What is a superfood?

So what exactly is a super food?

superfoods

Organic superfoods are pure foods direct from Mother Nature. They come from some of the most remote and un spoilt corners of our planet and are by their very definition, low in calories and rich in beneficial nutrients, including fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Pretty radtastic if you ask me and definitely foods I love eating as much as possible!

Superfoods are commonly broken down into the following categories:

CACAO PRODUCTS – e.g. cacao powder, cacao beans and cacao butter

SUPER GREENS – e.g. kale, barley grass powder and wheatgrass powder

SUPER FRUITS – e.g. goji berries, acai berry powder and Incan berries

ALGAE AND SEAFOOD– e.g. kelp powder, chlorella powder and spirulina powder

COCONUT PRODUCTS – e.g. coconut oil, coconut sugar and coconut aminos

NUTS AND SEEDS – e.g. hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds and organic cashew nuts

BEE PRODUCTS – e.g. bee pollen, raw honey and bee propolis

SWEETENERS – e.g. lucuma powder, stevia sweetener and agave nectar.

HERBS – e.g. maca powder, Brazilian ginseng powder and astragalus extract powder

The health benefits of organic superfoods

The advantage of consuming organic superfoods is that you obtain a full spectrum of complementary and supporting nutrients all at once – nutrients that are in their natural state and can therefore offer much more in terms of potential health benefits, including strengthened immunity, increased energy, heightened libido, improved athletic performance, enhanced mental clarity and focus, greater physical and emotional balance and an elevated sense of spiritual connection. Organic superfoods can also help us to achieve our weight loss goals, delay some of the more unwelcome signs of ageing and may even help to prevent or offer some relief from the symptoms of a variety of modern diseases.

So, whilst there may occasionally be times when you need to take a good quality concentrated vitamin and mineral supplement (e.g. if you are at risk of a severe deficiency), the best way to boost your nutrient intake and prevent a deficiency in the first place, is by enjoying a wide range of delicious superfoods that are naturally nutrient-dense.

Vitamin and mineral supplements versus superfoods

In recent years, both scientists and proponents of natural food products, such as organic superfoods have discovered that the human body is unable to effectively absorb the isolated vitamins and minerals that are found in supplements. In order to digest vitamins and minerals correctly, our body requires a full spectrum of complementary and supporting nutrients, such as those made available to us by Mother Nature in the form of natural superfoods.

Tomatoes, for example, contain a phytonutrient known as lycopene, which has been linked to a potential ability to help prevent prostate cancer. However, when taken in isolated form, its positive effect is limited. The same is true for the majority of vitamins and minerals – our body has no use for vitamin C or zinc in isolation, but instead requires a full and balanced combination of nutrients that come from a variety of different foods.

Organic superfoods – the sensible alternative to supplements

So I'm probably sounding a bit like a super food ad right now - (no I'm not affiliate marketing or anything) but seriously I can't stress enough how really awesome and great super foods are. Not only are they super delish to use in your foods they are simply jam packed full of all the good stuff your body needs without taking supplements. It's like why wouldn't you want to eat things in their natural form as Mother Nature made them over tablets that are processed and full of who know's what.

Experts agree: “Our food is made by nature and contains thousands of nutrients that you won’t find in vitamins or multivitamins. These nutrients are often much more important than vitamins and minerals alone.” These nutrients include complete proteins, fibre, chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, to name but a few. An added benefit of natural food products is that they’re “balanced by nature, don’t have unpleasant side effects, are non-toxic and contain nutrients that regulate very specific biochemical functions in the body.”

Meaning an already healthy, balanced diet with superfoods that are naturally rich in nutrients is thus not only significantly cheaper than purchasing over-priced supplements, it’s also a sensible way of boosting your nutrient intake more safely. So guys out with the supplements and in with the superfoods!

Ok so now that we understand why super foods are so damn good - let's take a closer look at some of them. If I was to cover all of them I would be here forever - (and I've got super food snacks to go make lol) so I'm just going to talk about my top ten go to's. These are the ones I pretty much have in my cupboard and on hand ALL the time. Yep I put them in everything, smoothies, snacks, breakfast bowls... basically whenever possible!

1. COCONUT

Ok so coconut oil hits the number one spot on my super food hit list. Why - probably because I use it the most... as an oil to fry with, in smoothies (because it's so healthy), in baking, even on my skin and hair! I simply can't get enough of it... Here's what the experts say... Coconut oil's unique combination of fatty acids can have positive effects on your health. This includes fat loss, better brain function and various other impressive benefits.
Coconuts and Coconut Oil on Chopping Board
Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fats that have different effects than most other fats in your diet. These fats can boost fat burning and provide your body and brain with quick energy. They also raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is linked to reduced heart disease risk. When you eat these types of fats, they go straight to the liver, where they are used as a quick source of energy or turned into ketones. The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This could potentially help to prevent infections. Coconut oil can also be applied topically, yep it makes an awesome moisturiser / massage oil, as well as making your hair healthy (leave it oiling overnight and wash off in morning) - can also be swilled around the mouth (oil pulling) to help kill harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Seriously coconut oil = my best friend!

2. HEMP

Guys if you think you need more protein in your life - then hemp is the answer - it's simply awesome! Hemp Seeds are a gift of nature. They are the most nutritious seed in the world. Hemp Seeds are a complete protein. They have the most concentrated balance of proteins, essential fats, vitamins and enzymes combined with a relative absence of sugar, starches and saturated fats.

Hemp seeds
The hemp seeds you can pick up at your local grocery store come from the same hemp plant renowned for its durable fibre. The seeds of the hemp plant are edible (known as hemp seeds, or sometimes called "hemp nuts") and along with being eaten just as they are, hemp seeds are used in a growing number of food products today, including, hemp milk, hemp butter, hemp protein powder and even hemp tofu!

3. CACAO NIBS

Cacao nibs are a great tasting snack made from the cacao bean. For those not quite familiar with the term, the cacao bean is the primary ingredient which makes all chocolate. This natural source of chocolate originates inside of a pod which grows on cacao trees found in warm climates. Organic, raw cacao is a superfood containing a variety of unique phytonutrients, including high amounts of sulphur, magnesium and phenylethylamine. These characteristics provide many benefits, such as focus and alertness, while also keeping you in a great mood. Cacao nibs have more antioxidant activity than tea, wine, blueberries and even goji berries. Ultimately, it’s the flavanoids in cacao that makes it an above-and-beyond superfood.

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Also of use to us aerialists who use our muscles a lot - cacao beans are one of the best magnesium rich foods around. Magnesium is key to muscle and nerve function, keeping the heart rhythm steady. Thanks to its high magnesium content, along with the effects of epicatechin, cacao improves muscle structure and enhances nerve function. Magnesium is a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies, and cacao nibs contain 272 milligrams per 100 grams.

So choco goodness as well as muscle and nerve function, focus and good mood factor - what more could you ask for in these little nibby delights!

4. MACA

Native to the Andes Mountains, maca is the superfood of one of the oldest, and once most advanced civilizations on earth – the Incas and Peruvians. Over the centuries maca has been called “magic, the food of the gods, a natural Viagra, and a miracle drug” for a reason. It works. For centuries people have been using it for everything from enhancing their fertility to boosting their immune system or libido, but most people simply love the non-caffeinated burst of energy they get from putting maca in their smoothies.

Most people report a subtle, but noticeable, non-jittery type energy boost within minutes to hours from adding just one teaspoon into their smoothie. It’s not because it’s magical, but because of the root’s very real and very scientific makeup and how it affects everything from circulation to the endocrine system. To date there are no known toxic side effects from using maca. As a matter of fact, scientists say that repeated use of maca is like repeatedly exercising – the body not only adapts, but also gets stronger over time each time you use it.

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Although it’s part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family and even looks like a very robust radish, it has an earthy taste with a nutty flavour, making it a perfect complement to smoothies. Like the rest of the roots in the cruciferous family, it’s low in calories – one teaspoon of maca powder has only 10 calories. Because the benefits are noticeable immediately, and because they accumulate over time with regular use, maca helps re-enforce the benefits of a healthy smoothie habit. As powerful as the results of taking maca can be, it’s not a drug. It’s a plant. Maca contains over 55 beneficial and naturally occurring phyto-chemicals (plant chemicals). Those chemicals play critical roles in the hormonal health of our body, including affecting our thyroid gland, immune system, reproduction system and brain.

So peeps another hit on my super food hit list - an energy boosting aphrodisiac - yeah baby gimme gimme!

5. LUCUMA

Beloved by the Incas, lucuma is a super nutritious Peruvian fruit that contains beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. Its maple-like taste makes it a sweet addition to smoothies, baked goods, and even ice cream. Viewed as a symbol of fertility and creation, lucuma was called the “Gold of the Incas” and was used for a variety of applications. Recent research shows that lucuma may be helpful for supporting skin health, blood sugar, and even cardiovascular health.

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Lucuma in its whole form looks similar to an avocado, with a hard green exterior covering the sweet, soft fruit. The flesh is yellow and has a texture that is slightly reminiscent to that of a dry egg yolk. Many people say the taste of lucuma reminds them of a cross between caramel and a sweet potato. While it does contain a mellow sweetness, it’s low on the glycemic scale and typically suitable for diabetics. Great for adding to smoothies or juices as well as dessert recipes.

6. GINSENG

Ginseng refers to eleven different varieties of a short, slow-growing plant with fleshy roots. Ginseng is believed to restore and enhance wellbeing. The herbs consist of a light-coloured, forked-shaped root, a relatively long stalk, and green leaves with an oval shape. Ginseng is considered an adaptogen, which means it helps your body to withstand mental and physical stress.
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The three main types of ginseng are as follows:
American ginseng may boost your immune system, function as an antioxidant, benefit inflammatory conditions and act as a stress tonicAsian ginseng has stimulant properties and may be useful for heart health, neurodegenerative disease, boosting mental performance and moreSiberian ginseng is not a true ginseng and contains different bioactive compounds than American and Asian ginsengs. It is an adaptogen that's traditionally been used to increase energy, stimulate the immune system, and increase longevity.

7. ACAI BERRY

Similar to a cross between a grape and a blueberry, the acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry is a small, reddish-purple fruit consisting of a cluster of seeds, with only around 15 percent or so being edible, harvested from tall, slender palm trees found around the Amazon River basin of South America. These berries are also quite perishable, but have significant nutritional attributes when eaten fresh. Traditional uses for acai fruit has included treatment for diarrhea, parasitic infections, hemorrhages and ulcers. As a food, acai pulp in the tribal Amazon belt is often blended with the starchy root vegetable manioc and eaten as porridge.

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The taste is often described as reminiscent of wild berries and chocolate. It's found in supermarkets usually as a juice or tea rather than fresh, simply because getting them out of the Amazon with the nutrients still intact is a complicated process. This little berry's list of attributes includes a high level of antioxidant activity similar to cranberries, but more than what's been found in blueberries and strawberries. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) values measuring the antioxidant power of acai fruit pulp/skin powder reportedly have the highest ORAC value among fruits and vegetables, or 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes. Acai berries are low in sugar, but contain excellent amounts of calcium, fibre, and vitamin A. They also contain anthocyanin compounds such as resveratrol and cyaniding and ferulic acid, which not only give fruits and vegetables their distinct colour, but also team up with flavonoids to defend the body against harmful free radicals. In fact, acai berries contain 10 to 30 times more anthocyanin power than red wine. Beneficial fatty acids such as oleic acid, one of the same oils found in olive oil, is another strong point, and healthy levels of dietary fibre keep the system functioning smoothly.

8. CHIA SEEDS

Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with fibre, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.

Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants that help to protect the delicate fats in the seeds. Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fibre which gives them the ability to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water, and fibre also has various beneficial effects on health.

Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.

Chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein, all of which are essential for bone health.

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Chia seeds are super easy to incorporate into your diet.

The seeds themselves taste rather bland, so you can add them to pretty much anything. They also don't need to be ground like flax seeds, which makes them much easier to prepare. They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridge and pudding, or added to baked goods. You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables or rice dishes. Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and even used as egg substitutes in recipes. They can also be mixed with water and turned into a gel. Adding chia seeds to recipes will totally boost the nutritional value (just saying...).

9. GOJI BERRIES

Goji berries have a mild tangy taste that is slightly sweet and sour. The whole, dried berries have a similar shape and chewy texture as raisins. Goji berries are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including: vitamin C, fibre, iron, vitamin A, zinc and antioxidants. skylab studio These berries contain all 8 essential amino acids. A single 4 ounce serving provides nearly 10 percent of your daily value for protein. For fruit, this is a surprising amount of protein. The carbohydrates in goji berries are also complex carbs. This means your blood sugar will raise slowly, reducing your risk of a sugar crash afterwards. Goji berries are also said to help weight loss, the immune system and eyesight.

10. SUPER GREENS AKA CHLOROPHYLL, WHEAT GRASS, SPIRULINA

They are called Super Greens in health circles because of the rich, highly potent and readily absorbable nutrients that are contained in these powders, including a prolific array of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, trace elements, chlorophyll, enzymes and proteins that are readily absorbed by the body. Yep more totally radtastic superfoods that have seemingly magic powers! Here's the low down on them...

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Chlorophyll, which is an inherent property of all green plants, is very similar to haemoglobin. In fact, their molecular structure is nearly identical. This similarity makes it easy for the body to assimilate. Chlorophyll increases the haemoglobin count of the blood. Haemoglobin is the oxygen-binding substance in blood. More haemoglobin translates to a more oxygen rich blood. In addition, chlorophyll detoxifies the blood of drug deposits and de-activates carcinogens. It also stops bacterial growth in the digestive tract as well as the production of yeasts and fungi. Chlorophyll eliminates bad breath and acts as an internal body deodorant.

Wheat grass powder can assist in boosting energy and vitality, potentially increases detoxification helping to maintain the correct acid-alkaline balance. Wheat grass powder can also help in promoting bowel and gut health. Wheat grass in general is an excellent blood purifier as well as an energy booster. Wheat grass contains glycogen, which is quickly translated into energy. This energy is sustainable and does not result in the "roller coaster effect" experienced after consumption of simple carbohydrates like refined sugar. To experience this quick energy boost it is important to consume wheat grass juice on an empty stomach or with a bit of real fruit juice, as long as it does not have added sugar.

Spirulina is a species of micro algae that is blue green in colour and spiral shaped. In these tiny plants are found the highest levels of chlorophyll, protein, beta-carotene and nucleic, more so than any other plant or animal food.

Spirulina is a plant that can be cultivated in a controlled environment, their producers can alter the mineral content of their environment, which in turn affects the mineral content of the product. In other words, depending on the environment, Spirulina can also be an excellent source of essential minerals.