Few people looking into healthy eating haven’t heard of superfoods. But what is that? And are superfoods always super cost? Why are superfoods always from far away (marginal tip they don’t)?
What is actually a superfood?
Superfoods are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, especially if you compare them to mass-produced plants. And they have rather few calories in comparison. More is more in this cases. They provide us with everything we need to be healthy and fit. And our body usually can absorb these substances more efficiently than supplements. It has had thousands of years to figure out the perfect combinations in our food after all. Slowly scientists get behind the fact, that there are such superior combinations, but they still need to figure out a lot. Mostly since it’s time-consuming to figure these pathways out scientifically.
What do you need to watch while choosing the right superfood?
Superfoods should be bought untreated were possible. Additionally, it would be great if they were organic or wild. That means some legwork to find the less hyped superfoods. Personally, I love “organic boxes”, where you get fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered directly to your doorstep. They often have some rarer ingredients you might not pick in a supermarket. That way you are encouraged to try new things. At the moment we get a small fruit box and a regional veggie box. Just look to the internet to find offers in your region.
There are new trends all the time especially with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. But here are a lot more kinds of superfoods and the more you implement in your daily life the better. It can be hard to find good quality with reasonable prices. I look for organic products at the supermarket and try them for their quality. With rarer ingredients, it’s simpler to use the internet. Sadly I can only speak for German suppliers.
The following lists (I love things a little organized) will grow steadily. The order is not meant to give a preference. Different superfoods are important in different situations for different people.
Some foods could be put in several categories and in some cases I will do that. In most cases I will limit myself to one entry, to keep things from getting out of hand.
In here you find everything leavy and more or less green. All super leaves can be eaten raw. Which makes them perfect for salad and smoothies. The firmer ones can also be blanched.
- mangel, spinach, types of salad (field salad, lettuce, iceberg lettuce, red oak leaf lettuce, Batavia lettuce, romaine lettuce, frisee lettuce, endive, radicchio, arugula and chicory), algae, sprouts, leaves of vegetables (mustard, kohlrabi, carrot, radish, beetroot), Chinese cabbage, Pak Choi, Sugarloaf, cress, sea asparagus (Salicornia), cabbage, sauerkraut (more on fermenting in a later post), red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, pointed cabbage, savoy
In this categories, you’ll find almost all veggies. Any paprika is better than cake (at least from the superfood viewpoint), but not all paprika are the same. High quality and few toxic substances would be ideal. That means buying organic or growing them yourself. Maybe you know someone with a big garden, who can’t finish all the veggies they grow or sell them at a farmers market. I try to limit this list to veggies with especially high nutrient density.
All other veggies are still healthy. If your favorite didn’t make on this list, don’t scratch it from your meal plans. But you could add one from the list to it when cooking.
- artichoke, pumpkin, broccoli, paprika, tomato, beetroot, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, carrot, parsnip, types of radish (garden, red, white), cucumber, Girasole, lupine, earth almond
Of course, there is a list of fruits. The rule is the more colors you eat the better, same goes for veggies. Either you try to have a full-color palette on your dish or in all the meal throughout a day.
I am focusing on fruits with not that much sugar. Otherwise you quickly go from “more is more” to “more is too much”. Doesn’t mean you should steer clear of cherries or pears. But you have to watch your portions more than with the fruit below.
- acerola, papaya, dragonfruit, seaberry, citrus fruits (lemon, lime, mandarin, satsuma, orange, grapefruit…), peach, apricot, watermelon, guava, cactus pear, rhubarb, avocado, kumquat
- with more sugar, but very good substances: pineapple, banana, pomegranate, fig
If you read over the fruit and thought somethings missing… I decided to make the berries an extra list since they have very low sugar (especially fresh or frozen) and a really high nutrient density. They are pretty much the super super fruits. On top of that, they make perfect smoothie ingredients since you can simply throw them in.
- goji berry, blueberry, raspberry, ripes (all colors), gooseberry, blackberry, acai, aronia, physalis, camu, mulberry, cranberry, strawberry, elderberry
Super seeds and nuts
Nuts and seeds are not only full of vitamins and minerals, they also include a lot of healthy fats and amino acids (protein). You can enhance simple salad and cookies with them too, both in taste and nutrients.
- chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chestnut, millet, hemp seeds, fenugreek seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds
- pine nut, walnut, almond, coconut, cashew, hazelnut, para nut, macadamia, pistachio, pecan
Mushrooms are a complicated topic. Are they healthy (protein, fibers, minerals,…) or not (radiation, heavy metals)? If you gather wild mushrooms try to go for sorts that groß on trees. That not for everyone so. Personally, I am surely not a mushroom expert. So I buy them at the supermarket. If you want to become one you could start here.
But they have a much going for us and most recipes benefit from them. You don’t necessarily need those Asian miracle mushroom for that. But if you can get your hands on a portion of them, go ahead and try them out.
- champignon, oyster mushroom, shiitake, king oyster mushroom, Cordyceps, reishi
Actually, I could make this one easy and say ALL of them. Up to now, I haven’t found a spice after all, that didn’t have any health benefits on top of its flavor. Still, I decided to list some really common spices most of us have in our kitchen but tend to use sparingly. Instead, you can make your food taste of more with them and do yourself something good. They lose their taste rather fast after all.
If you want to reduce sugar and instant meals, you should take a few spices from the list and use them in greater doses. If you are unsure which to take smell both your meal and the spice. If you like how they smell together put it in. This practice can lead to unusual new favorites.
- garlic, lavender, types of mint, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, chili, cinnamon (preferably from Cylon), cocoa (e.g. in dark chocolate), parsley, horseradish, dill, lovage, chive, marjoram, Curcuma, pepper, ginger
This list contains plant, that grow wild. Some can be bought as a powder in health shops or superstores, others can be bought as herbs in drugstores (I am not starting with the internet). But if you know your way around plants or know someone, who does, can go get them on their own. And some can only be found this way. it is something special to pick your own wild herbs salad with your kids. And at least with mine, it is more likely that they will at least try it.
- rose hip, dandelion, nettle, chicory, bishop’s goutweed, daisy, chickweed, sorrel, types of plantain, wild garlic, mallow, woodbine, blackthorn, hawthorn
This surely isn’t the favorite list of vegans and vegetarians, but humans are natural omnivores. You can exchange most foods in your meals, but for some deficiencies meat and fish are one of the most simple ways to fill up again.
- Egg, fat sea fish (e.g. salmon…), liver and other innards, honey and propolis
Some superfoods are easiest implemented after being processed. Either since they are hard to become or process yourself. Most of the featured superfoods can be bought as powders. The special benefit is that it is easier to smuggle a powder in or over the food of picky loved ones. Be it sprinkling a little green powder of a salad or putting it in cake dough. Most won’t even notice the little extra, but done even sometimes it can already make a difference. And most of the powders are rather colorful, so you can use them instead of food colorants.
- rose hip, beetroot, maca, matcha, barley and wheat grass, moringa, chlorella, spirulina, nettle, different berries, lucuma, guarana, tee (specially green), coffee, sugar cane molasses
I will write their own blog posts for (hopefully a lot) superfoods from this list. Do you have a specific superfood, you would like more information about?
I would love to read your comments.