“Superfoods” is a word you may have been hearing a lot lately. What exactly are they and why would we want to incorporate them into our diets? In David Wolfe’s book, Superfoods, he defines the foods in this category as those that “have a dozen or more unique properties, not just one or two.” Although I would argue that many whole, real foods we may be eating on a regular basis have far more beneficial properties than one or two, Superfoods are somewhat exceptional in their repertoire of nutrients.
Depending on where you’re living, many of these foods may seem exotic; however, they are appearing more and more in natural foods stores and can easily be found onllne. Here are some of the top picks that can easily be added to your diet. The nice thing is, even small amounts will provide tremendous benefits:
Goji berries have been revered as a superfood in Tibet for 2500 years. They are considered an adaptogen, which is a food/herb that helps to produce an adaptive response to stress while improving homeostasis in the body. Goji berries are a source of complete protein (they provide all the essential amino acids) and provide 19 different amino acids.
They contain 21 trace minerals, B vitamins as well as vitamin E. Goji berries strengthen the immune system and the blood, are an alkaline producing food, and increase longevity by stimulating the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). They are also high in antioxidants, with more beta-carotene than carrots, and contain zeaxanthin and lutein, which are important for protection against free radical damage to the eyes.
Normally, they’re purchased dried (or slightly moist) like raisins but they can also be found as a powder extract, juice, tinctures, etc. They can be eaten like any other dried fruit, added to cereal or soaked in hot water to make tea, or even added to soups. I personally like adding them to tea because it softens them up and they’re easy to eat that way.
Maca is a radish-like root that is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage. It grows in the Peruvian Andes and has been used for hundreds of years to increase strength, stamina, and fertility. It, too, is an adaptogen and can be used for conditions such as anemia, chronic fatigue and malnutrition.
It can increase libido and can ease both menstrual and menopausal symptoms in women. It can also improve depression, poor memory, and stress.
A lack of minerals in today’s fast and process foods diets are a primary reason for many of the health problems we face today. Maca is rich in several minerals including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, and trace minerals such as zinc, iodine, and copper. It’s also a good source of vitamins B1, B2, C, and E.
Maca is a warming food so it is best eaten in cooler weather. It is normally purchased as the powder of the dried root. Maca can be added to drinks such as smoothies, coffee, tea, or milk. It can also be added to desserts like puddings, yogurt, salad dressings, soups or broths.
Spirulina is a single-celled, freshwater, microscopic, blue-green algae that grow in lakes around the World. It was a primary source of protein for people in Mexico City for thousands of years. Spirulina is another complete protein source and it contains ~70 percent protein, which is the highest concentration of protein of any food.
It’s rich in blood-purifying chlorophyll and phytonutrients and is high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, E, and K. It’s also a good source of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and phycocyanin. Spirulina is also the only green good to contain the omega-3 fatty acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid, or GLA, which inhibits the body’s inflammatory response. The sulfur found in spirulina also helps with the body’s detoxification process.
Spirulina is normally found as a dried, green powder (see the picture above) and can also be found in capsule form. It’s best eaten raw and can be added to smoothies and other drinks, yogurt, salad dressings or sprinkled on a salad. I like to add it to my smoothies in small amounts.
Hemp is a member of the Cannabis genus, which includes marijuana, however it contains only trace amounts of the mind-altering compound THC.
As a food source, hempseeds are another complete protein source. The seeds are 35 percent protein, with the majority being made up of two easily digestible proteins, edestin and albumin. Hempseeds are also 12 percent carbohydrate, and 47 percent fat.
The fat content is a combination of omega-3, omega-6 (including GLA), and omega-9 fatty acids. In addition, half of the carbohydrate content is fiber. Hemp also provides a high number of minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and iron.
Hempseeds can be found as hulled seeds, as hemp protein powder, milk, pressed oil or butter. It can also be found in prepared foods such as chocolate and energy bars, breads, and salad dressings. The protein can be added to drinks and smoothies, or added to pancake batter. Hempseeds can be sprinkled on granola, salads, sandwiches, added to hummus, smoothies, and trail mix. I eat the seeds daily on salads, granola, and on my toast.
To learn more about the powerful properties of these and other superfoods, I recommend David Wolfe’s book by the same name, Superfoods, which I've referenced here.
Adapted from an article I wrote for My Bright Child.