We’ve all heard the expression “superfoods.” But what does it mean?
In general, a superfood is any food that has super nutrient density qualities, whether that’s being high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, or a combination of all of the above (1). These aren’t a necessity in anyone’s diet since all whole foods are super in their own right, yet incorporating these can be a fun way to boost nutrients in your diet.
I started incorporating these little nutrition powerhouses in my diet a few years ago. And I must confess that by now I am absolutely in love with many of them. Of course, it does not make me an expert in superfoods. Furthermore, I would consider myself as a very passionate superfoodie-beginner ;).
Today I sharing a few of my favorite superfoods and the way I use them in my kitchen.
Bee pollen is essentially a male “seed” of flowers/plants that are then taken by bees from flower to flower as they continually mix the most nutrient dense parts with their own saliva and honey from their hive creating a small pollen granule.
- Taste: slightly sweet, bitter, and astringent.
- Why it’s good: It strengthens the immune system, contains antioxidants (that protect the cells from damaged cells and free radicals), Protein, Fatty acids, Vitamin C, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Magnesium.
- How to use: sprinkle over or stir into your morning yogurt, smoothie, overnight oats or any other porridge. Try to sprinkle it on a fruit with nut butter and make a super snack.
- NOTE: if you have a pollen allergy, you may also be highly allergic to bee pollen, take caution! Try: ½ teaspoon gradually increasing over time checking with the directions as well (2).
Originally grown in Mexico, the chia seeds were highly valued for their medicinal properties and nutritional value. These seeds pack a punch of energy-boosting power. Aztec warriors ate chia to give them high energy and endurance (3).
- Taste: neutral.
- Why it’s good: rich in a “complete” protein as it contains all the essential amino acids, the source of fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Zinc.
- How to use: Soak chia seeds in water or the liquid of your choice at least 20 minutes or overnight before consuming. Chia seeds will soak up any liquid around it. Make a chia pudding and enjoy it with a variety of toppings or add chia seed “gel” to thicken smoothies, desserts, porridge, oatmeal. You can also use it as a vegan “egg” in baking.
The goji berry, also called the wolfberry, is a bright orange-red berry that comes from a shrub that’s native to China. In Asia, goji berries have been eaten for generations in the hope of living longer.
- Taste: a sweet, slightly sour taste and often come in dried form, like raisins.
- Why it’s good: these berries contain Protein (10% of Daily Value in a serving), they are high in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium; high in vitamins A, C, B2; high in phytochemicals such as beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. Goji berries are great for boosting the immune system and balancing the blood sugar level.
- How to use: sprinkle over your morning yogurt, smoothie bowl, oats or any other porridge. Sprinkle on fruit with nut butter and make a super snack or combine with a piece of dark chocolate. Try adding to a salad or even in a savory dish.
Spirulina is a dark, blue-green algae powder that’s grown in water and known for its amazing health benefits.
- Taste: earthy, sea vegetable flavor.
- Why it’s good: antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, immune function improvement, protection of the liver, reduction of allergic reactions, increased muscle endurance and oxidative stress, reduced oral cancer, possible support in fighting infections and antibiotic-related illnesses; contains Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin A, D, K, E, Vitamin B, Antioxidants, Chlorophyll, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Zinc
- How to use: add in a smoothie, coconut water, or in energy bites to increase protein content.
- NOTE: Purchase only organic varieties that are processed at very low heat to retain the maximum nutrition. Since spirulina is grown in and comes from water, it’s surrounded by free toxins floating in the water and is more susceptible to contamination of heavy metals. + store spirulina in the freezer or refrigerator to retain its freshness as much as possible (4).
Raw cacao nibs
Cacao nibs are produced when the cacao bean has been chopped and broken into very small pieces. These nibs are part of the bean contain high amounts of theobromine. Nibs can be eaten as is or ground to a thick paste to be used in chocolates.
- Taste: bitter, chocolate, rich (if unsweetened)
- Why it’s good: rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, and antioxidants (antioxidants have the ability to absorb free radicals which cause cell and tissue damage and can lead to diseases such as cancer.) Raw cacao nibs considered as a Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant (5).
- How to use: Try 1 teaspoon-tablespoon depending on how much you like and add to your smoothies, yogurts, granolas, chia puddings, baked goods, and raw desserts. I sprinkle literally everything with cacao nibs).
Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva.
- Taste: slightly bitter, roasted sesame seed flavor.
- Why it’s good: it contains healthy fats, protein, and is loaded with minerals most notably calcium, iron, and B vitamins.
- How to use: use it in a salad as a dressing (tahini + lemon juice + some water), spread on a sandwich, use as a dip for vegetables, add to smoothies, desserts, or your baked goodies.
Maca is an adaptogenic root vegetable (from the broccoli family) grown in Peru. It’s been used for centuries by the South American cultures for hormonal balance, aphrodisiac, stamina, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, physical strength, endurance, and mental focus/clarity.
- Taste: malty, nutty, and rich flavor.
- Why it’s good: in a small quantity, it provides Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Copper, Manganese.
- How to use: Maca is a fine powder that can be added and used in anything from breakfast oatmeal, granola, cereals, desserts, smoothies, and baked goods. The powder is easily mixed into anything you choose and you don’t need a large volume to get the desired taste (6).
A pumpkin seed, also known as a pepita, is the edible seed of a pumpkin or certain other cultivars of squash.
- Why it’s good: Pumpkin seeds are an easy way to obtain a large percentage of zinc requirements for your day along with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Perfect nut substitution for people who are sensitive to nuts.
- How to use: a perfect snack, topping for a smoothie bowl or yogurt, goes well in baked goods, raw desserts (process pumpkin seeds with dates in a blender and use as a base layer in a cashew cake!)
- NOTE: it is the best to consume it raw.
Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are the seeds of the hemp plant, or Cannabis sativa. Although marijuana comes from the same plant, hemp seeds only contain a trace amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
- Taste: slightly sweet and nutty, generally neutral flavor.
- Why it’s good: Healthy fats, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc. Hemp seeds are a fantastic way for plant-based dieters to get a great amount of protein and healthy fats into their diet in a very small volume (2 tbsp = 11 g of protein!).
- How to use: Add hemp seeds to salads, blend them into dressings, desserts, smoothies, porridges, sauces, granola. Hemp seeds can also be made into plant-based milk.
This is absolutely not a complete list, there are so many more amazing superfoods!
Here are my favorite places to find high-quality products:
Please, do not hesitate to ask me about any other superfoods you are interested in! I will be happy to write the second part of this post.
Love, Zhenya xx