LET’S TALK SUPER FOODS!
Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, sesame seeds, ground flax seeds? What do they all mean? What do they even look like? When I started this alternative way of eating, I had not a single idea of what chia seeds nor ground flax seeds meant - I never even noticed them in stores. But as time went by, I slowly got to know and appreciate each one better. I also started integrating them into my meals in all the ways possible, in smoothies, salads, soups, granola etc.
‘Super foods’ is a modern colloquial term for a group of foods that are loaded with vitamins, nutrients and minerals, which you can easily integrate with other meals - sometimes even without noticing. Though many of these grains/seeds are as ancient as agriculture, the healthy wave that recently hit our century has given them more light, hence the group term: super foods. If you have tried some of my recipes, you’ll see they come up a lot, so allow me to elaborate further.
1 - Gluten free oats - in comparison to classic white oats, is less processed, more nutritious and better for the body to digest. They are also richer in fiber and can be used flexibly in porridge, breakfast cereals, granola and crumbles. An ultimate essential in my pantry and a quick solution when I want something really fast.
2. Pumpkin seeds
These little guys are loaded with zinc which is a mineral that we usually don’t get often. Zinc is important for regulating our immune system, for beautiful hair, nails, skin and to make our wounds heal faster. I like to include them mostly in toppings, or when I’m having something savoury - because they are not exactly sweet in taste.
3 - Brazil nuts - like their name suggest, originate from Brazil. These nuts are high in fat, but the good kind of fat. They are also packed with selenium, which is an element that boosts cell growth and keeps the upper part of our body safe. You want to have a maximum of 2-3 pieces per day as they’re very nutrient dense.
4 - Almonds - are also a kind of nuts. Though nuts are mostly packed with the good fats, you have to eat them in moderation. I love the buttery flavour and crunch that almonds add to my meals.
5 - Cashews - also a group of nuts that have a lower fat content in comparison to other nuts. It’s full of magnesium, vitamin E and folic acid. Great for making cold brewed coffee and creamy vegan sauces - recipes coming soon.
6 - Dried figs - these are one of my absolute favorites, because they act as a natural sweetener for smoothies. These babies are rich in vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, iron and copper. They are also good to snack on as you’ll be left feeling sate after 3 pieces. I use them sometimes even when cooking savoury meals for that extra kick.
7 - Rose hip - is a type of red fruit that is very high in Vitamin C - so it strengthens your immune system against flu, while slowing down ageing. It acts as my daily dose of vitamin C, as I currently don’t take any supplements. Just add into smoothies. It’s nice sour taste makes things exciting. Lastly, they aid in muscle and tendons functioning.
8 - Ground flax seeds - these seeds are a grounded version of the whole flax seeds. During digestion, the ground ones are absorbed into the body more than the whole ones because, those just slide through. It is absolutely rich in fiber, omega 3, helps to reduce cholesterol and is full of plant based proteins.
9 - Chia Seeds - another one of my absolute favorites, despite being completely neutral in taste. They’re tiny in size and form the highest plant based source of Omega 3, which is usually mostly found in fish. They are great for your skin. I love to make chia pudding or add them in a raspberry or blueberry compote - because of their binding capability.
10 - Dark chocolate - referring to chocolates with 70% and above cocoa solids. Despite being bitter, I love them for their abundant source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to repair our damaged cells. They are also a much healthier version to the classic chocolate bar e.g. snickers, mars, bounty etc. I find that they have an acquired taste. But if they’re too bitter for you, try to combine it with medjool dates.
11 - Shredded coconut - also known as desiccated coconut, are dried coconut flakes. They have a very rich coco-nutty taste, low in sodium and cholesterol free. It’s also rich in fiber, but high in saturated fat - so moderation is best. Use flexibly in baking, smoothies, cereals or in energy balls.
Sunflower seeds - these seeds are great for your skin complexion. And fully packed with so many nutrients: copper, vitamin B complex, chromium, carotene, zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium, etc. I love them most for their ability to reduce PMS to almost 0%. Combine them generously with smoothies, cereals, in salads, as toppings.
13 - Maca powder - is actually a root plant and from the same family as ginger. It reduces blood pressure, improves mood, increases fertility and is especially great for women as it takes good care of your reproductive organs.
14 - Medjool Dates - have a creamy caramelized texture in comparison to the classic date. I absolutely consider them as nature’s healthy sugar - especially when you’re craving something sweet. They can be used in energy balls, in banana breads, in smoothies, cakes, or as toppings.
15 - Goji Berries - despite being quite rare and expensive are also very yummy. I like to call them tiny little bursts of joy. Also rich in antioxidants, all berries are full of antioxidants - which slow down our ageing process because they help to protect the cells from free radicals.
16 - Sesame seeds - are also very tiny in size. These miracle seeds aid so much in balancing your hormones!!! They are packed with vitamin B, a great source of fiber, help to reduce blood pressure and aid in blood cell formation. I use this in almost everything because it’s so easy to integrate. It reduces inflammation and improves your heart health.
17 - Ground almonds - is simply the whole almond seeds that have been grounded to form a meal. They are absolutely perfect for gluten-free baking because of their tender and moist texture. However ground almonds can also be used in pancakes, in smoothies, or cereals.
18 - Walnuts - look like tiny little brains, so yes, you guessed right - they’re so good for your brain. They have a special taste, but are great for maintaining a healthy gut, reducing your risk for diabetes, another source of Omega 3 and an aid to reduce inflammation. I like to take 3 pieces a day.
19 - Dried apricots - are rich in potassium, they help to keep the bones healthy, while encouraging cell growth, strengthening the immune system and taking care of your eye vision. As you can guess, they’re also naturally sweet!
20 - Raisins - this is a very common ingredient and though not very liked by many people I know, is great as a natural sweetener in comparison to white refined sugar. It is also full of fiber, aids digestion, boost your iron levels and energy levels. Apart from being used in baking, it can be used in energy balls, cereals or granola.
21. Moringa powder - is a popular ingredient which is brilliant for cleaning the liver. I use mostly when I want to do a detox. Just add 1 tsp per day to your smoothies for 14 days. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, you’ll want to avoid this for a while. They’re also loaded with vitamins, beta carotene, protein and iron.
22. Buckwheat grains - despite its name ‘wheat’ is in fact free of wheat. It’s a pseudo grain that is rich in protein and fiber. Since they are low in sugar, they help to regulate the blood. I love them in both homemade sweet and savoury granola for salads. Though they can be eaten raw, I recommend them best when cooked or roasted.
Wow! That’s a long list. And this is not even a complete list. You could probably find 30 more in stores e.g. açai powder, dried plums, mulberries, pecan nuts, hanf seeds, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, cacao nibs, quinoa, baobab, etc.
The best thing about super foods is that they come mostly in their natural state i.e. without undergoing any production processes - making them loaded with nutrients. Of course it’s impossible to have them all in your pantry, but I advise to start where you can. And most importantly to have an open taste bud because these darlings are good for you!