Superfoods At A Glance


Here is a brief list of the most talked about superfoods available today.

Açai bowl with granola and bananas

Açai (ah-sah-ee)
Açai is known as the “King of Superfoods” because it is low in calories, but high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Açai contains substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

You can enjoy açai like they do in Rio de Janeiro by having the frozen pulp of the fruit served with sliced bananas and granola, as it is shown here. This makes  a wonderful desert, quite like like a sorbet. You can also find this superfruit in powder or pill form.

Camu Camu Berry

Camu Camu is best known for its Vitamin C content (30 to 60 times more naturally occurring Vitamin C than oranges) plus many of the minerals needed to aid in vitamin C absorption.

The camu camu berry is also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, the amino acids serine, valine and leucine, as well as small amounts of the vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin). Camu camu also contains high levels of anthocyanins (a powerful antioxidant).

Camu Camu berries

Camu Camu has a long history as a key folk medicine by people living in the Amazon. Recently,  Camu Camu has been marketed as a nutritional supplement claiming to provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support for infertility, herpes, gum disease, infections, connective tissue and even depression. However, there is very little science supporting the nutritional claims. The berry is exported around the world with Japan being a major consumer.

Despite Camu Camu’s impressive vitamin C content, the fruit is extremely acidic, and the flavor can be masked by adding small amounts to smoothies diluting with milk, water and adding a sugar substitute like honey or agave nectar.

Camu Camu is 4-5 times more expensive as compared to other sources of comparable fruit pulps and even concentrates containing high levels of vitamin C.

The camu camu tree can live several decades and be cultivated to produce as much as a ton of fruit per acre. However, the over-harvesting of wild Camu Camu threatens to make it an endangered species. Efforts are underway to encourage the commercially sustainable growing of Camu Camu in the Amazon River Basin.

Dulse (Ocean Vegetable)

Dulse, edible algae

Dried Dulse - an edible ocean vegetable

Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is a red algae seaweed or sea vegetable with fan-shaped fronds that grows from the moderate to frigid zones of the North Atlantic and Pacific. It has been harvested as a source of food for thousands of years, and continues to be popular in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and parts of Canada.

Dulse is a good source of iron, manganese and iodine. It also contains all trace minerals (or micronutrients) needed by humans, and a comparatively large amount of protein. It also has a high fiber content.

Dulse makes a great addition to salads, soups,tomato and fruit juices, and as a nutritious salt substitute.

Hemp Seed

Organic Hemp Seeds

Hulled Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life. The seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into hemp milk (akin to soy milk), prepared as tea, and used in baking. Products range from cereals to frozen waffles, hemp tofu to nut butters.

About 30-35% of the weight of hempseed is hemp oil, an edible oil that contains about 80% essential fatty acids (EFAs). Hempseed also contains about 20% of a highly-digestible protein. Its amino acid profile is close to “complete” when compared to more common sources of proteins such as meat, milk, eggs and soy.

Hempseed is an adequate source of calcium and iron. Whole, toasted hempseeds are also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.

I like to use hempseed in my bread recipes to add protein and a rich nutty taste. Best of all, hempseed contains no gluten, so it’s great for those who are gluten intolerant.

Chia Seeds

Organic Chia Seeds

The mighty chia seed is a powerhouse food, high in protein, fiber and the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. It has a long history, cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans in pre-Columbian times. It was a staple to their diets, and the diets of their warriors.

Enjoy chia seeds sprinkled over your favorite muesli, in smoothies, on yogurt, in energy bars, or healthy salad. If you soak the chia in water for 30 minutes, they absorb 10-12 times their weight, and turn to a gel because of their high level of soluble fiber. Unlike flax seeds, they can be enjoyed as is, since they don’t need to be finely ground to be utilized by the body.

Chia is 16% protein, 31 % fat, and 44% carbohydrate of which 38% is fiber. Most of its fat is the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20 (2007).

Maca
Maca is the powdered root of the Lepidium Meyenii plant. Known for its ability to support healthy energy levels, maca has been used by the Incas as a kind of “Incan superfood” for thousands of years and was a central part of the Incan diet when they built Macchu Picchu.

This powerful superfood is packed with 18 amino acids, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and sodium and minute amounts of trace minerals essential for healthy cell functioning (copper, zinc, manganese, iron, selenium, boron). Maca also contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, D3 and P.

You can spoon the powder into smoothies or over cereal. A little goes a long way. 1/4 to 1 teaspoon per day is an average daily amount.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate
Pomegranates are a source of polyphenols, which help the body rid itself of cancer-causing agents; tannins, which lower blood pressure and stimulate the immune system; and anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation and protect blood vessels.

The fruit is rich in vitamins A, C and E, and in iron, which helps the blood maintain an effective supply of oxygen to the body. It is a good source of iron for pregnant women.

Goji Berries

The berries actually have a unique component called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides. This substance actually has a similar structure  to substances found in Echinacea and maitake mushroom, both are known herbs for their immune system  boosting ability. According to research, the compounds found in Goji berries enhance our body’s ability to resist a disease.

Goji Berry Plant

Moreover, each berry is a rich source of vitamin C and zinc, both are powerful protection from diseases and assist our body for recovery. A previous study from Case Western Reserve University has results that show the ability of zinc to shorten the length and severity of cold.

Spirulina

Spirulina is a single-celled, spiral-shaped blue green microalgae grown in tropical salt lakes. Being one of the oldest organisms on the planet, spirulina is anywhere from 62-71% essential amino acids. It also contains beta carotene (ten times more concentrated than that of carrots), along with other carotenoids.

It also contains chlorophyll, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), and vitamin B12.  B12 is important for healthy tissues, energy, and nerves, especially for strict vegetarians.

As a super concentrated source of chlorophyll, spirulina also cleans the blood while alkalizing the body. Containing a full spectrum of bio available minerals, spirulina is rich in Magnesium and Iron, two minerals lacking in the average diet and responsible for many imbalances. Spirulina ranks second to mother’s milk in concentration of natural gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

The phytonutrient in spirulina that gives it the striking blue green color is phycocyanin. In animal studies, it is showing great promise in the stimulation of the production of stem cells in bone marrow. These stem cells will mature into red blood cells and white blood cells.

Largest spirulina farm in the world.

Spirulina has promise at being a high protein food source that can be grown sustainably to provide valuable nutrient rich food to the under-served populations of the world.

Oils are not typically thought of as a superfood but, because our brains are nearly two thirds fat. We need fat for healthy functioning brains as well as cells, connective tissues and a whole host of bio-chemical processes. Here’s a quick rundown on the good and not so good sources of oils.

Olive Oil
Organic olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, and is considered a good fatty acid (high density lipoproteins, HDLs) protect against bad cholesterol, or low density lipoproteins (LDLs).

Delicious organic olive oil contains all the vitamins and nutrients of the olive fruit, and if you get a premium organic olive oil, it will taste better and have a full aroma.

Organic olive oil is also filled with antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients that may protect you against illnesses. Studies have shown that organic olive oil can help:
  • Protect You from Heart Disease [1]
  • Promote Healthy Digestion [2]
  • Ease the Symptoms of Ulcers & Gastritis [3] [4]
  • Lower Gallstone Formation [5]
  • Balance the Fatty Acids in Your Body

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has gotten a bad rap when decades old health studies characterized the oil as hydrogenated. Some foods did contain the hydrogenated form of the oil and the media proclaimed coconut an “unhealthy fat”. Actually, it contains absolutely no trans fats in its pure form, but contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). The food industry instead promoted polyunsaturated fats (such as canola, soybean, safflower and corn), which easily go rancid when exposed to oxygen and produce harmful free radicals in our bodies.

In Polynesian culture, coconut oil has been used as a traditional food since ancient times, and they have among the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

Coconut Oil Benefits:

  • Promotes weight loss and helps maintain healthy body weight
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Supports thyroid function
  • Increases metabolism and energy
  • Prevents bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
  • Helps control diabetes and chronic fatigue
  • Improves digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and IBS
  • Protects against alcohol damage to the liver
  • Rejuvenates skin and prevents wrinkles

Make sure to buy organic, unrefined, unbleached  and undeodorized coconut oil. Even if the label reads “cold-pressed”, it has still  been fermented or heated to remove water, and in the process will lose the natural vitamin E and tocopherols needed for stability and protection against rancidity.

And be sure to stay away from Canola oil – this is toxic!

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3 Responses

  1. [...] Superfoods At A Glance (buildingsustainablelifestyles.wordpress.com) [...]

  2. [...] Superfoods At A Glance (buildingsustainablelifestyles.wordpress.com) [...]

  3. [...] Spirulina a Superfood; 8/19/11 coffeeblogs.net [...]

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