Now, at the risk of looking all "scammy", I'd like to introduce you to my top picks for SUPERFOODS OF THE YEAR. It's kind of hard to compete with the "one food to heal all your problems" ads, but I'm gonna try. Real food is where it's at! A variety of colourful plant-based foods can provide the antioxidants needed to quench free radicals (see my earlier post on Antioxidants), and thus reduce the damage done by ultraviolet rays, environmental pollutants and toxins, good old regular metabolism, and free radicals produced by the least healthy cooking methods. Without further ado, here are my top five foods that actually reverse the damage that leads to the aging and dying of cells in your body.
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Spices need to be near the top of this list, as we often neglect their superpowers due to adding them only in small amounts to cooking. Turmeric is a fabulous spice that contains curcumin, a super-potent anti-cancer compound that also happens to reduce inflammation in conditions like rhematoid arthritis, and help regulate blood glucose in Type 2 Diabetes. Nutritionfacts.org reports: "Curcumin appears to play a role helping to block every stage of cancer transformation, proliferation, and invasion. It may even help before carcinogens even get to our cells".
Read my post on Spices for more information on other spices.
You can add turmeric straight into smoothies, into cheezy vegan sauces or into orange- and yellow-looking soups. Warning - it'll add a yellow-orange tinge to whatever you're cooking it with!
2. Matcha Tea
Ceremonial grade matcha tea from Japan tends to be best in quality, less likely to contain heavy metal contaminants such as some of those from China. Just one bowl of matcha tea provides 5 times the antioxidant ORAC count of most any other food. On a biochemical note, it provides the amino acid L-threonine, which promotes serotonin and dopamine release in the brain, giving a "calming effect". The mechanism of its cholesterol-reducing effects aren't quite clear, but they sure are effective even when compared to the cholesterol-lowering effects of statin drugs. If you consume it regularly, which would be my recommendation for most people, it's a good idea to choose organic matcha tea. You can find a fabulous-tasting, vegan-certified, organic matcha tea here.
Enjoy a Matcha Smoothie recipe for breakfast, or halve the portions and enjoy as a snack!
3. Cacao Nibs
Raw cacao nibs and raw cacao powder are so high here on the list because they're just so dang tasty. They're also super because in stark contrast to what sugary chocolate bars and drinks do to the aging process, inflammation, and disease risk, raw cacao nibs have a super high antioxidant and anti-aging effects on your body's cells. They also provide a significant source of magnesium, which is important for bone health!
What's the difference between cacao and cocoa? Raw cacao powder just about the purest form of chocolate you can consume, and is made by cold-pressing raw cocoa beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (which ends up in beauty products or foods as cacao butter). Cocoa powder is raw cacao powder that is roasted at high temperatures.
Sprinkle cacao nibs on top of oatmeal, into smoothies, on top of parfaits, or use in place of or in addition to bittersweet chocolate chips in recipes.
4. Hemp seeds
These lil' guys pack a powerful punch of protein, not to mention a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are great for substituting out whey and soy protein powders if you want to incorporate more actual whole food sources that have other naturally-occurring nutrients. With twice the protein and 3 times the omega-3's as the same amount of chia seeds, in my humble opinion they outweigh the beautiful chia seed in terms of nutritional quality. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, zinc and iron!
5. Spirulina + Chlorella
Last but certainly not least - the beautiful green and blue-green algae! Spirulina is the greener one, and chlorella has the blue-green pigment. Spirulina and chlorella are nutrient-dense foods that I can't separate into two categories because they are so nutritionally similar, being an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and beta-carotene.
Be wary that not all spirulina and chlorella supplements are the same! Some taste way more fishy or earthy than others, some are contaminated with heavy metals, and some products have binders or fillers to dilute the quality of the product. I like to get mine from a dear friend who sources and processes these little green gems safely. You can purchase a bag at Tripow.ca.
Blend a small 1/4 teaspoon of pure spirulina/chlorella into your smoothie, raw chocolate, or guacamole!