With a new year come new lists of trending superfoods from around the world. Some are exotic, from far-away lands, and others can be found right in your backyard. With a growing interest in “clean eating”, you are much more mindful today about what goes into your body. More whole foods, meaning less processed, are increasingly popular choices for the everyday diet.
The following six superfoods are some of the top trending foods right now and are foods that you should consider becoming familiar with to achieve maximum health benefits from what you eat:
Seeds have been increasing in popularity for the last couple of years based on their fiber and amino acid content. Chia seeds have been one of the most talked-about seeds to add to your diet. Chia seeds are a whole grain food, meaning they are not refined, and are packed with protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients. But this year, watermelon seeds are the hot topic of conversation. It turns out that watermelon seeds are packed with protein, magnesium, iron and folate. They can help boost our immunity and they are low in calories. Food forecasters predict that watermelon seeds will start showing up in juice bars as the seed grows in popularity. So stop spitting them out of your watermelons and try roasting some today for a densely nutritious snack (375 degrees for 15 minutes on a baking tray)!
Another super-seed to try are hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are a great digestive aid and can help improve your metabolism. They are one of the few plant-based foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce naturally, making them a complete protein. Hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which aid in cardiovascular health and help you to feel full. And in case you were wondering, help seeds do not cause any psychotropic reaction. If you’re hesitant, sprinkle just a teaspoon in your yogurt, smoothie or salad to start and you will gain the health benefits without even tasting them!
It’s no secret that avocados are good for you. They are loaded with heart-healthy fatty acids, packed with fiber and have more potassium than a banana, supporting healthy blood pressure. Avocados do not contain any cholesterol or sodium. Guacamole is perhaps the most popular method of eating avocado but they are also delicious in salads or on toast with an egg over-easy. However incorporating avocado oil (derived from the pulp of an avocado versus most oils that are derived from seeds) into your diet is even easier than incorporating avocados themselves.
Avocados contain healthy fats and the most abundant fatty acid in avocado oil is oleic acid, which contains numerous health benefits such as improved heart health, reduced cholesterol, eye health benefits and can help with weight loss. Studies have also shown that extracts from avocado can reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. Using avocado oil can also help your body to absorb nutrients, such as antioxidants, from other foods. It is high in vitamin E, which is why it is a popular choice for topical application too, such as on your skin or hair for natural moisture, or to speed up healing on broken skin. So the next time you’re cooking with oil, give avocado oil a chance. It has a high smoke-point, meaning it remains stable at higher temperatures, and is an excellent choice for frying or baking.
Nuts are a consistently popular raw food and there are so many to choose from! Some nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, are better for you than others, but there is a new nut on the superfoods list whose name definitely stands out from the crowd: the sacha inchi nut! This nut is derived from the seeds of a plant that grows in the Peruvian highlands. With 9 grams of protein per ounce, these heart-healthy nuts, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, are on the horizon of the mainstream market.
The sacha inchi nut is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than other nuts, although care should always be taken when eating nuts if you suspect you may be allergic. These nuts are high in protein, omega 3, 6 and 9 (aiding in calcium absorption and the control of glucose levels), vitamin A (aiding in eye health) and vitamin E, fiber, and are easy to digest. They also contain nutrients that our brain needs to feel calm and happy, as well as aiding in weight loss because they leave you feeling fuller. The list of benefits from these nuts is extensive, including lowered inflammation and blood pressure, improved circulation, and joint health. Look for sacha inchi nuts at your local health foods store.
Chances are, you have never heard of moringa! Over the last few years, we have seen some strange suggestions as far as adding unique, leafy greens into our diet (i.e. seaweed and kelp!) and this may seem no different, but give it a chance. The moringa tree can be found in Africa, parts of India and Latin American and in Haiti. This plant is quickly drawing interest as a superfood to watch out for thanks to its high levels of antioxidants that help to maximize the cell function within your body and significantly lower inflammation.
Moringa contains high levels of polyphenols, which help to protect the liver and can even help to reduce liver damage and fibrosis. Moringa leaf powder, found in health food stores, can help reduce many symptoms of diabetes, aids in cardiovascular health, and with neuro-enhancing capacity aids in brain health and cognitive function. Moringa also has beneficial medicinal properties, such as helping to reduce clotting time in wounds and anti-bacterial properties that have been proven to fight off skin and bacterial infections. While moringa seed extracts are not recommended for consumption, moringa leaf powder can be added to smoothies or be used as a tea-type drink. It should be introduced into a diet slowly and always be used in doses as instructed on the packaging.
Green tea never really leaves the list of trending superfoods because it contains so many powerful antioxidants, minerals and nutrients that have a long list of health benefits. Green tea is also perhaps one of the easiest things to add to your daily diet, with so many flavors it appeals to nearly all tastes. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols which function as powerful antioxidants, aiding in the protection of cells, they fight against aging (potentially lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, due to its various protective effects on neurons in the brain) and disease, and some studies have shown that it effectively reduces the risk of some cancers.
Green tea also contains fat burning properties, which is why it is commonly among the list of ingredients in fat burning supplements, helping to boost metabolic rates in the body, and it can help build immunity levels. Green tea has even been reported to help get rid of bad breath, when used over time! And while green tea does contain caffeine, it has lower levels than coffee and has been proven effective in naturally increasing energy levels. Try replacing your morning coffee with a cup of green tea and see how you feel! If you don’t care for hot beverages, try using flavored green teas as frozen treats! Note that it is not recommended to add milk to green tea, as that can reduce its nutrient properties. After water, which we should all remember to drink on a regular basis, many nutritionists say green tea is the healthiest drink we can give our bodies.
Herbs and Spices in Place of Salt
With an increasingly multi-cultural population in North America, spices that once seemed foreign to us are now becoming familiar and are appearing in more and more everyday foods. Last year, the FDA announced plans to reduce sodium levels in processed foods and many companies have decided to get ahead of the game by using herbs and spices in place of salt to not only decrease sodium levels but to increase health benefits and, often times, increase the flavor in foods as well.
You should pay close attention to sodium levels in your diet. Start reading food labels: Typically, healthy snacks, for example, should have no more than 230 mg of sodium per serving. The proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) suggests that adults limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.
Some examples of healthy alternatives to flavor your food are as follows:
- Oregano: USDA study reported that oregano has one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all herbs;
- Cinnamon: With the highest antioxidant level of any spice, cinnamon has been proven to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and helps to lower inflammation. It can also aid in fat burning and can help extend the life of foods;
- Rosemary: Can prevent damage to blood vessels around the heart, reducing the risk of heart attack;
- Garlic: A wonderful immune booster, garlic has also been shown to fight against some forms of cancer;
- Turmeric: Contains curcumin, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and aids in joint health;
- Ginger: Fights against nausea, aids in inflammation.
See what herbs and spices are in your food cabinets and try them on some of your favorite foods today.
Got a favorite or a recipe to share? Let us know in the comments below.