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South American Superfoods
What is a Superfood?
Superfoods are natural plant foods which are exceptionally high in nutrition and can therefore provide the body with high amounts of energy. They contain a broad range of nutrients such as enzymes; phytochemicals; vitamins; minerals; chlorophyll and antioxidants. They are more easily absorbed by the body and are generally superior to supplements because they are wholefoods and have not been chemically processed in a laboratory.
In todays world it is easy to add more fruit and veg to your diet , however,as more and more research is carried out it is becoming apparent that much of the mass produced fruit and veg is being grown on mineral depleted soils, or preserved using gasses and air-freighted from foreign countries therefore depleting it's nutritional benefits.
Superfoods can help regulate the body's metabolism and therefore control cravings, they can also help us tune into the body's natural appetite making it difficult to undereat or overeat.
How do I introduce Superfoods to my diet?
It can be hard trying to decide what Superfoods are best for you as they all have unique qualities. The best way to start is with one or two to see what benefits you feel from them, that way you can decide which ones you prefer. It is also best to start with a small amount e.g. a teaspoon and then slowly work it up until you reach a level that you are comfortable with.
Which Superfood is for me?
According to Ayurvedic medicine, food can and should be taken as treatment for what ails you. We’ve got to eat. So why not make your food your medicine? It is one of the world's oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems, developed thousands of years ago in India. Ayurveda is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease. But treatments may be recommended for specific health problems.
Ayurveda deems even the most common of everyday herbs and spices as super-charged foods. When used in accordance with Ayurvedic principles of creating balance it can help with illness and fatigue. Their wonder foods include Turmeric for healing (see our article here on the benefits), Ashwagandha as a natural aphrodisiac and Tulsi (Holy Basil) to help with memory.
- Originally cultivated on an island in the South China Sea. It is a single celled blue-green algae that gets its name from its spiral shape. Spirulina has a 64% protein content, one of the highest forms of digestible protein available. It provides a rich natural source of vitamin B12, C and E.
Spirulina is also a super antioxidant, it is rich in phytonutrients including beta carotene, chlorophyll and phycocyanin. Research has shown that spirulina supports important parts of the immune system including bone marrow stem cells, white blood cells, and the spleen and thymus glands. It also shows that immune defence cells increase in number, become activated and provide a more effective defence against viruses and bacteria.
– Contains 20% protein which includes a balanced blend of twenty amino acids, and nearly the double the amount of beta-carotene found in carrots. It is one of the best sources of chlorophyll available and contains 92 trace minerals if grown in organic soil, including an extremely high magnesium content which is needed to restore hormones. Wheatgrass balances the blood sugar so you're less prone to mood swings which in turn mean that you're less likely to reach out for junk food when you have a blood sugar dip.
– Chlorella is named because it has an exceptionally high cholorphyll content. It is a single celled algae which is high in antioxidant properties which can help to reduce blood pressure and accelerate wound healing. It can also enhance immune functions.
Chlorella is a complete protein containing carbohydrates, vitamins, amino acids, minerals (including calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus), fats, calories and fibre. Because it has such high levels of vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll it has been shown to protect against and help remove toxic chemicals which makes it a good supplement to take whilst detoxing.
The high fibre content is good for intestinal health.
- Kelp is a variety of seaweed. It contains over 70 minerals and trace elements, growth hormones, vitamins, enzymes and proteins which include iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
Some of the main benefits of kelp include increased energy levels; improved liver function; lowered cholesterol levels; an aid to poor digestion and can be used to treat thyroid problems. It can also be used as by people wishing to lose weight as it boosts energy levels due to it's high iodine content, stimulates the metabolic rate and therefore helps the body to burn excess weight.
Goji Berries –
Also known as Wolfberries, Lycium Berries and Gou Ji Zi berries. In traditional Chinese medicine Goji berries are used to assist the liver and kidneys, enhance the immune system and improve eyesight. They are a valuable protein source, containing 18 out 22 amino acids and including all eight essential amino acids.
Pound for pound they contain more vitamin C than oranges, more beta-carotene than carrots and are a good source of B vitamins and antioxidants. The seeds of the berries contain significant amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 oils.
Potential medicinal benefits have been shown in studies regarding it's antioxidant properties, including possible protection against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, vision related diseases, having neuroprotective properties and as an anti-cancer agent.
– Used by the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks for its many benefits and valued by Hippocrates as contributing towards a long life. It is one of the oldest foods on this planet.
Bee pollen contains all of the essential amino acids; 18 vitamins including A, B's, C, D, E, H and K; 59 trace elements; 25 minerals including calcium, iron and potassium; 11 enzymes and is rich source of Essential Fatty Acids. It is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and tastes sweet and rich like honey and is easy to sprinkle on cereal or add to desserts. It gives you energy so perhaps avoid taking it just before bedtime!
Bee Pollen is also claimed by many to be the best treatment for allergy relief, in particular, hayfever if taken 6 weeks before the hayfever season starts. It works like a vaccine by introducing the body slowly to the irritant at low levels, the immune system builds future defences against the harmful substance with the irritant levels causing the damage.
– Cacao is an evergreen tree that grows from 10 – 30 feet in height and is native to the tropical regions of the American continents. The fruit of the cacoa which is known as the cacoa pod, ripens to a yellow or orange and weighs about a pound. Inside it are lots of seeds which are the cacao beans.
Raw cacao is roughly 400% higher in antioxidants than blueberries and cacao nibs are rich in good fat and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and potassium. It also has a natural byproduct that is very similar to caffeine. Cacao is one the highest dietary sources of magnesium and sulphur.
Cacao nibs taste chocolatey and nutty and can be picked at in the same way as you would pick at granola or they can be sprinkled in a smoothie.
– Indigenous to the mountains of Peru where it has been a highly reputable food since the time of the ancient Incas. It is a root vegetable from the same family of cruciferous vegetables as broccoli and cauliflower, it resembles a turnip and can be processed into a flour –like powder.
Because Maca is a root vegetable it provides steady energy. It is a source of the B vitamin group including B12. It contains 11% amino acids and 18 of the 22 amino acids needed to build protein in the body. It contains 31 different minerals and trace minerals, including significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, iron, phosphorous, selenium and manganese.
It is known to increase libido, fertility, general energy and stamina. It can also be used a natural hormone balancer (pre-menstrual – correcting irregular menstruation and menopausal – easing symptoms) for women and can also be used by both sexes to reduce insomnia and acne.
– Lucuma is a delicately flavoured fruit native to the cool highlands of coastal valleys in Peru. It is considered to be a healthy alternative sweetener as it gives a sweet taste to recipes but is very low in sugars whilst high in naturally occurring beta-carotene, niacin (B3) iron and fibre.
Lucuma can be used as a substitute for maple, butterscotch or toffee flavours in desserts; mixed into tea for a creamy texture or sprinkled on granola.
– Mesquite flour has been used in baking for over 200 years. Mesquite trees grow in sem-arid regions of North and South America, Africa and southern Asia. It comes from the same family as carob and can therefore be used as a carob substitute in recipes.
Mesquite does not affect insulin levels as the sugar in mesquite is in the form of fructose which does not require insulin in order to be metabolised. The flour is an excellent source of fibre.
Mesquite contains lysine as well as 17% digestible protein; calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
How Can I Introduce Superfoods to my Diet?
Choose one superfood and add a teaspoon to a smoothie / cereal / juice and see how you feel. Some you might really like, some you might not. Increase the amounts until you get to a point where you feel comfortable. You can eat as many different superfoods as you want.
Maca Root Smoothie
Blend in the blender for 2 minutes.
1 bunch fresh basil
Put the Chlorella, basil, garlic and olive oil in a blender and puree. Lightly toast the pine nuts in olve oil. Add cheese, lemon juice and pine nuts to the puree. Stir into hot pasta and enjoy!
Serves 4 - 6
Upgrade your diet
Supplements are an easy way to upgrade your diet from healthy to super healthy.
Viridian Organic Pre-Sprouted Activated Barley Powder is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, which is thought to aid cardiovascular health. Mix with juices, shakes and smoothies or add to raw food recipes for a superfood boost.
Maca root is known as Peruvian ginseng as it has been valued there for thousands of years for its endurance and energy-giving properties. It is also known as natural viagra, for its apparent aphrodisiac effect. Try Organic Burst Maca Powder added to flour in bread and cake recipes.
Lifestream Spirulina Supplement is near-perfect in nutritional terms. It is among the most protein-rich of food sources and contains a huge number of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and phytonutrients like betacarotene.
Wheatgrass too is understood to contain all the nutrients your body needs to be in tip top condition.
Organic Burst Wheatgrass Powder can be mixed into non-acidic fruit juices and smoothies.
Juices can make up one of your five a day, but make yours a super-juice and your body will thank you for the extra goodness.
Try The Berry Co. Acai Juice for starters. Pronounced ah-sigh-ee and native to the Amazon, these grape-like berries have potent antioxidant properties as well as unusually high levels of minerals including manganese, which is beneficial for bone health.
Cooling and soothing aloe vera has been used for centuries to aid digestion. Pukka Herbal Ayurveda Aloe Vera Juice is extracted from the tender inner leaves of the plant, and may help to relieve symptoms of IBS.
Naturally sweet and deliciously dry Biona Organic Pure Cranberry Juice is 100% pure cranberry juice, which means that every drop is working hard to provide vitamin goodness plus relief for those suffering from cystitis.
Blueberries are thought to have the same properties as cranberries when it comes to cystitis-fighting. They are also believed to have anti-ageing properties for your body and mind. The Organic Collection Blueberry Sparkle Juice delivers a dose of blueberry in a thirst-quenching fizz.
Refreshing Biona Organic Pomegranate Juice is a good option for anyone looking to improve their heart health.
Goji berries, also known as wolfberry, have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and were introduced to Britain's hedgerows in the 1700s by the Duke of Argyll. They are rich in vitamins B, C and E. Try these tangy berries in Optima Health Goji Superfruit Juice.
We also stock a huge range of plant juices by Salus including Birch, which may be beneficial for those with arthritis, Black Radish to support the liver, and Colts Foot to aid the respiratory system.
Rio Trading Pau D'Arco Lapacho Tea-Bags contain the South American herb Pau D'Arco, which s understood to have natural antibacterial properties and has been used for centuries by the tribes of the Amazon to benefit the immune system.
Also try Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Tea-bags with hibiscus, orange, and blackberry leaves in addition to wild blueberry.
Crunchy cacao nibs, such as those by Booja Booja, are simply chocolate in its raw form before it has been processed into the sweet treat that we all know and love. Sugar and dairy-free, cacao nibs contain the mood-boosting amino acid tryptophan as well as antioxidants, enzymes and minerals. Creative Nature Goji Berries are a fruity alternative.