I remember the first time I heard about chia seeds. My question was, “Wait, so is the same as what Chia Pets come from?” Fortunately for you, I’ve come a long way since then. So, we’ve heard that chia seeds are good for us, but why? And what the heck are we supposed to do with them? I hear so many people say things like, “Why am I supposed to be doing this again?” or, “I’ve heard *insert superfood* is good for you, but I don’t know what to do with it.” Yes, SUPER foods are obviously good for you; it’s in the name. The “why” and the “how” is what many of us don’t know. It’s important to know why it is beneficial for you to incorporate things like cacao or bee pollen, but it’s just as important that you like doing it, ‘cause let’s be real, if it’s not enjoyable are you going to want to eat this stuff? All of the below superfoods are considered whole food, plant-based protein sources, so vegans, vegetarians, and those somewhere in between have no fear. There are so many beneficial superfoods out there, but let’s start with five of my favorites. Part two to follow.
Chia seeds were a valued staple for the Aztecs and Mayans, and for several years the tiny little anti-oxidizers have made their comeback to the forefront of the superfood world. A typical 1 Tbsp serving contains tons of fiber and protein as well as some omega 3s, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and all of our essential amino acids to boot. All of the aforementioned components are crucial to your energy, optimizing cell and muscular function, and improving digestion.
Chia seeds are virtually tasteless but add a fine, crunchy texture to food so they are easy to add to a meal to enhance the nutritional content of that meal. You can add it to smoothies, steel cut oatmeal, sprinkle it on salads, or top avocado toast with it. As a dessert or afternoon protein pick-me-up, you can make chia pudding. There’s tons of recipes out there, but a quick and yummy way to do it is simply add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to ½ cup of unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk with a dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. Just let it soak for 10 minutes, then noms. You can get creative with stirring in a teaspoon of almond butter, adding vanilla extract, or topping it with fruit or nuts.
Bee pollen. Yes, like real pollen from bees. It’s not weird. It’s cool and delicious. Bees collect pollen, mix it with nectar that their body has stored, then bring it to the honey comb cells at their hive where the pollen is fermented. This then is utilized as nutrition for the colony. I think that’s amazing. It can be utilized by us humans as nutrition, too. It has protein, B vitamins, amino acids, vitamin C, A, K, D, and E. Bee pollen also has tons of trace minerals (potassium and calcium, of note) and has anti-oxidizing and anti-inflammatory properties. What this all means is that bee pollen can help you boost your intake of vitamins and minerals that play a role in your energy, beauty, and immunity.
Bee pollen, like chia, is fairly tasteless with a nice, crunchy texture. A few ideas are to add it to smoothies, use it to top yogurt, or sprinkle it over banana slices or toast with honey or nutbutter.
*If you are allergic to pollen, you may want to avoid consuming bee pollen.
We’ve all heard of collagen in the context of skin and anti-aging. That is certainly a benefit to consuming collagen, as it enhances skin elasticity. It is found in all animals’ connective tissue and serves as a structural protein. Aside from our skin, collagen provides structure and helps repair tissues all throughout our bodies, from our muscles and joints to our digestive systems. Collagen is a protein in and of itself, giving it 13 grams packed into just 1 Tbsp, so think of it simply as protein powder.
Collagen supplements can be taken in capsule form, or the powdered form can be added to hot liquids like coffee or tea, or added into smoothies.
This powerful plant has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, but only recently is it making a big debut to the current nutrition world. Moringa has a taste similar to horseradish, so I will not deem this the tastiest superfood, but studies show it is one of the most nutritious and has expansive medicinal uses. It is packed with vitamin A, C, and E, amino acids, β-carotene, protein, calcium, and potassium. Moringa contains disease-fighting phytonutrients and has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also is an adaptogen, which is a natural compound that helps the body adapt to stress by regulating hormones like cortisol, thus normalizing stress responses, increasing concentration, and preventing fatigue. It is anti-inflammatory, can improve digestive health, can detoxify the body, and balance blood sugar levels, just to name a few benefits.
The Moringa plant’s leaves can be used for tea and its oils can be used on the skin, but it is typically sold in powder or capsule form to be taken as a supplement or added to things like soups or smoothies. Using it in a more savory manor, like in soups or sauces, is more palatable and in the small ½ -1 teaspoon recommended dose, the taste is not very detectable in a smoothie.
This is typically found ground into powder or in “nibs.” I personally love the nibs, because they add a good crunch, are the most minimally processed, and I like to say, “nibs.” Cacao is the bean or seed from the inside of the fruit that grows from a cacao tree. Cocoa, from which chocolate is made, is the processed form of cacao. Eating it in its raw, natural form maximizes antioxidant content, particularly flavonoids. The antioxidant power of flavonoids has been linked to reducing the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Powerful stuff right there. Cacao is also full of fiber, iron, potassium, caffeine, and a little healthy fat. Another awesome thing about cacao is that it has been shown to have a euphoric effect (good vibezzz) and increase alertness due to two chemicals, phenylethylamine and anandamide.
There’s so much yumminess you can do with this stuff. I like to sprinkle it over a piece of toasted sprouted grain bread with raw almond butter, add it to smoothies, add it to steel cut oats, make healthy hot chocolate with it, put it in chia pudding, throw it in trail mix; I could go on but I’ll stop there.
So, go to the health food section of your local grocery store and you can easily find any of the above superfood supplements. As for the more unusual ones, like moringa, you may need to go to a specialty health food store. Stright healthy delicousness. Treat yo self.