We are often promised that the magical powers of superfoods will transform our health and wellbeing- but is there any evidence that they actually work?
Unsurprisingly, ‘Superfoods’ is not a scientific term- it was conjured up by marketing maestros to describe specific foods as having ‘superpowers’.
However, as we describe below- these ‘nutrient dense’ products often do have a number of health benefits, especially when compared to other ‘non superfoods’ and therefore they can make a good addition to our already nutritious diets.
What is a superfood?
The idea is to distinguish foods which are unusually high in nutrients, or other healthful properties.
We all know what healthy food looks like and that fruit and vegetables have a huge role in giving our bodies what they need to thrive.
But not all fruits and veg are made equal, and some shine brighter than others when it comes to their nutrient profile.
The term superfood doesn’t just apply to fruit and veg though, as it also encompasses certain spices, herbs and other items which may be overlooked in our diet.
The top five ‘superfoods’:
Spirulina is actually a type of grass, capable of growing in both fresh and salted water. It is a great example of a multitalented ingredient which has a range of benefits. This ‘earthy’ tasting dark green powder, is packed with nutrients. This makes it one of the most popular superfoods on the market.
Here is just a few of spirulina's unique properties:
- High in B vitamins
- A source of magnesium which many people struggle to get enough of through diet alone.
- 4 grams of protein per teaspoon
- Offers antioxidant protection against oxidative stress which can damage cells and DNA
- High in a special anti-inflammatory compound called phycocyanin
- Can lower blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and enhance endurance
As you can see Spirulina offers an unusually large range of benefits, making it a desirable addition to your daily diet.
How to use it: As Spirulina isn’t known for its taste- if you buy the powder on its own then you may want to consider adding it into your morning smoothie or juice- which will balance out the flavour with other fruits and vegetables. Also, you can often find Spirulina as part of a ‘super greens blend’ which usually contains some other flavours to offset the taste. Of course, if you don’t mind the earthiness you can simply add a teaspoon or two to a little water and drink it neat.
This hard to pronounce superfood originates from South America and has become a popular addition to smoothie bowls across the world. And, for good reason; Acai is a purple-coloured berry which really packs a (nutrient) punch.
Traditionally used as a key food item for indigenous people living around the Amazon area, studies now indicate this fruit (eaten dried or fresh) can reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar management in overweight individuals.
Acai can also:
- Act as an antioxidant- protecting the body against harmful levels of oxidative stress.
- Provide 15% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A
- Boost brain function as you age and improve memory
We can all benefit from increasing our intake of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, and in particular those with a purple hue offer us a lot of protection against various chronic diseases when consumed regularly.
How to use Acai: Unless you are in South America you will struggle to find anything other than powered Acai. This makes it a very versatile superfood which can easily be included to your diet in a number of ways:
- You can blend the powder with bananas, avocados, and other greens to make a smoothie bowl which you can top with granola and other fruit
- You can blend with frozen banana to make an Acai ‘nice-cream’
- You can add it to your morning smoothie- for a taste which resembles blackberries and raw chocolate.
3. Goji Berries
These little red dried berries, found in parts of Asia, are an easy way to amp up your superfood intake. They are readily available in most supermarkets and the price has come down over recent years to make them a more accessible addition.
Goji berries, although small, are very nutritionally dense. They are:
- Packed with Iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A- all which contribute to the normal functioning of our immune system
- High in antioxidants which offer protection against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes
- Helpful in slowing the progression of macular degeneration- a common eye condition associated with aging
How to get more gojis into your diet: top your porridge or yoghurt with them, add them to homemade trail mix and other baked goods, or you can find dried and powdered goji berries in many superfood blends which you can add directly to juices and smoothies for easy consumption.
Maca has a naturally sweet and caramel like flavour making it a tasty addition to your day. It also comes loaded with nutrients and benefits which elevates it to the superfood category.
Maca powder is derived from its root and you can buy it as a standalone superfood power, or it may be added to other health blends.
Why should you add Maca into your diet?
- Because it is very high in Vitamin C, Iron, Copper and Potassium
- It has the unique ability to increase libido naturally, in both women and men
- Studies show it can even enhance male fertility via improvements in sperm quantity and motility
- It can reduce the effect of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and irritability
- It can also lower anxiety and depression scores
Maca is unique in its offerings- with its ability to influence fertility and libido it is especially useful for those aiming to conceive.
How to use Maca: the pleasant taste of Maca powder means it can be easily added to smoothies, cereal, yoghurt or even deserts- the choice is yours!
Another superfood originating from Asia, Moringa powder easily meets the top five superfoods’ status.
Moringa powder is:
- Extremely high in Vitamin C- higher than many fruits and vegetables
- Rich in the powerful antioxidant Quercetin which can benefit allergic and immune responses.
- Able to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
- Anti-inflammatory- making it beneficial against many chronic diseases
- Potentially able to reduce the impact of arsenic in the body- resulting from high rice consumption
How to use Moringa: you can find it in many superfood blends, as well as in capsules which you can take independently of food.
- Whilst the term ‘superfood’ is not strictly scientific, it does correspond with a series of foods which are uniquely nutritious
- The top five superfoods include Maca, Moringa, Goji Berries, Spirulina and Acai.
- You can add most superfoods to smoothies and juices, or enjoy them as part of a ‘health blend’
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2 Edwards RL, Lyon T, Litwin SE, Rabovsky A, Symons JD, Jalili T. Quercetin reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. J Nutr. 2007. doi:10.1093/jn/137.11.2405
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4 Sheikh A, Yeasmin F, Agarwal S, et al. Protective effects of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves against arsenic-induced toxicity in mice. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014. doi:10.12980/APJTB.4.201414B44