We keep reading about how important superfoods are to include in your diet. What exactly are superfoods? There is no scientific definition of a superfood but the term usually refers to foods containing high levels of vitamins and minerals that offer many health benefits such as boosting your immune system and natural weight-loss (1)(2). By consuming these superfoods on a regular basis, you are feeding your body large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber, probiotics, and high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Superfoods also contain few calories, are low in sugar and salt plus have lots of soluble fiber and health-boosting phyto-chemicals (3). Lately, I've been seeking out ways to incorporate them into my daily diet and thought I would share some of my favorites with you. They can all be ordered online or bought directly from Whole Foods or an organic food store.
1. Goji Berries are a legendary Himalayan fruit that in some cultures believe is the secret to 'eternal youth and beauty' (4). These bright orange-red berries resemble skinny raisins (not as sweet) and come from a shrub found in China and Tibet. They are loaded with antioxidants and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin A and C (5). They also contain 20 minerals and vitamins including zinc, iron, riboflavin (B2), calcium and beta-carotene (6). I like the organic goji berries by Navitas for snacking between meals or adding them to hot oatmeal, granola, cookies, cereals and salads. These little berries contain 15 times the iron found in spinach (7)!
2. Acai berries, pronounced ah-sigh-ee, are a grape-like fruit harvested from acai palm trees that are native to the rain forests of South America (8). These berries are also low in sugar and have a healthy dose of omega fats, protein, fiber, iron, calcium, fiber and vitamin A (9). In the U.S., acai berries are not available as a whole fruit but as a frozen puree or powder (they are very perishable and can't be shipped here in their berry form) (10). Acai is most often served as a bowl and has a sorbet-like texture or used in smoothies. I like the frozen organic acai puree or the freeze-dried powder by Sambazon.
3. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the desert plant Salvia hispanica grown natively in South America (11). The Aztecs and Mayans prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy (chia is the ancient Mayan word for strength) (12). This superfood contains plenty of antioxidant properties and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber and calcium (13). Chia seeds have a mild nutty taste and can be integrated into an array of different recipes from breakfast foods to desserts. I like to add a few teaspoons of Nutivia Organic Chia seeds to greek or almond yogurt. I also use them to make a delicious hot cereal by heating them in a pan with with some coconut milk and berries. The seeds expand quite a bit in liquids and absorb 9-12 times their weight in water (14). They are also great in smoothies and can be made into a delicious and guilt-free chia pudding dessert.
4. Coconut oil is one of the world's most nourishing superfoods. Its unique combination of fatty acids have several positive effects on our overall health including better brain function, increased energy, and weight loss (15). Coconut oil also contains lauric acid that can kill harmful bacteria and viruses (16). This creamy taste of the tropics is great for cooking and a healthy alternative to margarine, butter. and olive oil. There are endless ways to incorporate coconut oil into your daily life. You can blend a teaspoon of it into your coffee for a delicious healthy morning pick me up. This multitasking oil is also a great moisturizer for your body. I like to slather it on dry elbows and use as a deep conditioning treatment for my hair. Another idea is to combine coconut oil with coconut sugar for an exfoliating body scrub! I like to use Nutiva® Virgin Coconut Oil because this product is made from fresh coconuts and is certified organic and non-GMO.
5. Hemp food products come in the form of seeds, protein powders and milk. They come from the Cannabis sativa plant (17). Yes, it's the same plant that marijuana is from, but not the THC part of the plant. So no worries about getting high on these products! My favorite hemp product is Living Harvest Tempt hemp milk, containing a beneficial three-to-one ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Other nutrients include magnesium, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, niacin and potassium (18). Hemp milk tastes amazing and has a creamier consistency than fat-free cows milk or almond milk. I like the the Tempt Unsweetened Hemp Milk by Living Harvest™ because it combines coconut cream and hemp milk. With a serving size of one cup, you'll receive 30% of your recommended daily value of calcium and 25% of B12. Try drinking it on it's own, use in a smoothie or to replace cow or soy milk in your cappuccinos! Hemp protein a great choice if you are vegan and use as a replacement for soy--its more digestible than soy protein and does not contain complex sugars (19).
6. Almond butter is loaded with protein and a good source of fiber. It also contains vitamin E and iron and mono saturated fat (the good fat) (20)! I found these amazing almond butters by La Dolce Vita Gourmet at the farmers market and they also sell them online...YAY! These yummy spreads are available in several flavors. My favorite is the Superfood Almond (Formula 25). The superfoods included here are organic almonds, organic saigon, cinnamon, cacao, maca, goji berries, chia seeds, flaxseeds and organic coconut oil. So now you can nudge your Nutella® aside and try a healthy alternative without a sacrifice in taste. I also love the Cinnamon Almond (Formula 28) and the Natural Almond Blend 84 (shown below) and spread them on a piece of whole grain toast or a rice cake. You can find these and more flavors at www.ladolcevitagourmet.com.
7. Bone broth benefits include anti-inflammatory and gut-healing proteins, healthy fats, and a wealth of minerals just waiting to be used (21). A few weeks ago, I discovered a delicious bone broth at the Brentwood Farmers Market in Los Angeles by Brothee. This local company makes bone broths that are available in 16 oz. bottles. Flavors include Bold Beef Broth, Wild Vegan Mushroom Broth, and Roast Chicken Bone Broth. I add in a teaspoon of their Basil Pesto Ghee for a little flavor kick. Brothee participates in 9 farmers markets and can be pre-ordered for pick up at one of these markets via their online shopping portal at www.brothee.com. If you don't live in LA, another great bone broth to try and order online is Kettle & Fire Grass-fed Bone Broth. You can read more about the endless health benefits of drinking bone broth here.
I recently mixed many of the superfoods and made the most delicious chia and hemp seed muesli with goji berries and raspberries. This recipe was inspired by Mia Russo Stern, Certified Holistic Wellness Counselor and Founder of Organically Thin.
Integrating superfoods into your life is easy once you learn how to incorporate them into your diet. These foods enhance the health, flavor and consistency of smoothies, yogurts, cereals, and more. Be creative, experiment and have fun trying them! You will be pleasantly surprised by the taste and at the same time you will be doing your body a huge favor.
Please share with me your favorite superfoods and recipe ideas in the comments below. xxM