Blueberries, Kale, Salmon, you have heard countless times about the nutritional benefits of these everyday ingredients commonly labelled as superfoods.
There is no official scientific definition of a superfood, but it is generally accepted that they contain high levels of much-needed vitamins and minerals at the same time being loaded with antioxidants which act as a counter to high levels of inflammation. While there a number of common foods that provide these nutrients, there is also an array of more exotic and less mainstream superfoods that are worth getting to know. Ask five nutritionists to rate the 10 most powerful superfoods and you will get five different lists but many of the selections will overlap. Why? Because every food provides something different. Some are a rich source of protein or fiber but void of many vitamins and minerals. While others contain disease-fighting phytonutrients substances but no protein. The trick is to get a variety of the best foods.
This article will explore the 7 most powerful superfoods that everyone should include in their diet to replenish the essential nutrients needed by the body.
What is Spirulina? It is a blue green algae that grows in the ocean and has been used as a nutritional supplement in recent years. Spirulina is an organism that grows in both brush and salt water. It is a type of bacterium called cyanobacteria which is often referred to as blue-green algae. Just like plants, cyanobacteria can produce energy out of sunlight via the process called photosynthesis. Spirulina was consumed by the Aztecs decades ago but became popular again when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space and used by astronauts. A standard dose of Spirulina is 1 to 3 grams but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively. It is actually quite amazing how nutritious it is. It also contains a decent amount of magnesium, potassium, manganese and small amounts of every other nutrient that we need. This coming with only 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbohydrates. This means that Spirulina may just be the single most nutritious food on the planet. A tablespoon containing one gram of fat both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The quality of the protein in this food item is excellent comparable to eggs consisting of essential amino acids that we need.
There is a superfood that is about to be huge and you should know about it. Moringa is a tree that grows in an extraordinarily challenging environment where other species of plant cant survive like dry, semi-arid places of Darfur and Southern Ethiopia in addition to tropical climates. However, this is not just what makes Moringa so special. It has a nutritional profile that is astounding particularly because many of the remarkable claims about the nutrient density of the plant have been validated by top researchers and are starting to be widely recognized.
What are some of the nutritional benefits that make it a superfood?
The protein content is impressive. Moringa is a rare plant that contains all nine essential amino acids. Usually, this type of amino acid profile is found only in animal foods, the vitamin and mineral content is equally remarkable with high quantities of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium. The plant leaves are bursting with antioxidants in a wide variety of polyphenols phenolic acid as well as flavonoids and glucose that provide a plethora of positive effects. Research is showing that these substances lower blood sugar, regulate blood pressure and act as anti-ulcer, anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory agents.
Turmeric is one of the spices that gives Indian curries their distinctive flavor. This spice is part of the ancient healing systems of India, China and the Polynesian Islands and it holds a place of distinction in both Ayurvedic Indian and Chinese medicine. Believed to be a potent anti-inflammatory, one of the traditional uses of turmeric has been to treat arthritis. While turmeric contains a whole family of active compounds, the one most responsible for turmeric medicinal is curcumin. Although more clinical trials on humans are needed, curcumin has shown promise in slowing the growth of some types of cancers including pancreatic and colon as it may help to reduce either the number or size of tumours.
Goji Berries have become a common sight on supermarket shelves and for good reason. They are loaded with Vitamin C which makes them a strong counter to the scurvy illness. Native to Tibet and Inner Mongolia, these orange-red tangy berries have been used by Chinese Herbalist for centuries to treat visual ailments and poor circulation to help boost the immune system. Scientific Research has yet to support such claims but there is no denying that Goji Berries are rich in plant-based antioxidants and compounds. Look for the berries dried whole and in powders and drinks.
In traditional Chinese medicine, beets are believed to be a natural liver tonic and blood purifier. Though, the benefits of beets are not just confined to Eastern Traditions. Betaine, a substance found in beets, supports overall liver functions and helps liver process fats. Beets are also an excellent source of Vitamin B9 (Folate), along with Petain. The latter helps balance the body’s level of homocysteine, an amino acid that when elevated may increase the risk of heart disease. Beets actually pack a double punch for your health as the leaves are also nutritionally rich especially in bone-building calcium and anemia preventive as well as the antioxidant, Vitamins A and C.
Maca is a vegetable crop cultivated in Peru for thousands of years and plant’s roots are believed to have unique medicinal qualities. Maca’s main claim to fame is as a libido’s enhancer although it is well known for its ability to boost overall energy. Maca is also known as Peruvian Ginseng, despite the fact that it is not a member of the ginseng family because it is used as a folk remedy to increase stamina energy and sexual function. Formal studies have shown mixed results, some showed Maca has a positive effect on sexual desire and sexual dysfunction while others showed it had no effect. Another study found that in cases of sexual dysfunction caused by anti-depressants, Maca helped improve libido. Chris Kilham, author and founder of the Medicine Hunter says Maca enjoys a long history of successful medicinal use for menopausal discomfort, infertility and sexual healing. It is most often sold as a supplement.
Chia seeds were largely unknown in North America until American researchers began sourcing and using chia as an alternative crop for Argentinian farmers. One of the researchers, Wayne Coates, who started studying chia more than 20 years ago became an advocate for the seeds and started selling them commercially in North America. Chia was also in the spotlight during the 80s and 90s when Chia Pets were the latest craze but the seed itself was not widely available in grocery stores. Chia and Shea based foods and beverages sprang up on store shelves several years ago as more and more nutrition experts heralded their nutritional benefits and consumer demand soared. While human studies are limited, anecdotal evidence suggests that eating Chia seeds can boost energy, stabilize blood sugar and help with digestion. This is partly due to the high fiber content of the seeds. One ounce, just under three tablespoons have 11 grams almost half the daily fiber requirement for adults. Chia seeds also contain a good amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium and they offer 30% of your daily value of manganese, an important mineral for bone health. When buying Chia remember both the white and the black seeds are fine choices but avoid the red immature brown or black seeds that are smaller than regular Chia seeds.