Even though there is no official definition of a superfood, they are generally regarded as foods that have therapeutic benefits due to their nutrient status. Superfoods may contain a high concentration of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, enzymes or they may be high in good fats and protein.
Adding superfoods to your smoothie is a simple way to inject a megawatt dose of nutrients into your body. Now with the plethora of health food stores to choose from in most cities, it's not hard to find superfood ingredients to increase your energy, stimulate metabolic rate, prevent cravings and reduce health risks.
Here are my top superfood ingredients to power up your smoothie (Full story text continues below slideshow):
I believe that raw cacao is as pure as chocolate gets because no heat has been applied to it which means all the nutrients remain intact. It was once considered "food of the gods" by the Mayans and the Aztecs making it as valuable as money, hence why it was used as currency.
It has extremely high levels of antioxidants, in fact, 30 times higher than green tea and 20 times higher than red wine. It is a good source of minerals including magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron, all of which are important for energy, metabolic rate, heart and bone health.
Probably the best part of raw cacao is that it contains blissful and loving compounds! Phenylethylamine (PEA), known as the "love" compound, and Anandamide known as the "bliss molecule" have been traditionally used to elevate mood.
It adds a sweet taste without added sugar. Add one teaspoon to your smoothie along with your favourite ingredients.
If you've never tried spirulina, don't let its blue-green colour or the fact it is an algae scare you away because it is an incredibly nutrient-dense and energizing food containing omega-3 fats, calcium, vitamin E and beta carotene. Vegans and vegetarians sing the praises of spirulina because they believe it is a complete protein, similar to eating a piece of steak or chicken. I believe it is also an excellent source of detoxifying chlorophyll, making it high in magnesium, a very potent anti-stress mineral.
Start with half a teaspoon because it has a bit of a seaweed taste, but is disguised well with a banana and vanilla protein powder.
Chi-chi-chia! Yes this is the same stuff as the chia pet you may have grown in your bedroom as a kid, but it's so much more than just a pet. It is a fibre-dense superfood. In fact, it has more fibre than wheat bran, gram for gram and is a wonderful choice for those on a gluten-free diet. Studies show that adding more fibre to your diet helps to lower cholesterol, keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce your risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer. An excellent source of good fat, chia has one of the highest levels of omega 3s in the plant kingdom, even more than flaxseed. Chia contains a good amount of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor of brain chemicals including serotonin and melatonin.
Add 1 tbsp to your smoothie. If you let the chia sit in liquid it will absorb and become somewhat gelatinous, great for adding a nice consistency to your smoothie.
Truly raw unpasteurized honey is not only one of life's sweetest pleasures, but it's an incredible source of healing enzymes that aid in digestion, amino acids and vitamins C and B. It is one of my personal favourite superfoods either in a smoothie or smothered over toast.
You might be surprised to know that the phytonutrients found in honey have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumour properties. These tongue-twisting substances include caffeic acid methyl caffeate, phenylethyl caffeate, and phenylethyl dimethylcaffeate. Researchers have discovered that these substances prevent colon cancer in animals by shutting down activity of two enzymes, phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C and ipoxygenase.
Also, surprising is the friendly bacteria present in honey. Six different species of lactobacilli and four species of bifidobacteria have been found, which may explain many of the "mysterious" therapeutic properties of honey.
I encourage you to buy local honey and add a spoonful to your smoothie.
Joy McCarthy, registered holistic nutritionist and health coach of Joyous Health, loves to inspire others to eat well and live well. She also teaches an array of wellness workshops and co-creator of Eat Well Feel Well, a six-week nutrition and yoga course in Toronto. Joy welcomes your questions or comments.
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