SUPER FOODS – Are they really so super?
The term “Super food” sometimes gets a bad rap, as in the recent BBC article “Are you fooled by super foods?” Google “super foods” and you get a variety of articles ranging from “The Myth of the Super food” to ‘”Super foods you need now”.
We all know that some foods are better for us than others, but the idea that some are “ultra-healthy” is very appealing because by eating them then we can be healthier – right? Yet all the hype surrounding super foods can be bewildering, not to mention expensive, if we rush out to buy the latest “super food” we’re told we need.
That’s where The Clever Kitchen comes in. Through our own personal experience and research we have learned that the key to making the most of them is knowing exactly how they effect the body and how best to use them to improve physical and emotional health. Our workshops and blogs offer nutritionist-supported advice so you too can improve your “super food”knowledge.
As a licensed nutritionist my credibility depends not just by practicing what I preach – but by making sure that what I preach is supported by science. I wouldn’t extoll their benefits and promote their use if I thought that “super food” was simply a buzzword popularized in the media.
So what are “super foods”
Super foods could be described as any food that’s “high in nutrients and low in calories”, but that’s over-simplifying, since super foods are widely appreciated for their ability to increase energy levels, strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation and generally promote health.
It’s more accurate to describe them as “a food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that confers health benefits, with no negative properties, such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants”.
Some “super foods”are everyday foods whose nutritional value is widely recognized and which are normally consumed in significant quantities – like avocado, broccoli, kale and berries. The lesser known, more “exotic” super foods are far more concentrated and consumed in smaller amounts – like hemp powder, maca powder, spirulina, wheatgrass and chia seeds (to name a few).
Why the super food bashing?
Reliable research to support specific health claims exists, but is scarce. Partly because super foods can’t be patented, hence studies are poorly funded, and partly because the lab conditions under which they are studied are often very different from the way people normally consume them, making it hard to apply the results to real life.
Critics also feel that labeling some foods as ‘super’ may give people the impression that other foods are not as healthy when in reality many fruits, vegetables and grains often provide nutrients just as valuable as those found in so-called “super foods”.
The media’s sensationalist reporting of the research doesn’t help, nor confusing and contradictory reports declaring the same food healthy one day and harmful the next. “Will red wine and chocolate save my life or kill me?”
The Bottom Line
There’s no question that a diet based on a variety of whole foods, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (many of which are considered “super foods”anyway) remains the best way to ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health.
However, experimenting with less familiar “super foods” can be a good way to supplement our health by taking advantage of their specific functional benefits. After all, many of these “super foods” have been dietary staples of indigenous peoples for thousands of years before we discovered them. Just because there isn’t “compelling evidence” doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to better health.
The Clever Kitchen’s top six “super foods”
These multitasking “super foods” provide multiple nutrients and are easy to include in our everyday diet. After all, what good is a “super food” that’s difficult to use and the kids won’t eat?
1.Cacao Powder contains compounds that boost the body’s natural opiates and increase feel-good hormones. Improves blood flow to arteries and boosts cognitive performance.
2.Chia Seeds are rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and soluble fibre, which slows the absorption of sugars and helps us feel fuller longer and manage our weight.
3.Organic Chlorella Powder is a fresh water algae rich in protein and B vitamins that helps cleanse the body of accumulated toxins like mercury and other heavy metals.
4.Hemp Seeds are a perfect blend of protein, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. They are also rich in fibre, which improves digestion and reduces sugar cravings.
5.Maca Powder is an adaptogen, a substance that helps our body adapt to any kind of change or stress. It’s rich in nutrients that help increase stamina, strength and libido.
6.Organic Pumpkin Seeds are a great source of energy, protein and healthy fats. They are also packed with many vitamins, minerals and health-promoting antioxidants.
Clever Morning Maca Smoothie
Give yourself a warm and comforting break a chilly morning. Maca powder supplies a clean boost of energy, helps balance your hormones and makes a healthy alternative to coffee!
You will need:
I cup alternative milk of your choice (almond, soy, oat, rice)
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste) or almond butter
1 teaspoon maca powder
1 teaspoon of raw honey
1 teaspoon coconut oil
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A sprinkle of black pepper
Warm the milk over a low flame for a minute or so but don’t boil. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
MORE FACTS ON MACA POWDER
Long appreciated for its beneficial effects on energy levels and fertility, maca powder is known as ‘Nature’s Viagra’ for its libido boosting qualities. It is popular with athletes for its endurance boosting, muscle mass increasing and general strengthening effects. Maca powder also enhances mental concentration and memory and helps reduce stress and elevate mood. It is often used to alleviate hormonal issues like PMS and hot flashes.
HOW TO USE
Maca powder is best enjoyed in smoothies, but can be added to cereals, porridge, pancakes, salad dressings and soups. It has a pleasant nutty taste so you can even add it to herbal teas and fruit juices.
Maca can have powerful effects, so it’s best to increase your dosage gradually. Begin with a half a teaspoon daily and work up to 1 or 2 teaspoons over the course of a week. Don’t exceed 2 teaspoons daily and take a few days off from time to time. Store in a cool dry place.
For more tips on Healthy Eating why not join The Clever Kitchen at their next lunch workshop at Starsnbars on Tuesday December 6th. Please confirm via facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1273347069406262/