Superfoods with attitude: what you need to know

superfood

Superfoods are everywhere and it’s hard to know where to start.

If you’re dipping your toe into the world of wholefoods I’d start by saying you don’t really *need* to know your matcha from your maca as the basics are just about good, honest caveman sort of grub that you can pick up anywhere like fruit, vegetables and grains.

There may well, however, come a time when the call of the super supplements beckons you down this colourful path on the baobab-brick road to healthy harmony.

We’ve put together a top 10 cheat sheet to tell you what you need to know about the latest buzz food.

1. Cacao

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Not a typo, cacao proves chocolate really IS good for you if you stick to its purest unrefined form. Buy from Amazon, add to smoothies, porridge or crumbles for a choco-hit or use to bake brownies, cakes, mousses and cheesecakes guilt-free. Naturally bitter, you will have to sweeten it up a bit with honey, maple or agave but it’s packed with antioxidants, is a rich source of magnesium, iron and zinc and even reduces your blood pressure and risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

It’s raw because it’s made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans – a process that takes out the fat and preserves the living enzymes (aka the good stuff). Cocoa, on the other hand, is raw cacao roasted at high temps, which takes away the healthy stuff. It’s a natural mood-enhancer minus the comedown. Do I need to go on?

2. Chia seeds

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One of the first “health foods” I bought was a pack of chia seeds which are now widely available at supermarkets as well as health food stores. Turned out to be a smart choice because they’re insanely good for you.

These teeny weeny seeds native to Mexico were used to fuel Aztec warriors for good reason – they pack a powerful punch in the nutrition stakes. They’ve long been lauded as a natural source of energy – the word itself is ancient Mayan for “strength” – and just a 2tbsp serving contains 4g of protein, 11g of fibre and 5g of Omega-3 fatty acids (great way to get these if you don’t eat fish) and are a great non-dairy source of calcium.

Super-hydrating and loaded with antioxidants, chia seeds are easy to throw into smoothies, porridge and sprinkle on any meal for a boost. They can also be soaked to form a jelly-like egg alternative for vegan baking (they expand to 12 times their size – this frogspawn type situation isn’t for everyone but if you fancy trying it I enjoyed this chia pudding from Deliciously Ella).

3. Maca

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Not to be confused with our deep sea diving mate or indeed the Beatle, maca is a malty-tasting root belonging to the radish family that is popping up in powder form at a health shop near you. Dubbed Nature’s Viagra, I can vouch for its energising properties after adding it to afternoon cacao milkshakes before regularly sprinting the 7 miles home with a spring in my step since ordering some last month (though I wouldn’t like to say whether it has the same effect on pensioners’ bedroom antics).

Great for skin, bones and teeth, it’s also said to boost your mood and alleviate cramps, aches, anxiety and mood swings you may be unfortunate enough to experience while surfing the crimson wave. A word of warning – it’s powerful stuff so 1tbsp a day will be quite enough and best to avoid if pregnant or your hormones may not forgive you.

This ancient Peruvian superfood loses its superpowers in the face of heat (maca’s personal Kryptonite) so use in smoothies, energy balls and no-bake puds.

4. Matcha

matcha

Next time you buy green tea (if ever) look out for one that includes matcha as it’s 10 times more nutritious than the standard stuff.

Not to be confused with maca, matcha is a cancer-fighting, metabolism-boosting, fat-burning wonder leaf. Thousands of years ago, Japanese monks drank matcha to stay calm yet alert – two things most of us strive for but generally fail to achieve on a day-to-day basis. All the benefits of coffee without the headaches and twitchy energy.

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Defiant enjoyment of a matcha green tea latte after the hipster barista warned her it was a very “niche” beverage

5. Spirulina

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I’ve started adding a spoonful of spirulina (the lesser known Mary Poppins mantra) to green smoothies after discovering this microalgae (I know, ew) is 65% protein with amazing weight loss and anti-inflammatory properties, which means it’s packing a punch in the disease-prevention stakes.

As well as fighting physical diseases, super spirulina is said to aid mental and emotional conditions like anxiety, stress, depression and ADHD, not to mention alleviating PMS. It also makes your smoothies a really cool shade of green, so there’s also that.

6. Bee pollen

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Loved by Victoria Beckham and preached by Gwyneth Paltrow, bee pollen is the latest superfood to hit the headlines and comes in granule form which you can easily sprinkle onto smoothies, oats and salads if you’re that way inclined. These teeny honey-coloured granules contain just about every nutrient the human body needs, including amino acids and folic acid.

Trying to get pregnant? Bee pollen is an aphrodisiac, stimulates ovarian function and boosts hormones so when you add the folic acid to that dream team of benefits it’s a quadruple threat in that department.

Another great source of vegetarian protein, it’s good for runners as it increases stamina and fights fatigue. It can be used for skin conditions like eczema and even has antibiotic type properties to fight against disease.

7. Nutritional yeast

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Not to be confused with normal yeast and now available in Accrington’s One Planet store thanks to demanding Hyndburn vegan Jade, nutritional yeast came onto my radar about a year ago as it was included in a lot of the recipes I was trying out. I found omitting it wasn’t a massive issue, but when I started adding it I discovered its delicious cheesey tang is probably what stops vegans craving a giant baked camembert.

Full of vitamins, protein and all 18 amino acids (important), NY is naturally free of dairy, soy, gluten and sugar. All of the B vitamins here help depression, insomnia, fatgiure, PMS, skin, hair and memory, so heap it into savoury dishes like risotto, veggie burgers and soups.

Just don’t sub it for normal yeast in baking (Home Alone cat emoji).

8. Hemp seeds and powder

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The ultimate in hippy living, hemp seeds and powder are yet another great way to get your plant protein if you don’t eat meat or fish. A 2/3tbsp handful is easy and inoffensively tasting enough to add to porridge or smoothies and gives you a whopping 10g protein. Hemp is actually a not so distant cousin of cannabis and is an excellent way to get a fibre and magnesium high too (for healthy hearts).

9. Baobab

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My first experience of baobab was at the Eden Project last summer. I was determined not to enjoy my visit because I was desperate to get home from a Cornish getaway to catch up with friends, while my nature freak boyfriend insisted on “making the most of the journey” by taking in the sights on the way home (I’m firmly in the early start, Starbucks and Kindle-fuelled travelling camp). My mood lifted (predictably) at lunch when I saw the amazing healthy food on offer, by the time it came to ordering a coconut baobab ice cream for pudding I was all for running away with the tree huggers.

I scream for ice cream: refusing to raise a smile after being told I was "looking and acting like the biggest baby at the Eden Project",

I scream for ice cream: refusing to raise a smile after being told I was “looking and acting like the biggest baby at the Eden Project”

Get this iron-rich super nutritious fruit in powder form for alertness, energy, immune boosting, hydration and healthy skin.

10. Acai

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This berry has attained superfood status because of its antioxidants (which fight diseases like cancer), vitamins, fatty acids and fibre. I invested in some acai berry powder last month after drooling over a series of purple smoothie bowls on Pinterest and though I’m yet to experiment fully its flavoursome inclusion in one of my favourite fruit teas bodes well.

No need to go nuts, though, acai berries have most of the same health benefits as more common fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and mangoes.

Is it worth it?

I love a health fad but I would not advising splashing out on all of these in one crazed payday Amazon spree. I’ve accumulated a modest collection over the past year or so and I enjoy trying them out, but they are not necessary for a healthy lifestyle, they’re just nice additions to work your way up to in my book.

Have you tried any of these? Or have you got any others we should check out?

Images from Pinterest, Amazon or taken by us

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3 thoughts on “Superfoods with attitude: what you need to know

  1. Loving the blog, girls. I’m new to the healthy eating scene and I’d love to educate myself a bit more about superfoods. The level of detailed knowledge here is impressive. How did you girls become such experts? Is there a qualification I could take? All the best, Pete

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    • No qualification needed for this level of knowledge, just a slight health food obsession and a lot of reading up of books and blogs. There are nutritional courses you can take to get even more clued up but we’ve managed just by reading up online really. Let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to write about specifically in the future!

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  2. Great stuff! You girls have slimmed down no end. I’d love to recreate your success, I wonder if you can advise on a training plan? I already get out on the motorbike now and then, but I can’t most weekends because the ex-wife drops the kids off on a Friday night after school for the weekend. Otherwise pretty sedentary. Love a curry and a beer on the weekend! Reckon I’ve got at least 60lbs to lose. Could nutritional yeast help? Do I need to be a vegan?

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