People often ask me about superfoods…
Superfood – a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being (Oxford Dictionaries)
This definition in fact describes the term perfectly. While some foods are good for your health, others are super good and contain up to 20 times more vitamins, minerals, compounds, and other nutrients. You might want to incorporate those into your diet if you haven’t already! You’ll be surprised you didn’t know that some foods on the list were SO extraordinarily nutritious.
A guide to most nutritious & delicious superfoods
Powdered & dried superfoods
Açaí – this high-energy berry grows in Brazilian rainforests and may not be available in your local groceries. Usually it comes in a form of frozen puree or powders. Açaí has a beautiful deep purple color and it tastes like a mixture of chocolate with blueberries, and is perfect for smoothies. It’s packed full of amino acids, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats. Açaí berries help with weight loss, boost energy, fortify immune system, lower cholesterol and improve the skin.
Baobab – a citrusy flavor fruit mostly grown in Africa. It’s available in a powder form after fruits pulp and seeds were dried and ground. Baobab is rich in antioxidants, one of the best sources of vitamin C, it also contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein. Among its remarkable health benefits – it supports immune system, digestive system, it is antiviral and anti-inflammatory. I usually add baobab powder to smoothies or almond energy balls.
Bee pollen is in fact food for a young bee. It’s incredibly nutritious, contains around 40% of protein, vitamins, including B-group complex, essential amino acids, and folic acid. Moreover, it contains enzymes, which support digestion. Bee pollen is anti-inflammatory, it boosts immunity, detoxifies the body, lowers cholesterol, and has anti-aging effects. It also aids infertility and boosts hormones. However, you shouldn’t take be pollen if you have bee allergies.
Cacao nibs – a chopped cacao bean, a natural chocolate in its purest form. Read more below under ‘raw cacao’.
Cinnamon – this ancient spice is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, it also contains calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties. Cinnamon supports heart health, lowers risk of cancer, supports healthy brain, boosts immunity and fights against viruses and infections, controls blood sugar levels and has an anti-diabetic effect. What’s more, cinnamon supports healthy skin, helps fight allergies and has breath refreshing abilities.
I simply adore cinnamon! This spice is something unique, it’s a fantastic pair to all apple and pumpkin meals. Oh, and sweet potato, too.
Chia seeds – these tiny white and grey seeds originated from Mexico are becoming more and more popular. They are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids (8 times more than in salmon). Their health benefits are plentiful, among those: high energy levels, healthy heart and digestive system, good metabolism, beautiful skin, reduced signs of aging, stronger bones and lean muscles. Furthermore, chia seeds have an interesting quality – when soaked in any liquid they become gelatinous. You can make lovely chia seed puddings, jams, or use them as an egg-replacer in vegan baking.
Chicory root is a granulated caffeine-free drink. If you are not fond of coffee or you feel the caffeine side effects (blood pressure, extra sweat or mood swings), then chicory is a perfect alternative. Chicory root is rich in fibers (inulin and oligofructose) which are the plant-based prebiotics. It’s high in antioxidants, aids gut health and digestion, helps with weight management, is anti-inflammatory, purifies the liver. This is my favorite 5 o’clock hot drink.
Chlorella is a green algae, a microorganism that grows in fresh water and is rich in chlorophyll. It contains protein, folic acid, vitamins B, C, D, E and K, and vital minerals – calcium, phosphorous, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and magnesium. With its remarkable nutritional value it’s known to increase energy levels, stimulate weight loss, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, detoxify the body, fight cancer, slow aging, support immune system. It’s available in powder and capsules.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in green plants and algae that plays essential role in the process of photosynthesis. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, antioxidants, beta-carotene, essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium, and fatty acids. Chlorophyll is amazingly health beneficial – it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, it helps with weight loss, controls hunger, supports healthy skin, controls body odor, enhances the immune system, increases the quantity and quality of red blood cells in the body and helps fight cancer. It also stimulates detox by alkalizing the body. It’s available in both capsules and liquid form.
Collagen is a protein which contains 19 amino acids and is essential to our body. Unfortunately collagen production decreases when we age and it’s a good idea to take it as a supplement after 30. It’s anti-aging, improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles (let’s see), it’s great for joint and bone health, supports digestion system. It also reduces cellulite and stretch marks, and strengthens hairs and nails. I started taking hydrolyzed collagen powder after the meniscus tear and keep adding it to my smoothies. It’s tasteless but it adds a fantastic frothiness to the drink!
Flaxseeds (linseeds) – golden or brown seeds rich in plant omega-3s, protein, dietary fiber and a lot of minerals and vitamins. Flaxseeds provide countless health benefits – they prevent heart decease, fight inflammation, balance hormones, reduce ovarian dysfunction, control blood sugar, lower cholesterol and help with weight control by reducing the feeling of hunger. It’s best to consume flaxseeds ground, they are easier to digest this way. Add them to your smoothies, make flax meal porridges or use in vegan baking as an egg-replacer (I used it recently for these divine waffles batter).
Godji berries – these high-antioxidant red berries are low in calories and have a mild flavor that reminds me of caramel with a slightly sour aftertaste. It’s a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, amino acids and trace minerals. It also stores more beta-carotene than carrots. Godji mostly originate from China and are sold dried. They help with weight management and digestion, improve functioning of the immune system, fight mood disorders, lower risk of heart decease and boost energy.
I love using godjis as my smoothie bowls topping or as energy bars ingredient.
Hemp Seeds – these Cannabis family seeds don’t have any psychotropic effects on the body as marijuana, on the contrary, they provide countless health benefits. Hemp seeds contain high-quality protein, fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, nine essential amino acids, magnesium, zinc and iron, and they are filled with antioxidants. They are proved to help with hormonal balance, heart health, digestion, they decrease bad cholesterol levels, and reduce menopause and PMS symptoms. Hemp seeds oil is very good for dry skin, it relieves eczema and improves itchiness.
I love to sprinkle hemp seeds on my avo toasts and add to green salads. It’s also a good idea to add hemp seeds to your protein shakes.
Lucuma – a sweet nutrient-dense Peruvian fruit, highly used for its medicinal properties. It contains essential trace elements (iron, potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium and phosphorus), fibre, vitamins B1, B2,B3 and B5, is rich in beta-carotene. Lucuma is very sweet and reminds of maple syrup or caramel so you may use it in any smoothies, sweet energy snacks and baking (it’s mostly available in a form of powder).
Maca – a Peruvian plant which looks like a radish and grows at very high altitudes. Its root, the main edible part, is often dried and turned into powder which you can find in health and organic gourmet stores. Most common maca powders are made from yellow, red and black maca, however, there are 13 of maca plants discovered. All have slightly different nutritional value, but in general maca is rich in such minerals as calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and zinc, contains vitamins C, B1, B2 and B3, essential fatty acids, protein and fiber. Maca root nutrients are especially known to support hormonal balance, increase fertility and sex drive. It’s a natural aphrodisiac (as well as spirulina). Maca also fights anxiety and depression, boosts energy and improves stamina, lowers blood pressure, helps with menopausal symptoms. I add a teaspoon of maca powder to smoothies, energy snacks and oatmeal.
Matcha – a powdered vibrant green concentrated Japanese green tea, made of premium green tea leaves. It’s expensive, but it provides a wealth of vitamins and incredibly rich in antioxidants (more than açaí and godji), it also contains fiber and chlorophyll. Matcha nutrients will do your body lots of goods: it supports the immune system, increases metabolism, burns calories, detoxifies the body, increases energy and stamina, enhances mood, improves memory, helps with focus and concentration, lowers cholesterol, fights cancer. It can be used both in cold and hot beverages. I love matcha lattes with ice in the summer and hot when it’s cold outside (please use the right method of preparing the tea otherwise it loses its qualities, e.g. never use the boiling water). Matcha powder is most beneficial when consumed as tea. However, you still may use it in baking, raw desserts, smoothies and even salad dressings, I absolutely adore its bitter green tea flavor.
Moringa oleifera is an Eastern tree which deep green leaves are harvested and dried at low temperature, then turned into powder. Moringa leaves pack such beneficial nutrients as vitamins A, C, B2, B6, and E, iron, potassium, calcium, protein and dietary fiber, a mix of essential amino acids. It fights inflammation, boosts immunity, helps with wounds healing, supports brain health, reduces blood sugar levels, has heart-healthy benefits.
Mulberry is a light yellow nutrient-dense berry which mainly grows in the Far East. It contains protein and fiber, essential minerals and antioxidants, mulberry is also a good source of vitamin C. I adore these berries, they have an amazing honey-like taste and are very chewy. Like raisins, they are dried and are a great snack. I usually use them as a smoothie and oatmeal topping.
Nutritional yeast (not to be confused with baker’s yeast). ‘Nutritional yeast, also known as savory yeast or nooch, is an inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses’. – Dr Axe.
It’s cultivated specifically for the human consumption. It’s deactivated with heat (to stop it from growth) then dried and packed. Nutritional yeast is high in easy-to-digest protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamin B complex (especially B12 and B6), full of essential minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, selenium and zinc), and contains antioxidants. It preserves immune function, reduces cholesterol, helps with weight loss and muscle-repairing, prevents cancer, maintains proper brain function, improves hair, skin and nails.
You can find nutritional yeast in health and grocery stores in a bulk section, it usually comes in flakes or powder form. I love to add it to various hot dishes, especially pureed soups and pasta (instead of parmesan).
Quinoa – this pseudograin is a great gluten-free alternative. Quinoa is a seed which keeps gaining its popularity all over the world. It’s a source of a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is very nutritious, it’s incredibly high in fiber, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. It promotes healthy blood sugar control, relieves constipation, increases metabolism and lowers feeling of hunger, it slows down the aging process, lowers blood pressure, supports a healthy heart, and is good for heathy bone-building.
There are three types of quinoa available – white, red and black. I prefer a multi-color mix.
I love quinoa + hummus combination. I think it’s the best you can imagine. Since quinoa is full of protein it can be a great post workout meal. Quinoa flour may be used in baking and cooking pancakes (but I haven’t tried it yet). I don’t like quinoa the sweet way though. Some people love it with honey and dried fruits, but I prefer sweet porridge to be whole, sticky and creamy. Yes, like oatmeal, exactly.
Raw Cacao – this is not the processed cocoa powder we all remember from childhood (Nesquick, anyone?). Raw cacao is a completely different thing – it’s the unprocessed cacao bean, the original chocolate. It’s high in antioxidants (40 times more than blueberries), magnesium, vitamin C, Omega 6 fatty acids and fiber. Raw cacao includes a long list of benefits: it protects the heart, regulates blood sugar, improves metabolism, boosts brainpower, prevents premature aging, and of course you might have noticed – cacao improves your mood greatly and lowers stress levels!
You may use raw cacao powder to make hot chocolate, to coat your energy balls, sprinkle on your oatmeal, use for the overnight biercher muesli. Raw cacao is also available in a form of a whole cacao bean or cacao nibs (chopped version of cacao beans). You might have also seen cacao butter, a white oil extracted from the cacao bean. It’s 100% edible but it’s often used in various body care products due to its natural nourishing properties. Cacao butter is perfect for dry and sensitive skin.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that lives in oceans and salty lakes and is amazingly nutritious. It’s an abundant source of vitamins and antioxidants, essential fatty acids, it’s a number one source of protein of all foods known to date, it plays an important role in cells metabolism, controls blood sugar, fights cancer, helps with allergies and weight control, it also has an anti-aging effect and is known to be a natural aphrodisiac.
Honestly, I couldn’t stand its taste when I first tried it about 5 years ago. I used to add a tiny bit of it to my smoothies and mix in a lot of fresh pears & oranges (to my opinion they neutralize spirulina flavor perfectly). But my tastes changed with time and I can hardly survive a day without spirulina in my morning smoothie bowl now. Moreover, you may have seen those incredible blue desserts popular round the web – yes, this is it, a less common and more expensive kind of spirulina – a blue algae.
Watermelon seeds are high in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Dry them, season with salt or chili and use at topping to your salads, soups or green smoothies.
Wheatgrass – a super nutritious young grass from a wheat family. Wheatgrass on 70% consists of chlorophyll, it’s also rich in amino acids, contains vitamins A, C and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. It neutralizes toxins, improves digestive system function, boosts energy, cleanses liver, works as antioxidant, improves stamina, relieves tooth and throat pains. Obviously it’s best to take wheatgrass as a shot (available in organic cafes and health food stores) but you can also buy it in capsules or powder (so you may add it your smoothies).
Avocado – a green fruit, amazing both in sweet and sour dishes. It’s a great source of healthy fats, it also contains vitamins K, A, E, C, B5 and B6, folate, potassium (more than in bananas), magnesium, beta-carotene. Avocados are good for heart health, hormone balance, digestion, eyes, skin and hair, they help with weight management, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Avocados are absolutely amazing as a dip (you surely know guacamole), salad ingredient, spread or in sweet meals like avocado chocolate mousse, smoothie or raw cakes frosting.
Blueberry – these powerfully nutritious berries contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins C, K, B6, folate, potassium, copper and manganese. They slow down aging process, help protect against cancer, support brain health, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure and support heart health, they are good for digestion, vision and immunity. What is more, blueberries work as good antidepressants.
I would definitely suggest eating these berries in their most natural state – raw. They are a great supplement to any smoothie, fruit salads or raw desserts.
Broccoli contains high concentrations of nutrients, among those: fiber and protein, vitamins A, E, K, C and B-group vitamins including folic acid, it’s also a good source of minerals such as phosphorus, iron, manganese, potassium, calcium, sodium, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
Broccoli is good for healthy heart, healthy liver, strong bones, it regulates digestion, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, detoxifies the body, takes care of your hair.
Broccoli is an alkalizing vegetable, it’s good to use in alkalizing smoothies, soups, it’s tasty roasted, sautéed with garlic and as a pasta/noodles ingredient.
Coconut water – low in calories water from a young coconut. It’s packed with a range of powerful nutrients, among those – potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and copper, vitamin C, B6, protein and fiber. It has a specific taste, slightly nutty and sweet. I don’t trust the packaged coconut waters. I only drink fresh coconut water when I’m on vacation in the countries where it grows. Coconut water is nice in its pure form (especially if chilled) or you may use it in any of your smoothies.
Kale – this popular low-calorie dark leafy green has been talked about a lot recently. It’s loaded with vitamins K, A and C, fiber, carotenoids and flavonoids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium and iron. Kale is anti-inflammatory, detoxifies the body, containing antioxidants it prevents the damage from free radicals. It’s also good for heart health, metabolism, vision and skin.
This benefit-loaded green looks great in smoothies, salads, when massaged with olive oil and herbs, sautéed with garlic, or when served with tahini in a buddha bowl. Kale chips are also a fantastic snack.
Kiwi – a lovely green fruit, packed with various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a real vitamin C bomb, and that is why the fruit has strong antioxidant properties. Kiwi also contains vitamins K, A, and E, folate, fiber, and essential minerals – potassium and copper. Kiwi supports the immune and digestive systems, helps regulate high blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, prevents eye disorders and heart decease.
I like kiwis even if they are not sweet. I mainly use them for dessert decoration or add them to my smoothies.
Spinach is one of my favorite greens. It contains folic acid, vitamins B1, B2, B9, A, C, K, beta-carotene, iron, chlorophyll, calcium, manganese, magnesium and antioxidants. More to the point, it doesn’t have a bright taste which is perfect for various smoothies and salads where you need it for volume and vitamins boost. I also love spinach in pasta, soups or with fried eggs.
Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage which has a long list of health benefits. Fermentation produces probiotics (‘live bacteria’) which are good for your immune, digestive and endocrine functions. Sauerkraut is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C, K, E, and minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium, phosphorus and other. Sauerkraut helps with various digestive disorders, regulates blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, fights inflammations and reduces risk of cancer. Another benefit is that it keeps you full for longer.
Sweet potato – a king of veggies (to me). This delicious orange or purple (!) root vegetable is very nutritious. It’s rich in beta-carotene (powerful antioxidant), B-group vitamins, vitamins A and C, it also contains soluble and insoluble fibers, manganese, potassium, copper and magnesium. Sweet potatoes are known to slow the aging process, increase satiety and help with weight loss, support immunity, brain function and vision health.
I prefer sweet potatoes baked or steamed. My favorite snack ever is rosemary-chili sweet potato fries with hummus or guacamole. Oh, and sweet potatoes are also perfect in desserts – vegan sweet potato brownies are heavenly!
It's not the full list of super healthy foods, of course. I'll be updating it in the future, stay tuned!