Healthy eating has trended to the top of everyone’s lists within the past few years, and so has the fascination of superfoods. We’re all familiar with the ever popular superfoods: blueberries, kale, sweet potatoes, quinoa, greek yogurt, and almonds etc. However there are many other ones that aren’t on the top of grocery lists that should be. We’ve curated a quick list of some superfoods that you should try before you get bored of eating healthy and resort back to take-out and microwave dinners. It was difficult trying to find a relatively unknown superfood for each food group, so we left out the grains since those alternatives are already the most popular (bulgur, quinoa). Eating healthy has never been easier than before now that we have all of these options at our hands.
Goji/Wolf Berries – Fruit Superfood
Up first are these powerhouse berries native to Asia. Up until recently, my oriental background has only ever exposed these delicious berries to me in the form of seasoning in soups. I’d never thought to throw these little red berries into smoothies or salads. The options are actually limitless with this fruit. Once they’ve been properly washed you can literally do anything with them; cook, bake, steam, or even eat them raw in yoghurt or salads.
Similar to other berries, goji berries are jam packed with beta-carotene – a pigment in the fruit, which helps to promote glowing, healthy skin. Not only are they good for your skin but good for your overall immune system due to their oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value that gives it excellent antioxidant properties. Step aside blueberries, goji berries are the new “IT” berry. Not only do the berries help protect you, but they’re chalk full of 18 amino acids and essential fatty-acids; including linoleic acid and alpha-lineolic acid.
As typical of fruits, these berries are low in calories, full of fibre (their seeds add a new texture to your dish) and are fat-free. It’s important to note that not everyone should be adding these berries to their diet as side effects may occur if they’re consumed while taking other medications. Always make sure to contact a physician for advice if you’re adding something new to your diet with health benefit aims to make sure that you’re a good fit.
Try adding goji/wolf berries into your daily diet but start off with simple snacks such as toppings on yogurt or a smoothie. If you’re not really fond of the taste, blend the berries into your smoothie so that you can’t taste the herbal after-taste as much. Throw them into your salad to add a slight crunch in texture or even in your trail mixes and soups to create a little bit of sweetness.
Chia Seeds – Protein Superfood
Next up on the list are the incredible chia seeds. Not to be confused with the weird sprouting toys given to children in the 90’s, these seeds are meant to be ingested not played with. An important crop in Mexico, the use of seeds have been dated back to the Aztecs. Packed full of amino acids such as phosphorus, calcium and manganese, these tasteless seeds are perfect for adding into anything to improve the nutritional value of the dish.
The 27% phosphorus daily value (d.v.) from one serving (28 grams) of chia seeds is great for maintaining your body’s protein synthesis. An 18% d.v. of calcium also helps to prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy. What about manganese? You get about 30% of your d.v. just from one serving, and it also helps in maintaining your bones and other bodily functions. These seeds are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. In a 1-ounce serving, the seeds yield about 5 grams of omega-3’s. If you’re also looking to improve your protein consumption, one serving of the seeds provides for roughly 4.4 grams, about 10% of your d.v. Do we have to say more about these seeds to convince you that you should be eating them in everything from now on?
When these seeds are immersed into a liquid, they form a gelatinous coating which further helps control type-2 diabetes by controlling blood sugar spikes. They also help to curb your diet by releasing tryptophan, the amino acid that makes you feel like you could take a long nap after eating a large meal (except now you don’t need to eat a large meal to get the same effect).
The best thing about chia seeds is that they can literally be used for anything and everything. Turn it into a pudding by immersing it in a liquid of your choice overnight (try a 1:3 ratio), or even take it one step farther by freezing the pudding into popsicle sticks. If you don’t like their crunchy texture, just sprinkle a couple onto your smoothies to slowly incorporate them into your daily diet. Or if you are craving baked foods, try breading your chicken or fish with chia seeds to increase your protein content. If your cravings are taking a turn for the sweets, throw a handful of the seeds into your baking recipe to add nutritional content to your baked goods.
Kefir – Dairy Superfood
Everyone and their grandma consumes almond milk, but what about kefir (pronounced: “kee-fer”)? The fermented milk originates from the Caucasus Mountains and its name loosely translates into “good feeling”. Traditionally, the milk was prepared by storing it in skin bags with kefir grains and hung over a door frame so that anyone passing through would knock the bag and keep the contents well mixed. Nowadays the milk is made by introducing cultured strains of bacteria and yeast into sheep, cow and goat milk in factories.
The fermentation process breaks down the lactose sugar in milk, allowing those with a lactose intolerance to consume kefir without missing out on the nutritional proteins from milk. Kefir is also chalk full of vitamins such as vitamin A, B1/2/6, D and K2. Because the fermentation process releases carbon dioxide, kefir is slightly naturally carbonated.
Drinking it compared to milk will leave a slightly cheesy and tangy yet refreshing after-taste. We recommend giving this new option a try if you’re ready to switch out your greek yogurt/soy milk/almond milk alternatives.
There are so many alternatives for kefir such as using it in a cold soup, or replacing it for milk in your morning cereal. If you really want to get nifty with it, why not try making some frozen yogurt or ice cream? You can even incorporate it as a base for an herbal cream cheese or try making a ranch salad dressing. Whatever you use it for, you’re sure to be left with a refreshing after taste on the palette as kefir tastes strangely natural compared to other processed milk products.
Spirulina – Vegetable Superfood
No we’re not telling you to contract a disease, but yes spirulina is a type of cyanobacterium, correction, algae. Spirulina falls under the family of whole foods, foods that aren’t processed or refined, or these processes are minimized prior to consumption. Whole foods are great for consumption because they provide more complex micronutrients, increased levels of d.v. of fibre and provide phytochemicals – naturally occurring protective substances. Although spirulina possesses less protein than meat and eggs, it produces significantly more than that of vegetables. Although spirulina isn’t necessarily a vegetable on its own, it falls most closely under that category. Containing all essential amino acids, dried spirulina is composed of 60% protein. Make sure to add this superfood to your diet if you’re trying to increase your protein intake.
Similar to goji/wolf berries, spirulina is packed with a ton of essential fatty-acids and pigments to promote healthy skin. Make sure to watch out for brands that advertise their products to contain vitamin B12 as spirulina merely contains a pseudovitamin version that remains inactive in humans. Spirulina has also been noted to possess qualities that prevent damage to organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.
Not quite sure what to use spirulina with? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Being a protein supplement, you can put them into anything to improve the nutritional content. We’ve seen some pretty creative recipes online ranging from spirulina bread, deviled eggs to even guacamole. If you want to make something sweet out of the supplement, try mixing it with dates and other ingredients of your choice to make truffle balls. Get creative and experiment!
Cottage Cheese – Dairy Superfood
Cottage cheese is well known for its high protein content. At a whopping 14 grams for just a 4 ounce serving, this cheese’s protein content has high levels of casein, a form of slow-releasing protein. This means that you stay full longer, which also means that you’ll have less urges to eat as often. Cottage cheese has a low milk fat content, 4%, and only 120 calories in the 4 oz serving. Of the 5 grams of fat from the serving, only 3 grams is saturated, and one serving only yields 3 grams of carbohydrates. Similar to chia seeds, cottage cheese also possesses large quantities of calcium and phosphorus, essential to the maintenance of our bones. The cheese also helps to improve your digestion by releasing B vitamins that breaks down and harvests energy from the food you ingest. The 4 oz serving contains about 500 mg of sodium, so if you’re looking to curb your salt intake, simply look for a low-sodium version.
Although the richness of cottage cheese may lead you to believe that it’s unhealthy, take a moment and think about the fact that the caloric intake is roughly ¼ of what you’d get if you were to eat the cheddar cheese in the same weight equivalent. So go ahead and enjoy this cheese, just make sure that you don’t go over your daily sodium intake and you’ll be on your way to a healthier but still yummy diet!
Cottage cheese may be the most difficult out of all of the superfoods that we’ve suggested to incorporate into your diet since you can’t just “throw” it into any recipe. However we did come across a couple interesting ways to add it into your diet and we think that you’ll like them just as much as we did. As opposed to cream cheese, which has a high milk fat content, why not spread it onto your crackers with other ingredients of choice for a light afternoon snack? If you want an option for your morning breakfast, scramble some of the cheese in with your eggs to provide them with a bit more fluffiness. Another option for this superfood is to use it like a fruit dip and serve it on a platter with fruits, you can also opt to do the same with vegetables if you want a dish with a lower sugar content. You can also substitute the popular baked potato topping, sour cream, with cottage cheese. We’ve taken it one step further in the direction of health and opted to use sweet potatoes instead of regular ones.
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