Top 10 Superfoods to Include in Your Diet
As a health coach, I always get a lot of questions about supplementation. I happen to think the best supplements come from whole food sources, specifically what I like to call superfoods! What makes these foods super is that they are derived from nature and provide very high levels of either vitamins or minerals through their natural polyphenol contents. When applied to your diet appropriately, they can really help you take your health to the next level. If you're looking to enhance your overall well-being, these are definitely a few items you want to keep in your kitchen. So, let’s get to the list and my recommendations for use!
1. Cacao (raw chocolate) - this seed is what chocolate is derived from. When maintained in its pure state, it contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants out of all foods on our planet! Rich in magnesium, iron, manganese, and chromium, this superfood can help lower blood pressure, spice up energy levels, elevate mood and serve as an antidepressant. I like to include raw cacao nibs in my smoothies, as a topping on my smoothie bowls (picture below), or in my energy balls to add richness, flavor and of course superfood benefits!
2. Goji Berries - these flavorful dried berries originate from China and contain 18 kinds of amino acids and up to 21 trace minerals in addition to B and E vitamins! This strong nutritional profile promotes strength, endurance and longevity. Like raw cacao, I enjoy adding these on top of my smoothie bowls as pictured but you can even soak them in hot water and sip on it like tea or sprinkle them on top of salads.
3. Maca - an adaptogenic superfood that increases energy, endurance, strength and libido! The easiest way to use it is to buy the dried powder form which contains more than 10% protein and nearly 20 amino acids including seven essential ones. An interesting fact about maca is that it contains more protein than a potato and four times as much fiber. Similarly to the above two superfoods I add this to my smoothies but also find it easy to add it to a bulletproof coffee or matcha green tea latte as I blend the ingredients in my Vitamix.
4. Hemp seeds - these delicious and nutritious seeds are packed with 33% pure digestible protein and are rich in iron, amino acids, Vitamin E, omega 3's and GLA's (a fatty acid said to help reduce pain and relieve symptoms of eczema). Hemp seeds are a perfect way to up your protein intake especially if you hope to do it from plant based sources. I like to sprinkle them on top of salads (as pictured below) or a cream based soup such as butternut squash soup or a roasted sunchoke soup.
5. Spirulina - many claim this superfood is the world's highest source of complete protein. Spirulina also provides many minerals, trace elements, phytonutrients and enzymes. Its incredible nutrition profile aids brain function, reproductive health, skin and hair growth, bone health and metabolism regulation. Also, unlike other algae, spirulina is easily digested by the body making its nutrients accessible to be assimilated into our biochemistry. I like to add it to my smoothies, either in a green superfood blend or on its own in water first thing in the morning. It can also be purchased in capsules and taken as part of your supplement regimen.
6. Bee products (local raw honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis) - Bee pollen contains nearly all B Vitamins and all 21 essential amino acids which qualifies it as a complete protein! Raw honey is rich in minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and enzymes. Tip - always buy local raw honey as it makes a difference where the bees and the honey is from. Not only are you supporting your local community when you do this but you are consuming honey that contains pollen spores picked up by bees from plants in your area which will help you build up your natural immunity to allergens that you're exposed to on a daily basis, which is one of the biggest benefits of this type of honey (i.e. there's no point in consuming raw honey from Mexico as you are not surrounded by the plants in that region). Royal jelly is produced by young nurse bees to feed the colony's queen bee.
Studies show that it can help boost your immune system, combat free radical damage as it contains high levels of antioxidants, aid your gastrointestinal tract as it contains probiotics, it can improve collagen levels in your skin and can be used to help heal wounds faster! I buy local raw honey and bee pollen at my local farmers market and I eat the honey as is, use it as a sweetener, or put it on yogurt and granola. As for bee pollen, I sprinkle it on top of smoothie bowls or put them in my smoothie before I blend it.
7. Camu Berry - A powerful superfood from the Amazon rainforest, camu berry is said to be the highest Vitamin C source on our planet! Its known to help rebuild tissue, fight inflammation and purify blood while enhancing immunity and energy levels. In addition, camu berry serves as a powerful antidepressant and helps maintain and regain eye health. Like many others, this superfood can be used in smoothies when purchased in powder form or it can also be obtained in pill form as a supplement.
Because of its sour taste, if added to smoothies, it might be a good idea to add something sweet to the mixture such as a banana or local raw honey.
8. Sea Vegetables (kelp, dulse, nori, etc..) - These sea vegetables are rich in nutrients obtained from the ocean and the sun. Primarily known for their detoxing properties, sea vegetables help remove heavy metals from our bodies while adding in numerous trace minerals. Additionally, sea vegetables benefit the thyroid, immune system, the adrenals and hormone function. These foods can be added into main meals such as sushi, soups (as pictured below) or salads.
9. Medicinal Mushrooms (Reishi, chaga, etc..) - These superfoods are best known for their incredible adaptogenic properties aiding the body in responding to various stressors during everyday life due to their high levels of polysaccharides and super immune enhancing components. In addition, these superfoods are also high in antioxidants which of course helps fight free radical damage and inflammation while also protecting the liver and lowering cholesterol. Medicinal mushrooms can be consumed in different ways depending on the type. Some can be cooked, used in lattes in powder form or taken as a supplement in pill form. I recently had a reishi latte from Pressed Juicery and it was delicious!
10. Chia Seeds - These beautiful seeds from South America are a nutrition powerhouse as they contain tons of nutrients, healthy fats and protein! Just one ounce of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of healthy fats, 18% of the RDA of Calcium, 30% of Manganese, 30% of Magnesium, 27% of Phosphorus, in addition to a significant amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3, B2, B1 and Potassium. The antioxidants in these "superfood" seeds like the ones in the superfoods mentioned above help to fight free radicals in the body which is essentially where all disease and aging stems from.
The best way to consume these tiny seeds is to soak them for at least 20 minutes in either water or your favorite plant based milk (they naturally soak up any and all moisture which could be uncomfortable if the soaking up happens in your gut, this is why presoaking is recommended). You can then eat the jelly like substance as is topped with your favorite toppings (nut butter, cacao, fruit, etc...) or incorporate them into a smoothie.
Whichever of these superfoods you choose to try, remember that a healthy diet will contribute to a healthier inner self, making life's challenges just a little bit easier.
About the Author: Edith Agoston is a freelance writer and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in Seattle, WA. She writes about all things health and wellness including nutrition, fitness and spirituality on her main platform edithagoston.com. Edith works with her clients to implement behavioral lifestyle changes to improve their overall well being.
1) Organic Foods vs Supermarket Foods: Element Levels
Smith, B. (1993). Organic Foods vs Supermarket Foods: Element Levels. Journal of Applied Nutri on, 45(1).
Retrieved from h p://www.ask-force.org/web/Organic/Smith-Organic-1993.pdf
2) Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects
Yuen, J., Buswell, J., & Benzie, I. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). Herbal Medicine Oxida ve Stress and Disease Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edi on, 175-199.
Retrieved from h p://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/
3) 11 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Gunnars, K. (2012) Authority Nutrition
4) 10 Royal Treatments of Royal Jelly (2017) Dr. Axe.com
Retrieved from https://draxe.com/royal-jelly/