May 062014

by: Ailsa Lambert

Superfoods have definitely gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason! These types of whole foods are extremely nutrient dense, providing a wide range of health benefits while also protecting the body from potential diseases.  Some superfoods seem strange and exotic while others are familiar favorites, easily found in your everyday market. There are many delicious, beautiful options when it comes to including superfoods in your diet.

Most people are already pretty well acquainted with almond.  They’ve got numerous health benefits, not to mention major culinary versatility  Almonds are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can help balance cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL and increasing HDL.  They’re a rich source of the antioxidant Vitamin E along with many other types of flavonoid antioxidants. Almonds are a great source of plant based protein, providing 6 grams per ounce with only 160 calories. Eating almonds may protect the body against heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain.  They also provide copper, manganese and riboflavin, which are all important for energy production within the body.  To aid in digestion, soak almonds in filtered water overnight, then drain, dry and enjoy!

A childhood favorite for many, blueberries hide major nutrients in a pretty package.  One of the most commonly known benefits of these berries is their high content of antioxidants, shown off in their beautiful blue hue. In fact, the darker and richer the color of a blueberry, the more antioxidants it contains.  They’ve also got protective phytoflavinoids and anti-carcinogenic anthocyanosides.  Blueberries are a great source of Vitamin C , manganese, and the bone building nutrient Vitamin K.  They contain a good helping of fiber, are low on the glycemic index, and have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities. Conventionally grown blueberries often contain some of the highest pesticide residues when compared to other foods, so be sure to buy organic to maximize their powerful health benefits.
blueberries - superfood

From green smoothies to sautéed savory dishes, kale adds an amazing nutritional boost to everything it touches. It is super rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A.  One cup can easily exceed the daily value for Vitamins A, C and K.  The mineral profile of kale is additionally impressive, as it supplies copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and highly bioavailable calcium.  It doesn’t stop there!  Kale is an incredible plant source of protein and has all the essential amino acids and nine non-essential ones, while serving as a great source of fiber as well.  These qualities make kale a superstar veggie, suitable as the main course or simply a health boosting side.

One of the more exotic superfood options, the little açaí berry contains big nutritional benefits.  Most commonly found in powdered form, açaí berries are rich in Vitamin K that is great for bone health and blood clotting and the B-complex vitamins, which are important co-factors used in metabolism.  They contain many minerals, including potassium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc.  Many types of antioxidants are present within this beautiful berry, such as resveratrol, ferulic acid, delphinidin, epicatechin, and protocatechuic acid. These constituents may offer protection against cancer, inflammation, and the aging process.  Açaí berries are also a wonderful source of the omega fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid.  Açaí powder can easily be added to smoothies for a tasty superfood punch.
acai berries

Chia seeds have more recently stolen the superfoods spotlight due to their health promoting attributes.  These tiny vessels carry lots of essential fatty acids, and are especially rich in Omega-3. They provide fiber and protein, which makes them extremely satiating. In fact, just one ounce of chia seeds packs an impressive 11 grams of fiber.  Their rich mineral profile includes iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, among others.  They also provide Vitamins A, D, E, B1 and B12.  When mixed with liquid, chia seeds form a gelatinous consistency, making them an excellent option as an egg replacer or a nice addition to nut milks to create a vegan pudding.  They can be eaten whole or ground and are considered equally digestible in either form.
chia seeds

It may seem to good to be true, but cacao (or raw chocolate) has a well- deserved place at the superfoods table.  Packed full of antioxidants and several useful alkaloid compounds, cacao offers various health benefits like increased energy, immunity, and endorphin production.  This delicious bean is high in magnesium and iron, while providing essential omega fatty acids as well.  Cacao contains a generous amount of fiber per serving, which can help slow the absorption of sugars when used as an ingredient in sweet treats.  It is available in beans, nibs, powder, butter, and paste and adds a rich, dark chocolate appeal to a wide variety of dishes.

Yet another superfood all-star, goji berries contain 18 Amino Acids, over 20 trace minerals, and are full to the brim with antioxidants.  They provide Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C and E.  Complex carbohydrates in the form of polysaccharides are found within these yummy berries, making them a source of slow burning energy.  Gram per gram, goji berries contain more iron than steak and they’re also a great source of zinc and phosphorus.  Their high fiber, protein and essential fatty acid content help to boost their impressive superfood reputation.  Goji berries are an easy, healthful snack in their whole form but can also be found in a powder.
goji berries

Be Fit, Be Healthy, Be Happy!