What are they? And why are they super?!
Superfoods are a special category of foods found in nature. By definition they are calorie sparse and nutrient dense, meaning that they are low in calories and high in nutrients, packing a lot of nutritional punch for their weight. They are a class of the most potent, super-concentrated, and nutrient-rich foods on the planet and are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients (nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves). Superfoods have the ability to tremendously increase energy and are the optimum choice for improving overall health.
The down side? Superfoods tend to be expensive. For this reason, I don't buy or use every superfood everyday. I switch it up and use what I feel my body needs, for example, in flu season I add more Camu to my diet because of it's high vitamin C content, or when I'm feeling especially run down, I add Maca to my diet to increase my energy. Remember, with superfoods you don’t need to eat them all day, everyday, you just need to find ways to incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis.
Below is a list compiled by David Wolfe (one of the world's top authorities on natural health, herbalism, and organic superfoods) of some of the top Superfoods on the planet.
1. Cacao (Raw Chocolate) -- The seed of a fruit of an Amazonian tree, cacao is the highest antioxidant food on the planet, the #1 source of magnesium, iron, chromium and is also extremely high in PEA theobromine (cardiovascular support), and anandamide ("bliss chemical"). Raw Chocolate balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, is a natural aphrodisiac, elevates your mood and energy.
How to incorporate it into your diet: Try adding raw cacao nibs or powder to your morning smoothie or yogurt. Add cacao nibs to homemade trail mix or granola, or use nibs to replace chocolate chips in pancakes, cookies, muffins, etc. Mix cacao powder into nut milk (or dairy), or use in replace of cocoa powder in your baking and in homemade hot chocolate.
2. Goji Berries -- Used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years, goji berries are regarded as a longevity, strength-building, and potency food of the highest order. This superfood contains 18 kinds of amino acids, all 8 essential amino acids,
up to 21 trace minerals, high amounts of antioxidants, iron, polysaccharides, B & E vitamins, and many other nutrients.
How to incorporate them into your diet: As is! Just throw them in a baggie or a small tupperware and snack on them throughout the day, add them to your oatmeal in the morning or to coconut yogurt (or regular yogurt if you tolerate dairy). Add them to homemade trial mix, smoothies, or enjoy them as tea ( ‘Stash’, ‘Traditional Medicinals’ and ‘Yogi’ are all brands that make goji berry tea).
3. Maca -- A staple in the Peruvian Andes for thousands of years, this adaptogenic superfood increases energy, endurance, strength, and libido. Dried maca powder contains more than 10% protein, nearly 20 amino acids, and 7 essential amino acids. As a root crop, maca contains five times more protein than a potato and four times more fiber.
How to incorporate it into your diet: Maca comes in a powdered form, therefore you can simply stir it into a glass of water and drink it, or you can add it to your morning smoothie.
4. Hemp Products eaten their RAW form -- Packed with 33 % pure digestible protein, rich in iron, amino acids, and vitamin E as well as omega-3's and GLA. A perfect food.
How to incorporate them into your diet: Sprinkle them on....everything! I sprinkle them on salads, pasta, oatmeal, in smoothies, on toast, in my kids cereal and applesauce. Honestly, whatever you're eating, just sprinkle a little hemp on top!
5. Spirulina and Blue-Green Algae -- The world's highest source of complete protein (65%), spirulina provides a vast array of minerals, trace elements, phytonutrients and enzymes. Blue-green algae is a wild-grown superfood with a 60% protein percentage, and 15% blue pigmented phycocyanin which increases our internal production of stem cells. Both spirulina and blue-green algae are vital superfoods.
How to incorporate them into your diet: Taking a supplement is by far the easiest way to incorporate this powerful superfood into your diet. However, it can also be purchased in powdered form, in which case you could add a few teaspoons to your smoothie, to a glass of water, you could add it to recipes, or even to salad dressings. It has a strong flavour though so my preference is to take in supplement form.
6. Bee Products (honey, pollen, and propolis) -- Bee pollen is the most complete food found in nature containing vitamin B-9 and all 21 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Honey, in its organic/wild, raw, unfiltered states is rich in minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes, and one of the highest vibration foods on the planet (foods that are ALIVE and that positively benefit the person, as well as the planet as a whole).
How to incorporate it into your diet: Take a teaspoon of raw honey before bed, not only will you get all of the nutritional benefits but it will help you sleep as well! Have raw honey on sprouted grain toast ~ however once raw honey is heated it takes on the likeness of corn syrup and loses it's beneficial nutrients, so avoid using it in hot teas or in baking. Bee pollen can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, or on top of sprouted grain toast with almond butter. Bee pollen can also be incorporated into raw protein bars or sprinkled on top of desserts.
7. Camu Berry -- Highest Vitamin C source on planet. Great for rebuilding tissue, purifying blood, and enhancing immunity, and energy. Camu berry is one of the best anti-depressants, immune building, and eye-nourishing superfoods in the world.
How to incorporate it into your diet: Camu berry is sold in powdered form and therefore is most easily incorporated by adding it to smoothies or by mixing a teaspoon into a glass of water. That said, there a lot of ways that you can incorporate Camu berry powder into recipes, such as salad dressings, pasta sauces, baking, frozen desserts or energy bars.
8. Sea Vegetables (seaweeds including: kelp, dulse, nori, hijiki, bladderwrack, chlorella, etc) -- Rich in life-giving nutrients drawn in from the ocean and sun, sea vegetables help remove heavy metals, detoxify the body, provide numerous trace minerals, regulate cholesterol, and decrease the risk of cancer. Seaweeds benefit the entire body, and are especially excellent for the thyroid (high iodine), immune system, adrenals, and hormone function.
How to incorporate them into your diet: Eat them as a snack! 'SeaSnax' makes a great roasted seaweed that my whole family loves (keep in mind, when you're buying roasted seaweed you want to look for seaweed that has been roasted with olive oil and not with the inflammatory oils such as canola, soy, or sunflower). Try adding dulse, wakame, or arame, to salads or soups, they add a nice salty flavour and eliminate the need for table salt. I know not everyone loves the taste of sea vegetables so if you fit into this category, use this trick: when you're making quinoa, rice, millet, barley, etc., throw a thumb size piece of kombu into the pot with your grain and water. As the grain cooks, it will soak up and absorb the minerals from the kombu. Once the grain has finished cooking simply discard the kombu and enjoy the grain as usual.
9. Medicinal Mushrooms (Reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, lion's mane, etc.) -- High in polysaccharides (which are critical when it comes to proper nutrition because they make up the complex carbohydrates that, for many, serve as the body’s primary energy source) and are also high in super immune enhancing components. Medicinal mushrooms are one of the most intelligent adaptogenic herb/superfoods on the planet! They have also been proven effective in healing cancer and a variety of other ailments.
How to incorporate them into your diet: The most obvious way would be to add them to recipes, such as omelettes or soups. But you can also buy them in dried form and make your own teas out of them. Finally, you can incorporate them through supplementation. There are numerous medicinal mushroom supplements out there, speak with someone at your local health food store to help you find the best one for you.