Superfoods May Help Your 4th of July Hot Dog Hangover
In today’s blog, our Teacup Coach Maegan White explains the benefits of superfoods like chia seeds, quinoa and kale and the science behind why they’re super.
Superfoods have earned a name for themselves in recent years for being the best of the best, but what is a superfood?
“A superfood is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”
Let’s talk about the following superfoods: why they are good for you and how to incorporate them into your diet.
First up is the ancient grain quinoa. Quinoa has been around for thousands of years originating in South America. A wonderful attribute of quinoa – its gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.
Quinoa also contains amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Quinoa can be used in place of protein at meal time. “Quinoa is high in phosphorus and manganese which are both crucial in bone health”.
How do you incorporate quinoa into your diet? Use it in stir fry dishes in lieu of rice or in a breakfast scramble. When cooking quinoa, rinse thoroughly under running water first to remove the outer coating. This outer coating can cause quinoa to have a bitter taste when cooked. Quinoa is usually boiled in water or a broth stock and it absorbs the flavors it’s cooked in.
Cha Cha Cha Chia! Chia is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. Its seeds were a staple in the diet of the Aztec and Mayan people once upon a time. Today, chia seeds are making a comeback in the American diet so move over sunflower seeds!
Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. What, did you think omega-3 fats were just in fish? That’s so 2015! These delightful fats reduce inflammation in the body and protect your heart. Chia seeds are packed with antioxidants, that help remove toxins in your body. These seeds are also loaded with “fiber and minerals that promote a healthy GI tract, reduce cholesterol, and keep your teeth strong and healthy”.
Chia seeds can be found in the healthy-eating section of grocery stores or online at Amazon (as is everything). Soak the seeds in water, juices, or dairy products until they form a gelatinous mixture. Or sprinkle raw chia seeds onto vegetables, pudding, yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, or cold cereal for added crunch.
When your Mama told you to eat your veggies, likely you were faced with these tiny green trees known as broccoli! “This superfood is loaded with fiber for gut health, antioxidants that fight cancer and remove toxins, calcium for bone health, and vitamin C to aid in iron absorption.”
Broccoli is delicious raw or cooked. Toss a handful of broccoli into salads, dip it in hummus for a healthy snack, or add it in a stir fry. Shoot for cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) 2-3 times a week for optimal benefits and listen to your Mama!
Be like Popeye and eat your spinach! Spinach contains carotenoids which are found in plants and helps us absorb vitamins. Like broccoli, spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin which help the eyes, lungs, skin, breasts, heart, and immune system. Spinach is the total superfood option!
The daily recommended amount is 1 cup of spinach. That sounds simple to add to your diet, right? Eat spinach in a salad, add a handful to a smoothie, or sauté it with chickpeas and diced tomatoes for a delicious side dish. Spinach is almost flavorless, which makes it perfect for adding to any dish.
Have you ever wondered what the Little Mermaid eats? Well, this next superfood can be found under the sea. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is grown all over the world from Mexico to Africa to Hawaii; it has an intense flavor and powerful nutrition profile to boot.
Spirulina packs a healthy punch. “Spirulina contains 2800% more beta-carotene than carrots, 3900% more iron than spinach, and 280% more antioxidants than blueberries.”
Spirulina is available in powder or tablet form and can be purchased in most health food stores. Add it to smoothies or stir a small spoonful of powder into water or juice to drink it straight. If not for the health benefits, do it for the blue coloring.
This ancient plant dates to 1300 B.C. The edible part looks like tiny bean sprouts. It was used in traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurveda to treat ailments. “Its deep roots allow it to soak up tons of vitamins while it’s growing.”
Alfalfa is rich in antioxidants, that keep our cells healthy and our hair strong and shiny. Alfalfa can also relieve pesky constipation thanks to its fiber content.
Alfalfa comes dried, as a tea, and in capsule form. It can be found in most any grocery stores. Add alfalfa sprouts to wraps, burgers, and smoothies for a nutrient boost.
Barley is an ancient grain, originating in Ethiopia and southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years. Thanks to its whole grain fiber content, “barley can help with weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, improve blood pressure, reduce total cholesterol, and help reduce inflammation”. Barley is a do-it-all grain and with its selenium content, it is also a beauty product-helping our skin glow from the inside out.
You will find barley in bread, beer and sometimes soup, but barley can be can also be used in pancakes, cereals, and muffins.
Kale is king and has been around since the Middle Ages as part of the cabbage family. Kale contains a phytonutrient that fights cancer! This leafy green, like its superfood cousins, “provide the body with Vitamin A, C, K and beta-carotene”.
You may have tried kale salad, kale dip, and even kale ice cream, (wait that’s a thing?) but it’s time to step up your game when it comes to this superfood. Try it in an egg scramble, in a black bean burrito, or even in overnight oats. If you are more traditional, add kale to your soup or salads, sauté it with veggies, add it to a smoothie, or bake it in the oven with some salt and olive oil to create your own kale chips. One cup (C) of kale is considered a serving.
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant. It grows in temperate regions and can live indoors or outdoors. “Wheatgrass has antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties”.
Drinking wheatgrass can boost your metabolism and help with weight loss. It is low in fat and calories and is a potent source of fiber, which promotes satiety. This superfood also helps rid your body of toxins to boost your energy levels. Add wheatgrass shoots to your smoothie or juiced beverages.
What is spicy, lemony, sweet, and aromatic all at once? Ginger! This root dates back 2500 years ago to Asia and is similar to cardamom and turmeric. The compounds in ginger warms the stomach and is a tonic for the digestive system. Today, ginger is used to “treat pregnancy-induced nausea & vomiting, arthritis, motion sickness, and chemotherapy-induced nausea”.
“Germs, chemicals, and poor diet can cause inflammation” that harms your body. Ginger water, also known as ginger tea, is quite popular for boosting the immune system and relieving inflammation. Ginger may be eaten fresh, powdered, dried, in oil form, or as a juice. You may find ginger in gingerbread, ginger snaps, ginger ale, tea, or lozenges.
Probiotics: Bacillus Coagulans
2016 was the year where probiotics made their way into the mainstream instead of in secretive health circles. What are probiotics exactly?
Probiotics are living microbes that allow the “good bacteria” in your GI tract to remove toxins released by the “bad bacteria”. “The Bacillus Coagulans strain can reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics, encourage a healthy immune system”, and ensure that nutrients are absorbed and used correctly in the body.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha are excellent sources of probiotics. You can also find them in supplements or as probiotic water. I recommend taking a “shot” of kefir once or twice daily to improve gut health.
These superfoods may already be a part of your diet, if so, bravo! If you are not consuming these nutritional wonders, it’s okay, you can start today. Pick one or two to implement into your diet this week. As you adjust to these foods, add one or two more until your diet is superfood-rich! Stay tuned for more superfood recipes and articles.
Maegan White is a coach with Teacup Wellness. Maegan holds a Master of Arts degree in nutrition. She has worked as a clinical dietitian in a hospital and is president of her local dietetic chapter. Her areas of focus are weight loss and disease management through nutrition and meal planning.
Photo used with permission from 123rf.com