Food is Good, Superfoods are Even Better!
Foods like kale, avocados, apples, almonds and quinoa are now being grouped into a category of foods called “superfoods.” There is no true, legal definition of “superfood,” but most natural health experts agree that superfoods are foods that are unprocessed, nutrient dense and packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. They are eaten not only to satisfy hunger but to nourish and strengthen the body. The new superfood category is also popularizing lesser-known foods like spirulina, maca and chia.
Spirulina is a blue – green algae that grows in hot, sunny climates around the world. According to Kimberly Snyder, C.N, in The Beauty Detox Solution, Spirulina can be helpful in warding off energy slumps and, thanks to its high protein content, it is useful for active athletes. Also according to Snyder, Spirulina is packed with vitamins, minerals, gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), B vitamins, enzymes, and contains all essential amino acids. Spirulina is about 60 percent protein, rich in iron and rich in vitamin B12, making it an excellent addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Maca is native to the Peruvian highlands and resembles a turnip or radish. The climate of the Peruvian highlands is exceptionally harsh and is considered some of the most inhospitable farmland in the world. Maca is able to thrive in these extreme conditions. In the United States, maca is sold in powdered or capsule form and is commonly marketed for libido hormonal support and to endurance athletes. According to Carmen Mattes, MH in The Wonders of Maca, Maca has traditionally been used for increased endurance, fertility support, immune support, hormonal support and anti-stress support. According to Mattes, maca strengthens, nourishes and balances the endocrine system for both males and females. Brendan Brazier, a professional Ironman triathlete and author of The Thrive Diet, uses maca as an energy-booster and for post-workout recovery.
Chia seeds are native to southern Mexico and were a main component in the Mayan and Aztec diets. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D, chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. Chia seeds can be stored for long periods of time without turning rancid due to their high antioxidant content. When added to water and allowed to sit for 15 minutes, the chia seeds and water form a gel. According to Dr. Weil, researchers suggest that this reaction also takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar. Chia seeds can be added to soft foods like oatmeal or yogurt, added to smoothies, added to baked goods or eaten as a gel.
Other foods in the “superfood” category include coconut oil, coconut water, raw cacao, hemp seeds, acai berries, goji berries, flax seeds, wheat grass, barley grass and all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some animal-based products like wild salmon and free-range, organic eggs are also in this category. Since individual dietary needs vary, a “superfood” to one person may not be a “superfood” to another person. It is always best to consult with a doctor or nutritionist before adding new foods to the diet.