So, What Exactly Are Superfoods? Should We All Eat Them?
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There is actually no official scientific definition of a superfood, but they’re generally thought of as foods that are packed with nutrients. They contain disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals, as well as plenty of vitamins and/or minerals. These foods are thought to bolster your immune system, aid in digestion, or ward off chronic diseases and cancer.
Which foods are super?
Since there is no official definition of a superfood and, for the time being, companies are allowed to put a “superfood” label on just about anything. Because of that, so many different superfoods have become popular in recent years.
Remember when taking wheatgrass shots at Jamba Juice used to be all the rage? And then it was all about kale — kale in your smoothies, kale chips, kale salads. Then came the acai berries and now goji berries. There’s also chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds…
Every doctor, every study, every website I found, lists different top superfoods, each in a different order or rank. Here are a few plant-based superfoods that top many of the lists:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Acai berries
- Goji berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Green tea
Should we be eating superfoods?
This is where we need to remember that too much of a good thing can be bad. Just because something has been labeled a superfood, doesn’t mean you should run out and buy a package of it and consume the whole thing in one sitting. It is essential to vary our diets to include as many different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as we can.
In the end, after researching and checking out a bunch of different studies about superfoods, their benefits, and their potential dangers, I have concluded that eating superfoods is likely to do more good than harm, and they can be great additions to our diet.
How should we consume superfoods?
Most of these superfoods, we should be eating in their pure unadulterated forms. So, have a handful of blueberries with your breakfast, munch on a few almonds mixed with some dried goji berries as a snack, and have a kale and quinoa salad for lunch.
Several superfoods can also be found as powders that you can add to a smoothie or mix into your oatmeal or overnight oats. This way, you get a huge dose of nutrients for breakfast.
Mixes and Powders
Lately, I’ve been enjoying OLLY’s Superfood Protein Smoothie Mix, which contains the equivalent of two servings of fruits and vegetables. The flavor is Super Berry, and although it does contain some stevia, it is also sweetened with cane sugar and coconut juice powder, so it doesn’t really have too much of that yucky Stevia taste.
Each serving contains 15 grams of plant-based proteins and the powder is vegan, gluten-free, and contains non-GMO ingredients. Some of the so-called superfoods that I see in the ingredient list include flax seeds, spinach, acai berries, pomegranate, beetroot powder and more.
There’s also something called Sea Buckthorn, and after doing some research I found that Sea Buckthorn is an herb and its leaves, flowers, and fruits are used to make different medicines. The Superfoods Protein Smoothie doesn’t tell us which part of the Sea Buckthorn is in it, but it is most likely the berries, which are used for preventing infections, improving sight, and slowing the aging process, according to WebMD.
Protein World also offers the Ultimate Superfood Blend with cacao, acai, goji, flax seed, chia seed, maca root, spirulina and green tea extract.
You can also purchase bags of superfood powders which can be quite expensive at health food stores, but I buy them at Grocery Outlet Bargain Market for fairly cheap. If you have a Grocery Outlet near you, stop in and look for these superfoods:
- Maca root powder
- Cacao nibs
- Goji berries
Where are these superfoods popping up from?
We are all familiar with blueberries, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, and the like, but some superfoods that have been popping onto our radar in recent years have some of us scratching our heads and thinking where the heck did that come from and what is it — and how the heck do you pronounce it?
Here are some of the weird ones, where they come from, and what they supposedly do:
(Ah-sigh-EE) The small, deep purple berries are native to the Amazonian rainforest in Brazil. They are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, amino acids, healthy fats, electrolytes, and other vitamins and trace minerals. Acai helps repair damaged skin cells and stimulate mental function to help us think more clearly and improve our memory. Acai has also been shown to lower the risk of a cardiac event by improving vascular function.
(MAH-kah) A cruciferous vegetable native to Peru that looks like a radish or turnip but its roots come in colors like yellow, purple, and black. The roots are ground into powder. Maca root is said to be a natural antioxidant, helping neutralize free radicals and preventing damage to cells. Some consumers report maca boosts their energy without the caffeine jitters. A few studies have shown that maca root may balance female sex hormones and even alleviate menopause symptoms.
Maca root may even boost male fertility by improving sperm quality and motility, according to a 2001 study.
(GO-jee) These berries have been used in Chinese medicine — they’re known as wolfberry fruit in China — for millennia and are available today raw, dried, as a liquid and as a powder.
Goji berries are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and are also high in fiber and protein. Just ¼ cup of dried goji berries contains 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. It also provides 18 amino acids, including 11 essential amino acids which the body cannot make. That’s not typical of fruits, so the goji berry is special in this area. Gojis are sweet and tart and rather chewy in dried form, but are a good addition to trail mix. One cool use I found is that gojis act as a natural treatment for glaucoma, thanks to its antioxidants protecting the retina.
(Spee-ru-LEE-na) is a blue-green alga found in Hawaii and other exotic locations. It doesn’t grow in the ocean, however, it’s a freshwater plant. Spirulina has been shown to promote healthy gut bacteria and help the body eliminate candida (yeast). Researchers have also found that spirulina reduces blood cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, and aids sinus problems by reducing inflammation.
(Pih-TIE-ah) Also known as dragon fruit, it’s a fruit native to Central America and also Thailand and Vietnam. It’s chock full of vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3, plus tons of fiber, iron, calcium and phosphorus. While most of us probably peel the prickly-looking-yet-soft skin from the dragon fruit and just eat the seedy flesh, most of the benefits, including loads of antioxidants and much of the fiber, are actually contained in the edible skin. Researchers have found dragon fruit can help reduce the risk for diabetes and diabetes symptoms, but so far only in mice, not humans.
Bonus: Superfood Trail Mix
Want to mix all these superfoods together? This quick and easy trail mix can give you a delicious superfood boost any time of the day. Keep some in an airtight container in your car, purse, desk drawer or anywhere else you desire a quick snack.
Cuisine: Superfood, Vegan
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1 snack
- 1/4 cup almonds raw, or roasted and salted
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup Goji berries dried
Mix equal parts of each ingredient and enjoy!
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This article was originally published on Spirited Vegan.