LIKE mushrooms after a rainfall, food-related accounts have been sprouting up on Instagram and other social media platforms. However, these accounts are not your average, run-of-the-mill foodie lovers sharing reviews on the latest brunch spot in town or chic photos of latte art.
Instead, utilising terms like “eat clean”, this group of social media users have sparked a revolution of natural, organic, green and, most importantly, healthy eating.
Apart from the staple of fruit and vegetables, healthy eats also incorporates the use of superfoods into the daily diet. With all the recipes and information out there, it can sometimes be confusing to keep track of what superfoods are, their benefits and how to go about using them. Here’s a brief introduction and guide to superfoods:
What are superfoods?
To put it simply, superfood is a term used to describe foods that pack in a lot of nutrition and goodness in them, and have strong health benefits. Below is a brief list of examples of superfoods:
Although one doesn’t need any reason to indulge in chocolate, here’s a guilt-free and healthy alternative to your chocolate cravings – cacao.
An unprocessed form of chocolate, cacao is rich in antioxidants and is also a great source of magnesium. Ever wonder why women are ever ready to reach for chocolate when it is ‘that time of the month’? That’s because women experience low levels of magnesium during this time, and it could just be the body’s natural way of signaling a need to replenish this nutrient.
To top it off, the compounds of this superfood help to regulate moods. It’s hard to believe that something so delicious can be so good for you, isn’t it? But this superfood just disproves the common misconception that healthy food is not tasty.
Usage: Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been chopped into small pieces. It can be sprinkled on top of desserts and smoothies, turned into paste to be used in hot chocolate drinks or can even be eaten as is.
Tip: Because cacao is so rich, thus making it very filling, it is advisable to use small amounts.
My favourite out of all the superfoods, these tiny, tasteless seeds are bursting with nutrition and are extremely versatile. The black, white and dark brown seeds are packed full with omega-3 fatty acid, calcium, protein and fibre.
Among other things, these nutrients are essential to healthy brain and nerve function and stabilise blood sugar levels, thus keeping you full for a longer period of time. As the saying goes, “good things come in small packages.
Usage: Because they are tasteless, you can pretty much add chia seeds to any food, without drastically changing the taste. This includes baking them into breads and cakes and sprinkling them on top of porridges, oatmeals, smoothies, juices and salads.
Tip: Before using, soak the required amount of chia seeds in room temperature water for approximately five minutes or until the seeds expand and start to stick to each other.
Also known as wolf berries, these red fruits have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years. The berries normally come in dried form and are a great source of antioxidants, vitamin C, A and B2. Because of their nutritional goodness, goji berries help boost the immune system.
Some links have been made between these berries and the prevention of cardiovascular and age-related diseases as well as cancer. However, there is a lack of clinical studies in this area.
Usage: Boil together with soups or broths or simply add to a cup of hot water, sprinkle on top of juices, smoothies, oatmeal, desserts, etc. As they come in a dried form, you can consume them as you would any other dried fruit e.g. raisins.
Tip: If you enjoy goji berries and consume large amounts of them, best to purchase them at a traditional Chinese medicine store as they are more affordable.
Ladies, listen up! Feeling cranky from a bout of PMS? This superfood may be the answer for you. Found in fine powder form, maca has been used for centuries by South American cultures typically for hormonal imbalance (e.g. relieving mood swings), on top of being used as an aphrodisiac and energy booster.
Usage: It can be added to anything from baked goods to oatmeal and smoothies as the powder can easily be mixed in.
Tips: Start in small quantities because of the rich and potent nature of maca.
Hailing from Central and South America, acai berries are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats and amino acids. This superfood helps to improve energy levels and nourish the skin. They come in a variety of forms such as pills/capsules or freeze dried into powder form.
Usage: The freeze-dried powders are great for mixing into juices, smoothies and desserts.
Tip: Pills/capsules contain less amounts of acai as compared to the freeze-dried powder form.
Although we often hear “we are what we eat”, we must also remember that food is just one part of maintaining our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we get enough sleep and exercise, drinking lots of water and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle activities make up the bigger picture of being in good health.
If you would like to begin incorporating superfoods into your diet, start with just one. My recommendation is to start off with chia seeds as they are tasteless.
Increase the frequency of taking your superfood of choice but it is not feasible, nor is it affordable, to incorporate all types of superfoods into your diet. Happy experimenting.
The super foods mentioned above can be obtained at organic sections of supermarkets, standalone organic stores, traditional Chinese medicine stores or even online organic stores.
Payal Sadhwani is a PR consultant who has a passion for food and writing.