The What, Which and Why of Superfoods
Do maca, acai and spirulina sound familiar to you? Or are these words not part of your everyday vocabulary and certainly not part of your diet? Upon hearing the word superfood many of us picture a food blessed with extraordinary capacities. While this might not be too far from the truth, do we really need superfoods to achieve optimal health?
What is a Superfood?
Besides having high quantities of nutrients, a superfood has more traits. A superfood is:
- a whole food
- a raw enzyme-rich food
- high in vitamins, minerals, proteins and fatty acids
- a source of antioxidants and phytochemicals
Following this definition of a superfood, one could say that blueberries, apples, pears, kale, kiwi’s and avocadoes can all be added to the superfood list. Yet what sets goji berries, bee pollen or chia seeds apart, to name a few, is their proportionally high value of nutrients found in one. For example ½ a cup of goji berries has almost 5 times the amount of antioxidants as an apple.
There are various kinds of superfoods beneficial to our bodies and mind. Here are 3 other categories of superfoods:
Blue green algae’s such as spirulina, marine phytoplankton and AFA (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae) are all complete protein sources, containing about 60 to 70% of protein. These algae’s are easy to digest and come in capsule or powder form and can be stirred into drinks or smoothies in small amounts. Algae’s can be added to the diet to support the body during detoxification, assist in weight loss, fortify the immune system and normalize blood sugar imbalances.
Honey, bee pollen, propolis and royal jelly are all specific kinds of the pollen. These superfoods contain 10 to 35% of protein and are rich in antioxidants; B-complex vitamins, enzymes, vitamins C and E. Pollens can be consumed as a coarse or fine powder, sprinkled on fruit, salads or dissolved in liquids. Pollen are often included to neutralize allergies by reducing the production of histamine, support a stressed body or taken when people are anemic or infertile.
Finally there are the seeds of berries. The earlier mentioned goji and acai fall into this category as well as mulberry, camu camu, and acerola. The latter 2 are often harder to find and often come in powder form. Make sure to select a pure and raw form as unnecessary ingredients are often added. Superfood berries have a low-glycemic level and are particularly high in antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals. Acai has one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) values of any type of food and are thus promoting longevity.
Why include superfoods into your diet? Are organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, protein and carbs not enough? Often the answer is no and here’s why not.
First of all, modern farming, with its use of pesticides impact the quality of the soil and thus the quality of our food. Foods that typically would have a high nutritional value are now lost, making it more difficult for us to fuel the body with adequate nutrition.
Secondly, stress depletes our bodies of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are necessary to protect our immunity. Due to a hectic lifestyle we often reach for enzyme-poor and processed foods, increasing the toxic burden on our bodies and thus weakening our immune system.
Lastly, adding superfoods to your diet can be a tasty way to enjoy meals, resulting in more variety in meals. The key component here is to add superfoods to your dish and not merely substitute them for lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids. With the addition of superfoods we not only give our immune system a boost, but also balance hormones and stabilize blood sugars.
So don’t expect super powers, but try to include some of these delicious superfoods into your meals for variety and as support to your health!