Ok so, we’ve dipped our toes into the superfood pool. Now, for part deux. The amazing thing about these foods is that they are made perfectly by nature. They’re nutrient-rich and innately include all the components necessary for our bodies to absorb and utilize those nutrients, packaged together by Mother Nature. As I mentioned in Part 1, all of these are considered whole food, plant-based protein sources. Let’s get to it and demystify five more superfoods.
Hemp hearts are shelled hemp seeds, as you could guess, from the hemp plant. These seeds have all essential amino acids, protein, fiber, magnesium, iron, zinc, omega-3s, and omega-6 Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). Sidebar: You may have heard that omega-6s are bad for you. The misconception is that omega-6s are found in high amounts in highly processed fats, which are in foods that are “bad for us,” like hamburgers and french fries. What you want is a good ratio of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, as they have different effects in our systems and we need both of them to absorb nutrients and control responses in our bodies (more details on this here and in future posts). Hemp naturally has a balanced ratio of the two, so hakuna matata. In addition, omega-6 GLA and omega 3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. End sidebar.
Hemp hearts have a subtle earthy, nutty flavor and a little texture. It’s an easy way to enhance a meal’s nutritional density by providing additional vitamins, protein, and healthy fat. My favorite thing to do with it is sprinkle it over toasted Sprouted grain bread with avocado, pink Himalayan sea salt, and black pepper-- SO YUM. You can also add it to smoothies and salad, top puréed soups with it, or sprinkle it over roasted veggies.
Maca root’s natural powers are truly amazing. It comes from the cruciferous family of plants (Brussels, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) and is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural compounds that help the body adapt to stress by regulating hormones like cortisol, thus normalizing stress responses, increasing concentration, and preventing fatigue. Maca root powder has essential amino acids, protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, and phosphorous. Believe it or not there’s more, but I think you get the picture. With all of those vitamins, amino acids, and proteins it’s no wonder people who consume maca powder feel a boost in energy and even mood. Like virtually all of the other superfoods, it has lots of anti-oidizing powers, too.
Maca has an earthy, nutty flavor, and some people even describe it to have a slight caramel or butterscotch taste. You can throw some into your smoothies, add a tablespoon into steel cut oatmeal, or stir some into your coffee.
Shout out to the Aztecs again (they got some credit in Part 1 as well), because they were the original harvesters and consumers of spirulina. Spirulina is a type of microalgae cyanobacterium. Before you say either, “WTF,” or “Ew,” hear me out. First off, just seeing the insanely vibrant green color says something. There is conflicting research on whether or not spirulina can be effective in treating diabetes, high cholesterol, mood disorders, fatigue, and heart disease, but there is some evidence out there. However, it is established that spirulina is antioxidizing and anti-inflammatory and has significant amounts of protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and essential amino acids.
Considering that the majority of these superfoods come in powdered form, adding them to a smoothie is the trend you may be seeing, and the same goes for spirulina. In addition, there are some interesting recipes out there for pesto, soups, granola, and even cookies.
These little red dried fruits have been eaten for thousands of years in ancient Chinese medicine and native to the Himalayas. Gogi berries are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. They are also filled with antioxidants and trace minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and more. In addition, they have β-carotene and other phytonutrients that protect your eyes and skin from damage and prevents breakdown of the extracellular matrix (aka, they keep ya’ young). Gogi berries are also great for increasing energy, stabilizing blood sugar, and improving digestive health and immunity.
Gogi berries taste like you’d expect a dry berry to taste, although they are less sweet and have a slight spiciness to them. They are so easy to incorporate into your diet, because they can be eaten straight outta’ the bag all on their own if you’re into that, which, for the record, I am. You can also add them to mixed nuts to make trail mix (throw in some cacao nibs too). Throw a handful into your smoothies, top your yogurt with them, or mix them into a salad (good alternative to dried cranberries or raisins as they offer so much more nutrition and WAY less sugar).
I love this stuff sooo matcha. It’s a green tea found in a finely ground powder, which maximizes the amounts of antioxidants and minerals that can be consumed and would otherwise be lost if it were in leaf form. For this reason, it is estimated that one cup of matcha tea has as many antioxidants as 10 cups of green tea and significantly more antioxidants than blueberries, acai berries, pomegranates, and spinach. It has about 30-40g of caffeine per serving, which is similar to green tea, and lots of amino acids. Matcha also is a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. With the caffeine and all those antioxidants, matcha can be very energizing. It also has been shown to naturally decrease appetite, boost metabolism, lower risk of disease, and detoxify the body.
The classic and proper way to consume matcha is to make matcha tea. This requires sifting ½ teaspoon of matcha (the stuff is strong) into a tea bowl of hot water, then whisked with a bamboo whisk until frothy. If you don’t have all the fancy equipment you can do the same thing with any old whisk (or a fork will do OK) and a large mug. It is super delicious to sift the tea into steamed almond milk then add a dash of cinnamon, vanilla extract, dash of pink Himalayan salt, and drizzle of organic maple. There are tons of baked goods recipes that include matcha that you can try too. And, as you could guess, you can add this into smoothies as well to add some caffeine and major antioxidants into your breakfast.