Over the past few years, we have seen kava kava come and go, drank endless cups of green tea, took supplements of GLA, propolis, shark cartilage, pycnogenol… oh boy! Nutrition information and science change rapidly. Just when you have filled your medicine cabinet with the latest supplements you believe are right for your body, something new comes along claiming to be a “superfood.” The latest crop of superfoods includes anti-oxidant rich plants, mostly berries, including maca, gogi berries, acai berries, rooibos, and cacao.
Maca (pronounced mak-a)
Maca, a root that grows high in the mountains of Peru, is recommended for fertility problems, sterility, to improve libido, and menopause. Maca’s amazing libido booster is a result of natural hormone balancing. It also impacts energy, stamina, depression, memory, and counters stress. Athletes around the world are acknowledging maca as an energy source. Research shows that maca’s adaptogenic powers help to restore the adrenal glands, boosting energy and endurance.
Maca root is sold as a powder or in capsule form. Mix 1 teaspoon of maca powder into a smoothie, yogurt, or juice.
Gogi (pronounced go-gee)
Gogi berries (also known as Wolfberries) are bright red, dried berries about the size of raisins. The plants are found throughout China and Tibet. Gogi berries are considered to be one of the most nutritious foods, rich in antioxidants (particularly carotenoids, vitamins A and E, and zeaxanthin), B complex vitamins, and contains more vitamin C than oranges (148 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of gogi berries vs. 53 mg per 100 g of oranges). The polysaccharides in gogi berries are important for the maintenance and structure of the cell membrane that protects our DNA. Gogi berries also contain beta-sitosterol, an anti-inflammatory agent that lowers cholesterol, solavetivone, an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial complex, and a variety of other unique and potent nutrients.
Gogi berries can be made into a tea or added to cereals or soups. Soak gogi berries for 15-20 minutes or overnight to soften them and add to a smoothie.
Acai (pronounced a-sigh-ee)
This Brazilian purplish-black berry is widely used in energy bars, energy-boosting juices, and even in ice-cream! Boasting ten times the antioxidants of grapes and double that of blueberries, health experts recognize acai as a top superfood. The acai berry fruit is extremely rich in antocianine, an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight against and destroy free radicals. In addition, acai is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and supports the cardiovascular system. It is also rich in iron and fiber.
Acai is available in capsules and powder form, or purchase as a frozen pulp. Thaw and add to smoothies.
Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss)
The rooibos plant is a South African flowering shrub used to make a caffeine-free tea that has significant amounts of antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. Relatively new to North America, rooibos tea has been popular in parts of South Africa for generations. Research is showing that polyphenols, such as those in rooibos tea, may protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. The types of polyphenols in rooibos are different than those in green and black teas. Two of these polyphenols (the flavonoids quercetin and luteolin) have been shown to cause cancer cells to “commit suicide” decreasing tumor growth and inhibiting the spread of cancer.
Cacao (pronounced ka-cow)
The cacao tree is a small evergreen growing in South America and the West Indies. Its numerous reddish-brown seeds (although, botanically they are nuts) contain 40-50% fat, small amounts of caffeine, and theobromine. If this sounds familiar, you are correct. Cacao beans, when scraped into powder and boiled in milk, make chocolate! It is the cacao bean, however, not chocolate, that offers the health rewards. Known as “the food of the gods,” cacao beans are rich in magnesium (the most deficient mineral), natural MAO inhibitors which increase production of serotonin enhancing mood and suppressing appetite, phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical that increases alertness and improves mood, and contain no sugar.
Cacao beans can be eaten straight, added to trail mixes, ground and added to smoothies, or chopped and added to frozen desserts.
The latest “superfoods” are not only nutritious, but delicious and often found together in functional food formulas. The best news is that they are foods that can be ingested as foods – not another pill to swallow.