By Adrianna McDonald
Superfoods – what are they?
They are nutrient-rich foods with many benefits. They’ve become very popular and it’s only in recent times that they’ve been identified as superfoods with near super powers. And, since everyone is now into organic food, it’s become easier to find these foods in most places where you wouldn’t have found them even a few years ago.
Why should you eat superfoods?
They are rich in nutrients and work wonders in keeping your mind and body healthy. But this is not all. Once you start consuming superfoods on a regular basis, you will start noticing the difference in not just how you feel, but also how you look.
Eating these foods regularly makes your body healthier, helps you flush out toxins more frequently and leaves you with a healthy glow. They are full of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, polysaccharides, enzymes and glyconutrients to name a few.
However, the best part is that these foods are clean, pesticide-free, organic sources of these nutrients, so in effect they act faster and work better.
Here’s a list of the top 5 favourites:
These berries are deep red in colour and are often dried and eaten as raisins.
- Increases immunity
- Protects liver
- Improves eyesight
- Improves quality of blood
- Prevents ageing
Goji berries contain a number of nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, polysaccharides, and HGH (human growth hormone).
The Chinese believe that Goji berries can considerably enhance libido and improve sex life. They are also a rich source of antioxidants which are crucial to keep you young but also to improve vision and eyesight.
Goji berries are known to aid the production of choline, which stops the production of free radicals and prevents degeneration of the brain due to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
These are also known to protect the arteries from narrowing down due to the build up of plaque along the walls, which can cause heart related diseases.
Goji berries can be added to teas or soups to make them healthier or you could just munch on them as you would with raisins. They can also be blended into smoothies or juices or added to other recipes to fortify them.
2. Acai Berries
- Helps people sleep better
- Makes the immune system stronger
- Slows down the aging process
- Regulates the levels of cholesterol in the body
- Improves vision
- Improves circulation and functioning of the heart
- Reduces inflammation
- Detoxifies the body
Açaí berries are known to contain significant amounts of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 as well as monounsaturated oleic acid. They also have a high concentration of blue pigmented antioxidants and one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) values amongst fruits. As we all know, free radicals are the cause of all harm in our bodies, including the ageing process and açaí berries are excellent in absorbing these free radicals.
These berries also contain plant sterols which are known for their cholesterol absorption qualities and have as many as nineteen different amino acids. In addition, the dietary fibre in açaí berries helps with digestion.
They are a perfect snack as they’re low in sugar and have plenty of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus and vitamins such as beta-carotene and vitamin E. Açaí berries are also considered as a cancer fighter. This superfood can be consumed as a supplement or blended into smoothies.
These beans are actually much more than a source of chocolate. Cacao beans are superfoods in themselves and have some amazing health benefits, including:
- Increasing the blood flow to the brain and enhancing brain function
- Having a high concentration of antioxidants such as polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins. Antioxidants, as we all know, are the holy grail of youth and a disease-free life.
- The magnesium in cacao is good for the heart, helps prevent constipation and even eases menstrual cramps.
- Cacao also has iron, which makes it a great weapon to fight against anaemia.
- Cacao contains chromium, a trace mineral which works wonders to maintain the balance of blood sugar.
- Manganese, another trace mineral that can be found in cacao is great when it comes to building up of haemoglobin.
- Zinc, another mineral that cacao contains is known for its essential role in enhancing our immune system.
- Raw cacao contains vitamin C as well which has many benefits and uses.
- It contains essential omega 6 fatty acids.
- Cacao beans contain certain compounds that can trigger weight loss, make you feel good and improve your mood considerably.
- The fibre in cacao beans works wonderfully to cleanse the digestive system.
An important thing to note is that cooked and processed chocolate contains rancid omega 6 fatty acids or trans fats which are not healthy for you. It’s best to look for raw cacao chocolates or make your own at home.
Cacao can be found as a cacao beans with or without the skin, nibs, cacao butter, powder or paste and ideally it should all be raw and organic. Include them in your usual drinks such as smoothies or coffee. You can also use cacao in desserts.
4. Maca root
- Increases stamina and libido
- Helps the endocrine system function properly, thereby eliminating hormonal imbalances
- Lowers anaemia and alleviates menstrual discomfort and cramps
- Is also known to be effective in fighting stomach cancer and tuberculosis
- It’s a rich source of fatty acids and sterols
- Has a good concentration of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus as well as vitamins such as B1, C, B2 and E
- It is known to help women deal with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings
- Works wonders at reducing the symptoms of altitude sickness
Maca root is usually dried and powdered and can be consumed as part of smoothies, teas, milk or coffee. Maca works best with cacao so you can combine these two superfoods and create your own super-charged powder mix.
A word of caution though. Maca is indeed one of the more potent types of superfoods because it can cause changes in the way you live and react due to the high levels of iodine it contains. It’s always advised to use superfoods cautiously and never in excess because of the potential side effects, such as elevated heart rate.
5. Camu Camu
If you thought that tanking up on Vitamin C will keep colds away, you’re right. But don’t rely just on citrus fruits for this. Take a look at the Camu Camu berry.
This berry contains the highest amount of Vitamin C in any botanical source and you might be surprised to learn that while a lemon can contain 0.5 percent Vitamin C, the Camu Camu berry contains up to 4 percent.
It also contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron. Amino acids such as leucine, serine and valine are also present in this excellent superfood. Other vitamins that are also found in the Camu Camu are thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
Here are some of the benefits of the Camu Camu berry:
- The huge amount of Vitamin C content ensures that your immune system stays in top condition
- Helps improve your eye sight considerably
- Great for the skin
- Keeps away colds and other viral infections
- Keeps your tendons, collagen and ligaments strong
- Helps in keeping your lungs healthy
- Works at reducing inflammation considerably
- Regular consumption of Camu Camu helps you keep your cool in stressful times
- Helps in keeping organs like eyes, brain, heart, skin and liver in good working condition
The Camu Camu berry is available as a dried powder which can be used in various ways. You can mix it with water to make an instant health drink or add it to juices and smoothies. The Camu Camu berry powder is tangy and flavourful so it’s a pleasure to consume it. Do note that excessive consumption could lead to diarrhoea, so take this superfood in moderation.