The term “superfood” is generally defined as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. More specifically, having naturally high levels of fibre, healthy fats, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients (plant chemicals). The following 10 superfoods are recommended by nutritionist, Joy McCarthy, for optimal health.
Berries are extremely high in flavonoids, which give them their rich color. These plant chemicals are anti-inflammatory and provide heart healthy and anti-aging support. Their antioxidant content protects the brain and helps to improve vision. They are also a great source of Vitamin C & B’s, both of which are useful for many functions, including adrenal health. Berries are high in fiber, allowing them to be digested slower, preventing blood sugar spikes that cause crashes and cravings. Enjoy them on top of porridge, yogurt, or in smoothies, muffins and pancakes! Examples include blackberries, mulberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and goji berries.
- Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are nutrient powerhouses that contain calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorous and folic acid. They are an excellent plant source of good fats providing omega 3, ALA, which helps to lower inflammation and support brain, heart and skin health! Chia seeds are also high in fiber and are considered a complete source of protein, both of which work together to help promote a sensation of fullness while keeping insulin in check. They are particularly high in tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin (for mood support) and melatonin (for sleep support). Try them in overnight oatmeal, as an egg substitute, sprinkled in cereal, yogurt or to thicken sauces, jam and smoothies.
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains immune supporting medium chain fatty acids and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Medium chain fatty acids are easily digested and sent to the liver to be used as energy rather than being stored as fats. Coconut oil can help promote weight loss by increasing metabolic rate! It has also been shown to cause an increase in good (HDL) cholesterol. Coconut oil can also be used externally as a natural moisturizer for hair, skin and nails. Try it in smoothies, as a spread, in coffee or used to cook meat, eggs and vegetables.
Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is most often used for gastrointestinal discomfort to prevent gas and bloating, as well as nausea. Ginger also boosts the immune system and supports natural detoxification. In addition, it acts as a natural antibiotic to kill pathogenic bacteria! Incorporate ginger into juice, tea or smoothies for added flavor and benefits.
- Hemp Seeds/Hearts
Hemp seeds are considered a complete source of vegetarian protein and provide the amino acids necessary for building “feel-good” neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. They supply essential fatty acids and are a unique food source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that helps to balance hormones and lower inflammation. They contain antioxidants, fiber, zinc, iron, carotene, phospholipids, phytosterols, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, vitamin D & E, enzymes! Hemp can also come in oil form, as a protein powder, or butter. Try sprinkling hemp hearts on salad, cereal, side dishes or smoothies.
Kale is high in fiber which helps with bowel regularity and cholesterol control. It contains vitamins A and C for beautiful skin and hair, as well as vitamin K and calcium for bone building. The glucosinolates and chlorophyll in kale are important for detoxification. Kale’s phytonutrients possess powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be enjoyed in a salad, sautéed in an omelet, tossed into a smoothie or baked into crunchy kale chips!
Quinoa is considered a complete protein and contains significant amounts of the amino acid lysine, which is less frequently found in grains and an excellent remedy for cold sore treatment. As it is naturally gluten-free and easy to digest, it is a deemed a “hypoallergenic food”. It is a good source of magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin E. Quinoa is also rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich phytonutrients. Dry quinoa should be rinsed and then cooked like rice. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, in both sweet and savory dishes.
Raw cacao is a true superfood. Note that although cocoa is from the same plant as cacao, it is processed with heat and offers less health benefits. Cacao is one if the richest sources of antioxidants in nature, even more so than red wine or green tea! It is high in magnesium, and also contains calcium, zinc, iron and potassium. In addition, it provides unique plant chemicals that promote a natural mood and energy boost. Enjoy cacao powder in a smoothie, hot drink, and homemade pudding or use cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is a complete source of protein, containing 60-70% protein by weight! It provides energizing B vitamins, trace minerals, powerful antioxidants and has been used to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Spirulina also contains chlorophyll, which nourishes the red blood cells. It is also a potent detoxifier and works to bind toxins and speed up their release from the bloodstream. Spirulina has been promoted as a fat-fighter and effective anti-inflammatory. Try spirulina in powder form and blend into yogurt or smoothies.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are also known as “pepitas” and provide protein, omega 3 fats, antioxidants and vitamins. They are well known for their zinc content, which helps promote healthy, beautiful skin! Pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of vitamin E forms, some of which are not easily found in foods. They are also rich in magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure among numerous other health benefits. These are great on top of whole grains, salad or in trail mix. Note that squash seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are also highly nutritious.
As a rule, look for organic, fresh and local ingredients whenever possible for optimal nutrition.
-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach-