Everything You Wanted To Know About Super Foods

November 22, 2011 in Health

Here it is, the complete guide to my week of super foods – the nutrient adventure! When I was good and stuck to foods with high nutritional value and avoided processed foods and sugar, I admit I felt like a million dollars. But as soon as I re-introduced that “not quite so super” food to my diet, it all fell apart. My energy levels were flat, my skin broke out and I became irritable. So my conclusion is that as long as you keep it up, super foods will treat you well.

One of the things that amazed me most was that the hype about fats vs sugars is all true. I upped my intake of good fats – nuts, salmon, avocado and full fat yoghurt – and I didn’t have sugar cravings for days. What the? I am a serious sweet tooth and didn’t realise that I hadn’t indulged in any dessert-like treats until Day 3!

Almond Milk.

The first thing that tempted me to add almond milk to my list of super foods to road test was this little blog post by Yaz at The Happiness Cocktail on dairy. Apparently cow’s milk blocks the absorption of antioxidants, meaning that all those amazing nutrients you’re throwing into that smoothie won’t be used by the body in the way you want them to be.

So, I took Yaz’s advice and switched (she suggests oat, coconut, rice or soy can be other substitutes). Almond milk is a good source of iron, riboflavin, vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids (the good kind). The unfortunate thing is that it’s expensive, setting me back nearly $10 for a litre – criminal I know.

I couldn’t taste the difference in my smoothies, so was happy to keep it up there. However, in my porridge it wasn’t quite so tasty. Oh also, don’t cook scrambled eggs with almond milk, they look brown and wouldn’t be appreciated by guests. ;)

My fave smoothie? Frozen raspberries, almond milk, chia seeds and raw cacao and maca powder. Awesome and summery.

Avocado.

Avocado contains vital nutrients such as vitamin K, dietary fibre, potassium, folic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and copper. Just a thin slice will assist your body to absorb carotenoids (a group of nutrients that includes lycopene and beta carotene).

I used to hate everything about avocado when I was younger and the consistency was the worst part. Now I love spreading avocado on toast as a replacement for butter, throwing it in salads and in Mexican foods such as guacamole and burritos.

Beetroot.

This bright vegetable is not given nearly enough credit. Beetroot is a wonderful source of folic acid, fibre, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and Vitamin B6. Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beetroot its color, and has powerful antioxidant properties. The colour of beetroot is thought to be a combination of the naturally occurring pigments betacyanin and betaxanthin. These vibrant pigments are antioxidants that work to protect cells from free radicals. Woohoo!

My favourite way to eat beetroot is to roast it in cubes with some sweet potato and mix together with spinach, feta and basil pesto to create a delicious warm salad. It’s also fabulous as a juice (I tend to combine beetroot, carrot, ginger and apple).

Blueberries.

These berries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit; containing Vitamin C, B complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, copper, selenium, zinc, and iron, all which help to boost your immune system and prevent infections. The tannins in blueberries help decrease inflammation, particularly in your digestive system.

I buy them fresh and eat them as a snack or with some full fat vanilla yoghurt as dessert. Yum…

Chia Seeds.

These little things pack a serious nutritional punch. They contain the highest natural percentage of Omega-3 essential fatty acid, act as an anti-inflammatory, are a great source of antioxidants and are high in protein. I was throwing a teaspoon in with my smoothies but also added them to porridge or cereal and you can even include them in baking.

Coconut Oil.

This super oil has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties and is loaded with lauric acid (a fatty acid that is more easily metabolised than those found in other oils).

I can’t notice a difference in terms of flavour in cooking, it’s just strange getting used to scooping a hard oil out rather than drizzling it like a liquid. Stick to extra virgin olive oil on salads, but try using coconut oil in stir-frys and baking.

Check out these great posts on coconut oil from stuff i like and Sarah Wilson for more info and ideas!

Goji Berries.

Goji berries are rich in antioxidants (particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin) and Vitamin C. Benefits include protecting and strengthening your immune system, nourishing your liver and kidneys it’s antioxidants help combat premature aging (a big plus in my books).
I have to admit that the form I was eating them in was covered in chocolate though… Hey, it’s raw, organic and handmade – who can blame me?

Maca and Cacao Powder.

I want to start this section with a word of warning. Maca powder can have side effects, one of which I experienced while in Bali. It can cause an upset stomach when you use too much, too quickly.

Start slowly by using only half a teaspoon and see how your body reacts. I may have had two maca smoothies in a day (oops) and was fairly uncomfortable for a couple after that. Introduce it into your diet slowly.

That is part of the reason that I bought a mixed powder – part maca and part raw cacao. It’s fabulous to add into smoothies and it’s suggested that you can make hot chocolate out of it too (which I will try in coming days).

Maca is high in protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, essential fatty acids and many other minerals. It is said to boost energy levels, the immune system and even your libido! Raw cacao is heralded as one of the most potent sources of antioxidants and has high levels of magnesium which helps your muscles relax (and we women wonder why we love chocolate).

Again, the cost (almost $14) might frighten some people but you only need a tiny serve of this stuff to reap the benefits so the 250g pack will last a lifetime.
Noni Juice.

Okay, I want to write a positive, jovial little piece on this stuff but I can’t. I had it every morning all week and I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t get any better. It has a strange bitter taste initially and then leaves an after taste reminiscent of soy sauce that’s way past it’s expiry date.

Supermodel (and super flexy yoga devotee) Miranda Kerr swears by the stuff and I have never seen a picture where her skin looks awful. It may be horrid, but I’m willing to give it a go. I don’t have any recipes as I think it would ruin the flavour of anything you put it with, so pour yourself a shot and take it like tequila (with a water chaser).

Noni is rich in essential nutrients. It contains high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, niacin and iron. The health benefits are debated all over the internet, some say it’s a scam, others swear by it.

At a whopping $30 a litre, you’d better be sure this stuff is working!

Salmon.

I have had a love affair with salmon for years. When I was a kid I knew it was a “special” food as it was brought out when we had guests over with the paté and cheese – yeah, super fancy!

Salmon is a great source of amino and fatty acids such as Omega-3, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and minerals like selenium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium and iron. Along with all other sources of “good fats” it’s great for your skin. The fatty acids help keep cell membranes healthy by keeping out harmful substances as well as allowing nutrients to enter cells. They also reduce the body’s production of inflammatory agents that can damage the skin.

I love smoked salmon with eggs at breakfast, on whole grain crackers with hummus or avocado and fresh salmon in a lemon and white wine risotto.

Spinach.

Spinach was made famous by Popeye for a reason you know! It contains Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium which serve as powerful antioxidants that can combat the onset of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

The high amount of Vitamin A in spinach also helps give you that healthy glowing skin by allowing for better moisture retention in the epidermis, which fights acne and wrinkles. Just one cup of spinach has almost 20% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fibre, which assists with digestion, keeps your blood sugar low and curbs overeating.

I often throw cooked spinach in omelettes, stir-frys, smoothies and salads as it has a delicate flavour that can be incorporated into meals without overpowering it.

 

Have you added any “super foods” to your diet?

Or do you focus on what nutrients you’re eating?

Do you notice any health benefits?