Let us demystify eight superfoods so you can embrace the benefits in no time.
Rich in: protein, magnesium, vitamin C and other important vitamins and minerals.
Maca is a radish-like root from the highlands of Peru, where it has traditionally been used as both medicine and food. Yellow maca is the most popular, but it also comes in red and black varieties, each benefitting the body differently. It is commonly dried and ground into a caramel or malt-flavoured powder.
It is an adaptogen, meaning it can adapt to the needs of different bodies. It has a balancing effect on hormones and has been proven to help manage the symptoms of PMS and to reduce blood pressure, hot flushes and night sweats in postmenopausal women.
Maca boosts energy levels and can even relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It has also been shown to increase the levels of pituitary hormones that increase sex drive in women and increase libido in men. Red maca may help to protect against prostate cancer and black maca has been shown to increase sperm count.
Maca is easy to incorporate into your diet, from stirring it into your morning coffee, or adding it to your morning muesli, smoothies or even to cookie dough.
Rich in: polysaccharides, trace minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants.
Goji berries are believed to have anti-ageing and anti-cancer benefits. They help your immune system, kidneys, liver and eyesight. A preliminary study suggests they may have beneficial effects on depression and anxiety.
While traditionally used in China in soups and tea, goji berries can be enjoyed in trail mixes, added to granola, muffins, smoothies or simply sprinkled over desserts.
Rich in: protein, fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and omega-3.
An early study suggests chia seeds may be beneficial in reducing blood pressure, depression, anxiety, inflammation and in the treatment of diabetes. The high fibre content will keep you feeling fuller between meals and the high protein content (20 per cent) provides your body with nine of the amino acids it can’t produce by itself.
Chia seeds are tiny, dry, black/brown or white seeds, but you’ll have to soak them before eating. They can absorb about 10 times their weight in water, resulting in a gelatinous texture.
Rich in: vitamin B12, iron, nutrients, antioxidants, gamma-linoleic acid, protein and fatty acid.
Spirulina is a type of bacteria that grows in water. This may not sound particularly appetising, but it has been eaten in Mexico and Africa for centuries, and can be bought as a powder from most health food stores.
Elements of spirulina are responsible for protecting your cells and DNA against free radicals. It also lowers levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. Others claim that is boosts energy levels and may reduce the risk of cancer.
Spirulina may not be the most delicious ingredient in your cooking, as it has a savoury taste, so try blending it with honey and sweet fruits, such as bananas, in a smoothie.
Rich in: potassium, insoluble fibre and manganese.
However, despite its benefits, coconut oil, which is extracted from the flesh, is high in saturated fat. One study suggested that this high intake of ‘bad’ cholesterol meant that coconut was not healthy for you.
Until this conflicting research is resolved, you may want to consume coconut, especially coconut oil, in moderate quantities.
It is used commonly in Asian dishes, as coconut oil is good for high heat cooking, such as in a stir-fry and some curries. You can add dried and shredded coconut to breakfasts and a number of desserts.
Rich in: fibre, protein, antioxidants, omega-3 and omega-6.
Flaxseeds are richer in omega-3 fatty acid ALA than any other plant-based food. It is good for managing oestrogen levels and alleviating menopausal symptoms. It has been shown to help with the symptoms of osteoporosis and protect against arthritis, diabetes, prostate cancer and autoimmune and neurological disorders.
Now, before you go putting flaxseeds in each and every meal of the day, it’s important to grind them first. The hull on the outside of the seed is hard, meaning your body won’t be able to digest it and get the goodness. You can grind them yourself in a spice grinder or purchase them as flax meal from a health food store. You can add it to baked goods, bread, smoothies, cereal and desserts. Just be sure to store leftover ground flaxseed in the fridge or freezer.
Rich in: antioxidants, minerals, flavonoids and insoluble fibre.
Cacao comes from the dried and fermented fruit of the cocoa tree and was once known as the ‘food of the gods’ in ancient Maya. Interestingly, it has been shown to protect the nervous system from inflammation, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and protect the brain from age-related decline. It has been shown to increase energy levels and reduce anxiety.
Cacao can be bought from health food stores as powder and butter, both of which can be incorporated into a number of recipes and desserts.
Rich in: potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, iron, omega-3 and omega-6.
Hemp seeds, hemp oil and even hemp milk can be bought online and in health food stores. It has health benefits for your brain, heart, immune system and energy levels. It has more protein in it than flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Hemp seeds can be mixed into granola, smoothies and salads. Hemp oil is an easy addition to coffee, smoothies, baked goods and homemade dips.
Do you use any of these superfoods? Do you swear by the benefits? Do you regularly use any other superfoods apart from those listed here?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.
Also Read: Oranges really pack a health punch