The term superfood was coined for marketing goals to sell products and influence food trends. The food industry offers this superfood label on all nutrient-rich foods, including a supposed capacity to emphatically affect health. Though various foods could be called super, it’s necessary to understand that no particular food holds the solution to disease prevention or good health. But as the term superfood doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, it can be worth getting a closer look at a few healthy options. It appears that superfoods are all anyone is discussing these days. There are no decided criteria to determine which foods qualify as one of the superfoods; though, the foods tend to be full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, like flavonoids or polyphenols. Perhaps the most buzzed-about superfoods include quinoa and kale.
The foods are so in trend that they are almost ubiquitous on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. While those foods surely earn the superfood designation, they scratch the surface of something a superfood might be.
The Peruvian highlands gave us quinoa; these are home to one more superfood known as sacha inchi. Sacha inchi seeds originate from the rainforest vine Plukenetia Volubilis. Ancient Incan people harvested the seeds from pods and prized those for their nutritive properties and taste. The seed’s flavor is unique, with a slight nutty quality complemented by a woody undertone. The seeds have omega-9, omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids in a balanced proportion. Particularly, sacha inchi seeds are extremely high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid with useful cardiovascular functioning effects. Sacha inchi seeds can be consumed plain as a snack or used as a salad topping.
Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are brightly colored berries enjoyed for millennia in the Himalayas and China. Ancient Chinese medicine promoted the usage of goji berries as a treatment for liver and eye difficulties. Modern science has shown that berries are a source of selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B2, potassium, calcium, and zinc. Also, goji berries have five carotenoid compounds and various phenolic pigments associated with antioxidant activity.
In the US, goji berries are usually eaten dried. However, fresh berries have a wondrous flavor if you get your hands on them. Try and mix goji berries with dark chocolate and almonds for one antioxidant-rich trail mix. Or, stir some of that into the morning yogurt or oatmeal for a superfood increase. Combining dried berries with your favorite tea further allows it to plump them up for a pleasant texture.
Camu Camu is one more Amazonian superfood that is only beginning to get traction in Europe and the United States. Camu Camu fruit shrubs originate in the Amazon rainforest in Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, and Colombia that experience seasonal flooding. Related in looks to the lemon except for the light orange color, Camu Camu fruit is quite high in potassium, vitamin C, amino acid serine, valine, and leucine. Just a teaspoon of Camu Camu powder includes over 100% of the DV (Daily Value) for vitamin C consumption. Also, Camu Camu powder is a source of antioxidants like ellagic acid and gallic acid.
The yellow and pulpy orange lucuma fruit was commonly known as the “gold of the Incas” due to its beneficial qualities. Lucuma has beta-carotene, iron, vitamin B3, zinc, and calcium. The lucuma fruit will taste sweet with maple. This is a relatively less glycemic index food, which means that it can not cause huge increases in blood sugar. Enjoy the fruit by mixing a spoonful of lucuma powder into the morning smoothie or stirring the into the coffee instead of sweetener.
Amaranth is a grain that is native to Central America and Mexico. This generally gluten-free grain is a great addition to every diet. There are more than 60 different amaranth plant species, three of which yield edible seeds known as the grain amaranth. It is a protein powerhouse comprising about 14% protein by weight. Amaranth is a whole protein, which means that it has all of the necessary amino acids the body cannot produce.
There are several ways to incorporate superfoods into the diet. Swap amaranth with your favorite grain to create flavorful pilafs, add it to cereals or pieces of bread, or pop amaranth grains as an alternative to popcorn.
Teff is an antique grain that has been grown in Ethiopia for centuries. Roughly the size of poppy seeds, this teff arrives in many varieties of varying colors. Its nutty and mild flavor can make it the perfect accompaniment to several delicious dishes. While ground, teff produces high-protein flour that we can use to make pie crusts, bread, or pancakes.
Spirulina is a kind of algae that we can find in saltwater or freshwater. This is typically traded in powder or pill form, making it simple to mix the plant with fruit juice or a smoothie without changing the taste. Spirulina is an excellent protein source at 62% protein by weight, giving the body the amino acids it requires to create new cells and maintain the tissues. It additionally contains vitamin E, B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, manganese zinc, selenium, copper, and necessary fatty acids.
Kefir (And Yogurt)
Kefir is a fermented beverage normally made of milk that includes probiotics, protein, potassium, calcium, and B vitamins. Kefir is the same as yogurt but includes a thin consistency and usually more probiotic strains than yogurt. Fermented, probiotic-rich foods such as kefir have some associated health benefits, improved digestion, reduced cholesterol, anti-inflammatory effects, and lowered blood pressure.
Traditionally, as kefir is made from cow’s milk, this is typically well endured by people with lactose intolerance due to the lactose’s fermentation by bacteria. It’s also produced from non-dairy beverages like coconut water, coconut milk, and rice milk. You can buy kefir or make that yourself. If you’re going for a commercially prepared product, be careful of the added sugar.
Attaining optimal health through nutrition and food is about more than concentrating on one or two of the newest food trends. Rather, good health is strongly supported by eating a mixture of nutritious foods each day. Including some or all the foods on the list as part of your balanced diet will benefit overall health and prevent some chronic diseases.