins. They’re also very low in fat and calories. Great to sprinkle over salads.
10. Golden Berries
Traditionally, these little berries have been used to help with weight control, for strong immunity and good organ health. They are packed with anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids and are also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, both great for immunity.
So you see – these super foods really are worth stocking up on to offer your body powerful nutrients and stay away from the processed fattening junk and additives. Put simply- SUPER!