I have been on a “superfood” kick the last year or so. Because of their labeling as “superfoods,” they can get a little pricey. But also because of that label, they are potent and the serving size necessary to reap the full benefits is small. I don’t believe they are required to live a healthy lifestyle by any means, but they can be an easy and yummy way to kick up the health benefits of meals and increase your overall health and digestion. Plus, I think it’s just fun to try new things and maybe find something you totally love! This information is from so many different sources I could not begin to name them all, so I will just say the source is my brain, and the information I have taken in over the years.
Here is a (definitely not all encompassing!) list of superfoods and how to incorporate them into your diet and life.
Virgin Organic Coconut Oil:
I start with coconut oil because it is probably one of my favorite products on the face of the earth…I know, super bold statement. I use it for SO much. There are probably 5 jars scattered around my house at any given time. Studies show that people who eat coconut eat less throughout the day, leading to weight loss. Coconut boosts immune system health. It is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasite, and thus can be used as a cleaner. It also improves good cholesterol levels (yay unsaturated fats AKA healthy fats!) and digestion, and supports healthy thyroid function. It is amazing for deeply moisturizing skin and hair. I use it as body lotion and sunscreen, as it has natural SPF.
how to add it to your diet (and life!): substitute butter for coconut oil in cooking and baking (has relatively low burning/smoking point though, so don’t use on high heat), let it sit in your hair before washing your hair, body lotion/sunscreen, disinfecting any open wounds (anywhere you would use Neosporin type products), lip balm, oil pulling (…more on this in a later post!)
Live macro organisms which live in the intestines and aid in digestion. They reduce diarrhea, gas, & cramping due to indigestion. They are often found in diary products, but there are many other ways to get them for those who don’t eat dairy (like I hardly do!), like fermented foods. Adding probiotics to my diet has tremendously helped the tummy sensitivity I have struggled with my whole life.
how to add it to your diet: pill form (the refrigerated types are best), drink mixes (ex. GreensPlus or Amazing Grass brands), dairy product (hormone free!), fermented foods (the best! examples: (kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, yeast)
Powerhouse for natural minerals and vitamins [B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)], immune booster, promotes growth of probiotics, and has one of the highest amounts of plant based protein per serving. It’s very potent, so you don’t need more than a teaspoon daily to reap the benefits. If you add too much, the taste is pretty freaking bitter. Because it’s so concentrated, begin by using a little bit and work your way up. Be careful when buying and storing it because it absorbs toxic substances easily. I store mine in the refrigerator after opening to extend the freshness and shelf life. Forewarning, whatever you add it to is going to take on a deep green color, which some people may be put off by.
how to add it to your diet: found in powder form typically (lose or in capsules), add to smoothies or atop salads or any other dishes.
Hulled Hemp Seeds:
Great source of essential amino acids, contains all 10 that are necessary to the body, especially Omega 3, Omega 6, and GLA. Some of these amino acids must be consumed because our bodies do not create them. More easily digestible form of protein than eggs, meat, or cheese. It has shown to increase metabolic rate and energy levels. Unlike many other nuts and seeds, hemp seeds rarely trigger any allergic reactions. They have a subtle nutty flavor, with a small seed crunchy texture, and are usually found in its whole seed form.
how to add it to your diet: mix into cold or hot cereal, in smoothies, on salads, in casseroles or pasta dishes – provides a similar crunchy texture as would roughly ground sunflower seeds.
Ground Flax Seed:
Flax seeds have grown widely in popularity the last couple of years, but in order to reap the full benefits, they must be ground. They can often be found in packaged crackers or breads in their whole, non-ground, form. Flax seeds are very high in insoluble fiber and soluble fiber, high in lignans (shown to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancers), and omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. Because of the super high levels of fiber they contain, they can cause indigestion if your body is not used to so much, so make sure you start small and slowly increase the serving size. When flax seeds encounter liquid, they take on a gel consistency, which makes them a great vegan egg replacement in baking. They are perishable, so store both the full and ground forms in the refrigerator, or better yet, the freezer.
how to add it to your diet: many of the same usages as the hemp seeds (hot or cold cereal, or smoothies), egg replacement in baking (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water, sit for 20 min = 1 egg), mix into nut butters to increase fiber, always on top of my trail mix banana!
Chia seeds have many of the same benefits of flax, and also like flax, they become gelatinous when mixed with liquid. Particularly high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which can be a good fish oil replacement for vegans. Chia seeds contain lots of soluable and insoluble fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Chia seeds are an especially great addition for runner’s diets, as they stabilize blood sugar levels and provide steady energy for hours.
how to add it to your diet: in smoothies, or on top of salads, any breakfast porridge or cold cereal, egg replacement in baking (same measurements as flax egg), or my personal favorite: CHIA PUDDING (recipe coming soon!), add to soda water to make a fun bubble tea like fresca!
Ancient superfood. Maca is actually a root that belongs to the radish family. It is usually in powder form that is created by dehydrating the root and grinding it into a very fine powder. A “normal” serving size is 1 TBSP, too much can have adverse effects on your body’s hormones, so like most everything else on this list, start with a small amount (.5 TSP) and build up. Maca has an interesting flavor I can best describe as toasted oats, and loses it benefits if heated up. The flavor definitely grew on me over time and use. Maca can especially help with women’s health and mood, relieving menstrual issues and menopausal systems, i.e. cramps, hot flashes, mood swings, and anxiety, and it has been shown to promote sexual function and men and women (never a bad thing)! Warning – women who are pregnant or breast feed should avoid maca.
Another substance extracted during the honey removal process. It is the condensed pollen bees get from flowers, and the food for young bees. It is slightly sweet, but not nearly as much as regular honey. I have actually experienced an allergic reaction to bee pollen, which I think stems from my occasional/seasonal outdoor allergies. I decided to cut it from my diet due to my personal reaction, but it can provide positive health benefits to anyone who doesn’t experience a negative reaction. It has actually been shown to help cure allergies in some people. Some believe it can improve athletic performance and treat asthmatic symptoms. Bee pollen contains lots of protein and amino acids, and vitamins and minerals that may aide in digestion. It takes one bee 8 hours per day for a month to produce a single serving of bee pollen. A full serving of bee pollen is only a teaspoon.
how to add it to your diet: anywhere you want a subtle sweetener, also found in pill form
AKA Wolf Berries, an amazing uniquely sweet taste. I think of them as a replacement for raisins, or other dried fruit, but way better! Some Asian and European cultures have been using Goji berries to make tea to use for medicinal purposes for centuries. The berries are believed to be remedies for diabetes, hypertension, malaria or even fever. They are nutrient dense, packed with antioxidants, and beta-carotene, which makes your skin radiate, and vitamin C.
how to add it to your diet: use like any other type of dried fruit, eat them plain with nuts/trail mix, in breakfast porridge or cold cereal, seeped in hot water to make tea, mixed into yogurt
It is deactivated yeast, commonly used as a vegan cheese substitute, with a slightly nutty flavor, particularly high levels of B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It’s low in fat, gluten-free (check specific brands for certification), and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Nutritional yeast is NOT brewers or baking yeast.
how to add it to your diet: popcorn topper (my favorite!), on top of salads, vegan mac n cheese, or on top of pasta, almost anywhere you would use finely shredded cheese (just don’t expect it to melt like shredded cheese)
Raw Cacao (powder or nibs):
Addicted to chocolate? Me too…this is your answer! You already know dark chocolate is healthy, this is its most pure form. Raw Cacao is bitter, but if you love super dark chocolate like I do, you’ll love it. Cacao in its raw form is full of antioxidants (flavonoids). It is one of the best sources of magnesium (important for nerve and muscle function), iron (for red blood cell production), and Cacao, like dark chocolate, is a mood enhancer, as it released specific neurotransmitters that trigger emotions like euphoria. Avoid heating up too much, because then it’s cooked and not raw anymore!
how to add it to your diet: nibs can be eaten plain or added to a trail mix, to yogurt or hot/cold cereal to give a little extra crunchy texture. Powder can also be added to hot/cold cereal, make raw chocolate, mixed into nut butter with a little sweetener to make chocolate spread, or in smoothies.
Any other superfoods I can provide information on or elaborate more on these?? Leave comments and let me know!