Most of us have heard of super foods but a whole new breed of vitamin packed antioxidant charged foods are emerging. In the jungles of Brazil and in the forests of Tibet, horticultural discoveries are being made that will change the face of the human diet, and potentially life expectancy, in years to come.
So what are the super foods that have crept up the rankings and how can they be used in daily life?
Based on the ORAC scale which measures antioxidants, processed dark chocolate contains about 132 ORAC units per gram as opposed to Raw Cacao Powder which has 955 units, a significant difference. In addition to this, Raw Cacao Powder has at least 33% more Arginine, the aphrodisiac like amino acid believed by body builders to build muscle and aid in recovery and is also an excellent source of Phenylethylamine (PEA) which has a positive effect in enhancing feelings of love.
Sold as a powder or in ‘nibs’(similar to small seed pods), use it as you would use normal cocoa in baking or blend it into smoothies or ice creams.
In the past few years Goji Berries have been popping up in health food stores everywhere but the truth is they have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Goji berries, sometimes referred to as wolfberries, are believed to enhance immune function, boost circulation and even increase sperm production. Goji berries are an excellent source of zeaxanthin which is useful in maintaining healthy eyes.
Goji berries are typically sold as whole berries that are dried or frozen. They can be eaten the same way you would eat dried apricots, on their own, sprinkled over cereal or baked into muffins.
Acai berries come from a palm tree that grows in the Amazon jungle. This delicate fruit deteriorates very quickly after harvest however and is often sold as a frozen puree.
Acai is a natural stimulant that mimics the effects of caffine but without the ‘come down’.
Acai is often blended into smoothies or eaten as a pulp with granola, Brazilian style.
Maca looks a lot like a radish or a turnip and is native to peru and Bolivia. Maca is believed to boost libido in a big way and some studies suggest that is also increases fertility. It is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and iron and contains trace minerals, including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica as well as vitamins B1, B2, C and E. It contains nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids, is a rich source of sterols, including sitosterol, campestrol, ergosterol, brassicasterol and ergostadienol.
As a root crop Maca contains 5 times more protein than a potato and 4 times more fibre.
Maca is generally sold as a powder so it is easy to blend into a smoothie or it can be eaten by itself as it has a malt like flavor. Maca was traditionally roasted and eaten whole or made into a porridge like dish.
Black tea and green tea are both excellent sources of antioxidants but white tea is by far the most dense source. White tea is made from the new growth tip of the camellia sinensis plant from which all tea is harvested. It is not rolled, heated or cut up, just dried naturally before being packaged. This means the leaves retain higher levels of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that fight cell damage. In an unusual benefit, white tea contains fluoride so it actually helps prevent the growth of dental plaque.
Made from the same plant that is used in tequila production, agave nectar is an excellent sugar substitute. The beauty of agave nectar is that while it is actually sweeter than common sugars such as sucrose(ie table sugar) due to its fructose content it is lower in calories and is suitable fro use by people with blood sugar insulin related disorders.
There are two kinds of agave nectar commonly available, light and dark. Dark agave has higher levels of minerals and a unique flavor that is similar to molasses with a hint of vanilla. Light agave has been filtered numerous times and has a more neutral sweetness that is ideal as a sugar substitute.
Mesquite Meal was a traditional food for the native American tribes Pima and Tohono O’odham and is made from the ground ripened seed pods from the Mesquite tree. Mesquite meal is high in dietary fiber, low in fat and carbohydrates and is naturally sweet. In a similar fashion to agave nectar, the sweetness comes from fructose and is subsequently low GI and can be metabolized without insulin. The result is a food that has a stablising effect on blood sugar.
Noni is the common name for Morinda citrifolia, a tropical tree native to Polynesia, especially Tahiti and Hawaii. The fruit, leaves, stems and roots have all been used by Polynesian ‘Kahuna’ or traditional healers, for up to 2000 years in foods and beverages.
Various parts of the noni plant are used therapeutically, namely the leaves for making tea and the fruit which is eaten as is or juiced.
The nutritional benefits of noni are multifarious but its most curious trait is that it stimulates white blood cells to go into overdrive which makes it an excellent immune booster. In addition to this noni is full of powerful antioxidants that posses anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities.
Coconut Oil is one of the best anti-candida foods as it has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Even though it is a fat, coconut oil is attributed with lowering bad cholesterol levels and helping the body burn unwanted fat.
It is worth noting that it is possible to buy deoderised coconut oil that has no disernable aroma or flavor but for some dishes , particularly Indian ones, the flavor of standard coconut oil is a welcome addition.
Native to South-East Asia, mangosteens are part of the emerging category of super-fruits. While the white flesh of the fruit tastes delicious, it is the deep purple rind that contains xanthones which are powerful antioxidants. There are several juices on the market that incorporate these phytochemicals, so look out for these when buying mangosteen products as the flesh itself is of negligible nutritional value.
Pomegranates are steeped in myth and culinary traditional throughout the Middle Eastern region and have a long history of being used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes, as well as juices. From a nutritional standpoint , pomegranate juice is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B and antioxidant polyphenols.
Aloe Vera Juice
While the gel from inside Aloe Vera plants is commonly used to treat wounds, and in particular, burns, aloe vera juice is useful in treating intestinal inflammation. In India and Pakistan, the gel has long been used as an antispasmodic and digestive aid.
Spirulina is a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that was originally harvested in Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs and is named for its helix-shaped filaments. Spirulina is usually sold as a powder or in tablet form and is useful in the treatment of anaemia and malnutrition as it is very rich in vitamins B, C, D and E.
Wheatgrass was first popularized in the 1930’sby a scientist named Charles F. Schnabel who discovered that by feeding fresh cut grass to sick chickens not only healed them but also increased their egg production. Today, wheatgrass is either taken as a powder, tablet or juiced to make ‘shots’. Wheatgrass is thought to be an excellent liver cleanser and the enzymes in the fresh juice aid digestion.
The Original Superfoods
Endevour to incorporate a selection of the original superfoods listed below into your daily diet and you will be on the right path to building and maintaining excellent health.
Allium family (ie garlic and onions)