I can probably count on my hands and feet the number of times I’ve been asked the question, “What the heck is so super about superfoods?” Well, my fellow curious cats, let me tell ya!
The word “superfood” has been rolling off the tongues of many health and nutrition experts (ahem, Dr. Oz) for almost a decade now, and for good reason. These scrumptious suckers stand out from the rest because their nutrient content is through the roof. In more scientific terms, these foods contain an extraordinarily high amount of phytochemicals, micronutrients, essential fats, and proteins, with almost no constituents that can be considered negative. What’s more, their high nutrient content is packaged into deliciously convenient/small serving sizes, making them a treat to eat!
Want to become a more super you? Here’s a sample of staple superfoods that you should be including in your daily diet as you journey down the path to becoming a nutritional superstar.
Thousands of years ago, Brazilian natives worshiped the healing properties of a dark purple berry indigenous to the rainforests of the Amazon. That berry is the hard-to-pronounce acai (ah-sah-EE) berry which grows on the acai palm trees found throughout northern South America. Centuries later, the rest of the world has finally caught on to this superfruit and now it’s everywhere – in health drinks, in protein bars, and most popularly in a powder made from ground, freeze-dried, berries.
What is it about acai berries that has the nutrition world in such a frenzy?
The acai berry is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the world – even beating out the acclaimed blueberry! Among acai’s many antioxidants is one particular nutritional powerhouse called anthocyanin. Commonly found in fruits rich in red and purple colours, anthocyanins have been shown to strengthen cardiovascular health, boost immunity, rev energy, and prevent premature aging (the Brazilians consider the acai berry a “beauty berry”). And acai berries have more anthocyanins than any other food! In fact, acai’s ORAC level (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is over 3500 – hundreds of times higher than your average berry.
Beyond antioxidants, the acai berry packs more protein per gram than almost any other fruit, with nearly 8% of its weight coming from amino acids (8 grams per 100 gram serving). Acai berries are also rich in omega fats with nearly 50% of their weight being fat, most of which is from healthy unsaturated fats such as omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. This makes acai berries an excellent food for improving the look and texture of hair, skin and nails.
I like adding a teaspoon or two of acai powder into my morning smoothies and juices. If you’re purchasing acai juice, be sure to read the label (some companies have jumped on the acai train and produced acai products with excess sugar and additives, or juices that are mostly water or made from other fruits). Overall, I consider this superfood to be a super add-on to any diet, especially for those of you wanting to take your health – and beauty – to the next level.
The goji berry is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. It scores a whopping 25,300 on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC scale) – a fancy way of measuring antioxidant content – while common fruits like apples score just 218. If that wasn’t enough, these superstars contain 18 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids, meaning they’re one of few plant sources of complete protein! They also contain 21 minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc.
And from a vitamin standpoint, the goji berry is a fantastic source of brain-boosting B vitamins as well as antioxidants C and E.
Maca is a powerful adaptogen, which means it’s a nutritional superstar when it comes to helping our bodies deal with daily stress (term paper due in 2 hours? No problem!). Healthy adrenals mean balanced hormones and overall good health for both men and women. Maca is also a powerful energy booster so sprinkle some in your morning shake as a coffee alternative.
Don’t let the cute name fool you! This Amazonian plant packs a powerful punch of vitamin C. In fact, the camu berry contains one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C of any food. Camu camu is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that strengthens the immune system, protects the nervous system from damage, and supports overall bodily functions.
A Note About Antioxidants
Antioxidants are soldiers that protect cells from attack. Every cell in our body is under attack constantly by compounds called free radicals which are basically atoms that contain an odd number of electrons. You can consider them “electron”ically frustrated. In order to feel more stable, they must steal electrons from other sources like proteins within our cells. Free radicals are volatile because they can start a chain of damaging chemical reactions. The biggest danger to the human body is their potential to react with cellular components like DNA or the cell membrane, causing cells to function poorly or die. This is one of the main causes of cancer, atherosclerosis, and premature aging. Free radicals are naturally produced as a byproduct of metabolism and energy production and in response to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, alcohol, chemicals in cleaning products and makeup products, drugs, etc.
The point is, they’re easily formed and thus in order to protect our cells from free radical attack, we have to constantly be supplying the body with soldiers to fight them. Though the body produces some antioxidants, there’s always room for more so it’s up to us to consume antioxidant-rich foods which are typically vibrant in the colours red, yellow, orange, blue and purple. Berries, blueberries and blackberries in particular have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits or vegetables. They are some of the most powerful (and delicious) disease-fighting foods available! Plus, they’re easily attainable and in season right now!
This smoothie is loaded with them – hence the deep and gorgeous purple colour. You can almost feel your skin tightening as you drink it! The addition of the basil amplifies this smoothie’s nutrition as this herb is a great source of antibacterial compounds which promote a healthy, balanced gut – the key to healthy, glowing skin and a healthy, glowing body in general.
Enjoy this smoothie as a breakfast by topping it off with some of your favourite crunchy additions, or as a snack for a dose of afternoon satisfaction. I promise you’ll enjoy this one. Ready, set, glow!
The delicious seed that makes up chocolate is indeed a superfood. I am talking about the raw, unprocessed, unrefined, sugar-free kind. Cacao contains over 300 chemical compounds that support the function of the body. In addition, cacao is an excellent source of magnesium which is vital for keeping our hearts healthy, muscles relaxed, and stress at bay.
There are hundreds of different recipes that utilize raw cacao, but my favourite is my raw chocolate mousse tart. It takes very little time to prepare and the resulting taste is divine. For the topping pictured I sprinkled organic coconut flakes and chunks of Vega’s Maca Chocolate Bar but dark chocolate chips will do too.
Editor’s note: the above material has been adapted from content that appears on http://www.shelivesclean.com