What are Superfoods? (Part 1):
Every day, more and more people are reacquainting themselves to the power of food and nutrition when it comes to the management and the ongoing maintenance of their health status.
Amongst the various discussions, forums, news articles and studies surrounding the benefits of a good diet and nutrition comes one term that tends to trend in such areas – superfoods!
We hear it often. Social Media is abound with posts on the subject. Newspapers and magazines print articles highlighting the latest research and many celebrities and athletes endorse them as part of their daily regime for health, wellbeing and performance.
So what exactly are Superfoods? Superfoods, simply put, are special, unadulterated foods found in nature that possess an abundance of unique health properties. You will often hear the term ‘nutrient-dense’ when it comes to Superfoods, which is precise in description as the health properties of such foods are largely due to the vast array of vitamins, minerals and other crucial substances such as antioxidants that occur naturally within.
Here are some examples of my favourite Superfoods:
Cacao is the special bean that gives chocolate its distinct flavour. It is the essence of chocolate. Quite simply, without cacao, you don’t have chocolate.
Its botanical name Theobroma cacao literally means “Cacao, the Food of the Gods”. When you look at the nature of nutrients that Cacao possesses, it’s easy to see why. Cacao is naturally high in the following minerals – Magnesium (important for muscular and cardiovascular health), Chromium (for blood sugar balance), Zinc (for immune health) and Vitamin C (Immune Health).
When we think of events that personify love, such as Valentine’s Day, chocolate is normally synonymous. The reason has now been scientifically verified. Cacao is abundant in a special compound called Phenylethylamine (or PEA for short). This is a chemical that humans also produce, and is produced when we “fall in love”.
Cacao also contains significant quantities of the essential amino acid Tryptophan, which plays an important role in the body in enhancing mood. So for those who feel like they’re momentarily “down in the dumps”, a boost of Cacao may help.
Cacao is normally sold as powder or nibs and always look out for organic, fair trade varieties. Dark chocolate with a content of at least 70% cacao is ideal. The higher the percentage, the more health-promoting cacao there is.
You’ll often find it blended into smoothie or sprinkled on top of granola and yoghurt.
From various regions of South America comes the super seed which normally has people confused in terms of its pronunciation. Pronounced “keen-wah” instead of “kwin-oh-ah”, Quinoa has fast become a mainstay in most people’s healthy-eating plans.
This seed (normally confused as a grain) is a god send for those who are gluten intolerant, as it is 100% gluten free and, therefore, is in ideal alternative for you typical gluten-based grains such as wheat and barley.
Apart from being completely devoid of gluten, Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, which is ideal for those who are living either vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. A cooked cup of Quinoa contains roughly 18g of protein, making it one the world’s richest sources of non-animal based protein.
It’s carbohydrate content is also low GI, which is important for those who are keeping an eye on their blood glucose levels such as diabetics. Plus, in keeping with the superfood theme, Quinoa is high in certain minerals such as Iron (Oxygen transport in the blood) and Magnesium and also contains around 5 grams of fibre per serve.
Normally served like rice, you’ll often find it in salads and as an accompaniment to vegetables and animal-baed proteins. In addition, Quinoa is commonly added as a key ingredient to gluten-free breads.
They look like miniature red sultanas. However, don’t be fooled by appearance as Goji Berries is yet another fine example of a superfood, containing a vast array of therapeutic constituents.
Not only that, most superfood experts believe that Goji Berries are the most nutritionally-rich berries on the planet, containing all the essential amino acids vital for providing a complete protein source. They’re also a rich source of trace minerals such as Zinc, Iron, Copper, Calcium and Selenium. In addition, they’re also considered to be a good source of Vitamins B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin E. Talk about super!!
Therapeutic constituents such as Zeaxanthin (essential for Eye Health), Betaine (essential for Liver Health) and Beta-Sitosterol (essential for its anti-inflammatory properties) are also found in Goji Berries, making it one of nature’s finest foods for good health and wellbeing. It’s also considered to be a food for Longevity, as it contains a substance known as Sesquiterpenoids. Studies have demonstrated that Sesquiterpenoids can improve the production of Human Growth Hormone in humans by stimulating the glands in the body (pituitary and pineal) that produce it. Human Growth Hormone is important to maintain muscle mass and metabolism.
Goji Berries are great on their own as a snack, or can be mixed into a granola bowl, yoghurt or blended into a nutritious smoothie.
Victor Tuballa- Naturopath and Herbalist
Victor Tuballa Natural Therapies