5 Top Superfoods You Need to Know About
Superfoods are known for their health benefits due to their phytonutrient content-plant compounds that have health-protecting and enhancing qualities. Superfoods are backed by research for their nutritious value, their ability to fight disease and even reverse the aging process! But remember: It is important to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products. Adding superfoods to your diet is a great idea for those seeking to boost optimum health. We’ve scoured the latest research for these five foods you shouldn’t live without.
Opt in to these healthy lunch ideas from around the world instead.
Best Superfoods: Goji Berries
What is it? The goji, originally from the Himalayas, is touted as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. A small, red fruit that looks like a raisin, it has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years.
What’s so great about it? There has been tremendous research into the benefits of berries for their impact on human health, performance and disease. The goji berry stands out for another reason: It contains protein, which is uncommon for a fruit. Because you can eat it raw, you get the protein from the goji berry undisturbed. Edwards adds that goji berries are a good blend of carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fibre, making them a good addition to your diet.
Use them… as you would raisins, or add them to soups and teas. Goji berry juice is widely popular and can be found in most health and whole food stores.
Best Superfoods: Kefir
What is it? Kefir is a cultured milk product made by adding grains to partially skimmed cow’s milk and allowing it to ferment for 24 hours. During this time, the bacteria and yeast ferment the milk, lower the pH, and change its texture and composition. The final product contains live bacteria and yeast that have huge health benefits.
What’s so great about it? Beyond the fact that 175 millilitres of kefir will provide you with 20 per cent of your daily calcium requirement, kefir is packed with probiotics. 1908 Nobel Prize Winner Elie Metchnikoff studied the effect of harmful bacteria on people living in Bulgaria and attributed their good health and longevity to a microbe found in the yogurt they ate. Metchnikoff himself started enjoying fermented milk and yogurt, and noticed improved health and well-being. “Probiotics are great for reestablishing a healthy balance of bacteria, which can generally assist with digestion,” says Edwards.
Use it… Kefir has been called “the champagne of milk;” the process of fermenting the kefir grains with the milk causes it to take on a sparkling yet tangy flavour (caused by a small amount of carbon dioxide given off in the process). Due to its popularity, you can find many kefir products on your grocery store shelf, including milks, yogurts and cheeses.
Here’s what you need to know about jackfruit, your new protein substitute!
Best Superfoods: Hemp Seeds
What is it? Though sure to invoke images of hippies and marijuana, hemp is one of the superfoods you shouldn’t live without. It contains only trace elements of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but is packed with an incredible amount of fatty acids, minerals and protein.
What’s so great about it? Hemp has the ideal ratio of omega-3 and -6, which helps us achieve sustainable human health. A U.S. study found a balanced omega ratio reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and sudden cardiac death, and has anti-inflammatory benefits that can decrease arthritic symptoms. Hemp has a full amino acid spectrum-meaning it provides a well-balanced, complete protein source, and amino acids are important for growth and maintenance of body tissue. In fact, in times of famine, some civilizations have survived solely on hemp and water. Hemp is an easily digested protein.
Use them… the way you would any other seed: Blend with fruit and juices in smoothies; use them raw in salads. You can mix it into a salad dressing, but don’t try cooking with it: Hemp oil isn’t heat stable.
Best Superfoods: Açaí
What is it? The açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a Brazilian berry that, according to studies from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, packs a punch of antioxidants. It is heart-healthy, and extracts from the berry trigger a self-destruct response in leukemia cells. Açaí is known to help boost energy levels, improve digestion, promote sleep, promote healthier and younger-looking skin and cleanse the body of toxins.
What’s great about it? Açaí is packed with antioxidants, amino acids and omega-3’s. Omega-3’s can benefit people who suffer from a number of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and depression. It is also high in monounsaturated fats-the kind you find in olive oil-and contains omega-6 and -9, which can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Use it… as you would any berry—add some to your smoothies in the morning or throw them into your fruit salad. You can find many juices with açaí in natural food stores. Because açaí products are higher in fat, the flavour may seem odd at first, so “look for açaí juices that are mixed with other natural fruits,” advises Toronto registered dietician Madeleine Edwards.
Best Superfoods: Cocoa
What is it? Cocoa contains complex molecules that are active in our bodies, including several bioactive amines, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are potent antidepressant compounds. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is also found in chocolate; it produces the same brain chemistry as falling in love. Cocoa also contains potent antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, also found in red wine, which researchers believe are responsible for the cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits of chocolate.
What’s so great about it? The benefits of cocoa are innumerable: Several studies suggest cocoa-derived polyphenols reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, increase antioxidant capacity, protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation and raise HDL.
Looking to satisfy a chocolate craving? Try these delicious chocolate recipes!