Superfoods are foods known to have strong sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can give your diet a much-needed healthy boost – one that can even reduce your risk of health problems, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even memory loss.
Although there technically isn’t such a thing as a “superfood”, nutritionally speaking, marketers use the term to influence new trends and sell food products that are rich in nutrients and can affect a person’s health positively. The term was first coined in 1990 by Michael Van Straten in his Superfoods cookbook.
If you want to power up your diet this 2020 and improve your overall health, here are some superfoods suitable for all ages to check out this year:
1. Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is a great source of soluble fibre and is known to be helpful in alleviating constipation and diarrhoea. It is derived from the seeds of a herb called Plantago ovata. It resembles sawdust in its pure form and is usually added to foods as a supplement. On its own, it can taste quite awful.
Psyllium husk is the main active ingredient in Metamucil, a fibre supplement used to relieve constipation. Vegans use psyllium husk in recipes as a substitute for egg. In a regular diet, one tablespoonful of psyllium husk can be added to yogurt, smoothies, shakes, oatmeal porridge, or even your morning cuppa. Like with chia seeds (see below), when liquid is added to it, psyllium husk will develop mucilage, a slippery gel-like texture. You can also try protein balls – here are some protein balls recipes for vegans.
Because of its high solubility, it binds fat and bile acids regulate high cholesterol levels. Aside from helping with digestion, psyllium husk also acts as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your stomach and in turn improving your brain functions and immune system. It is also quite filling, so you will feel satiated for longer after consuming it.
Try it this way: Sprinkle it into your bowl of morning cereal for an easy fix. If you love snacking on sweets, check out this delicious recipe of Psyllium Husk Vanilla Bliss Balls, so you can still satiate your sweet tooth, and mask the raw taste of psyllium husk.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds shot to fame as a superfood because they are rich in nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants. vitamins, and minerals. They are practically tasteless and therefore easy to add to your diet. Plus, they are easy to digest while being full of essential nutrients at the same time.
Try it this way: Add chia seeds to your favorite smoothies or mix it into your oatmeal or yogurt. You can also sprinkle some chia seeds on your salad of choice to enjoy a slight crunch.
Avocado is a nutritious fruit full of nutrients like fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Like olive oil, avocado is high in fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fat, which can reduce inflammation in the body, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Try it this way: Avocado isn’t just for toast. Try adding it to your salads, smoothies, and egg sandwiches. You can also bake it into brownies or blend it into pesto. One refreshing snack you might enjoy involves blending avocado and low fat milk and then pouring the mixture into ice cube trays. Pop one out once frozen and munch on them whenever you need a cold pick-me-up.
4. Fermented Foods
Fermented food refers to food that has microorganisms like bacteria and yeast in it. Fortunately, this includes foods that are probably already familiar to you, like pickles, yogurt, miso, achar, kimchi, and kombucha. All of these foods have natural probiotic bacteria and enzymes in them that can help with immunity and digestion.
Try it this way: Instead of using gravy, soy sauce, or mashed potatoes on the side to eat your meat with; eat it with kimchi or achar instead. On top of giving your food an extra kick, they will imbue your gut with healthy flora.
5. Sprouted grains, nuts and seeds
We know that wholegrains, nuts and seeds are good for us. That’s old news. But did you know that sprouted grains, nuts and seeds are even better? Sprouted means that these grains, nuts and seeds have been soaked in water and left in a moist, warm environment suitable for germination (you can do this at home) and have begun to sprout.
Germination breaks down some of the starches stored inside these tiny powerhouses, making them easier to digest. Germination also breaks down phytate, a naturally-occuring form of phytic acid in grains which normally decreases the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Thus, sprouted seeds (technically, nuts and grains are also seeds) contain more available nutrients which are more easily absorbed by the body.
This means you’ll be able to get more micronutrients and plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties from sprouted seeds. These can protect against oxidative stress and heart disease.
Try it this way: Sprouted grains, nuts and seeds can be eaten the way you would eat the unsprouted versions. If sprouting your own brown rice at home is too much of a hassle, buy already-sprouted brown rice from a Japanese supermarket and use that. Bake bread using flour made with sprouted grains. Remember to always cook your sprouted seeds to killl all bacteria before consumption.
Berries, in general, have a lot of antioxidants and fiber. What makes this Brazilian superfruit stand out, is its added ability to help with different health problems, like weight loss, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and high cholesterol.
Try it this way: One of the best ways to enjoy acai’s flavours is by creating a puree. One easy way to make an acai bowl would be by blending some acai berries with water or milk and then adding your choice of sliced fruits, cereal, and cacao nibs on top. Make it even more “super” by adding other superfoods on this list like chia seeds, nuts, and avocados.
7. Watermelon Seeds
This Chinese New Year snack staple is full of nutrients like iron, folate, zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B complex, amino acids, and proteins. They can help boost your metabolism and immune system, as well as help alleviate obesity, arthritis, and diabetes.
Try it this way: Instead of just roasting your watermelon seeds, try this incredibly easy recipe for Watermelon Seeds Bars that you can make with just two simple ingredients for a change.
8. Matcha Powder
While people have been in love with matcha for years now, it looks to be making an even bigger mark in its powder form this 2020. Matcha is full of polyphenolic compounds, liver-supporting detoxifiers, and a lot of beneficial antioxidants that can help heal cellular damage, improve brain function, and boost the immune system and metabolism. Plus, it has less caffeine than coffee, but still enough to help wake you up because of its unique L-theanine content.
Try it this way: If you’re addicted to coffee, now is the time to replace it with something healthier. Drink it, brew it, or add it to your favourite waffle, pancake, or brownie mix.
Many people use turmeric for its flavour and colour, but it actually also serves as a powerful antioxidant. It has an active compound in it called curcumin, which is known to help prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. It may also help improve symptoms of arthritis and depression.
Try it this way: Blend it into your smoothies or add it into soups. You can also brew it with some hot tea.
Do superfoods really work?
It goes without saying that simply including these superfoods into your diet won’t help you achieve optimal health. No single food can give you all of the nutrition and health benefits that your body needs.
You will have to work on your diet by eating a wide variety of nutritious foods everyday. What these superfoods can do, however, is improve your overall health and help you prevent certain chronic diseases. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2020!