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Sunday, December 22, 2013

9 Amazing Superfoods You Haven't Heard of Yet

Sacha Inchi

This exotic, Amazonian seed is an excellent source of fiber, and is the highest known source of plant-based omega-3's on earth. Ounce for ounce, it possesses over thirteen times the amount of omega-3s than Salmon, and eight times more tryptophan (the "feel good" amino acid turkey is well known to have). They're also an excellent source of antioxidants including iodine, and vitamins A and E.

Taste: Similar to peanuts, but a bit more savory. They're crunchy and very satisfying, and pair well with sweet or savory foods.

Available forms: In the US, they're available in roasted, whole seed form. Also available as an oil.

Use it in: Snacks, breakfasts, sides, soups, salads, entrées, dressings, desserts.

Sea Buckthorn

This small orange berry is grown in clusters on thorny bushes along the Atlantic coastlines and as well as the sandy coasts of Europe and Asia. It is known to enhance cardiovascular, digestive, and liver health, and has powerful anti-aging/skin rejuvenation effects. It is rich in vitamin C and an array of omega fats, including the rare omega-7.

Taste: Tart, sour, with citrus "zing". It pairs well with sweet foods as well as fatty, savory ones like avocado.

Available forms: Most commonly available as an oil for use on the skin. For consumption, sea buckthorn juice reigns supreme, and is easiest to incorporate into foods.

Use it in:Drinks, smoothies, salads, dressings, desserts. To maximize its benefits, avoid cooking/heating this fruit.

Spelt

This ancient grain is a cousin to wheat and is prized for its high protein and fiber content, as well as an excellent source of manganese, copper, and zinc.

Taste: Nutty, mildly sweet.

Available forms: In the US it's widely available in whole grain form (known as wheat berries), as flour, and more recently as pasta, with companies like ConAgra working with store brands to develop a nutritious, affordable variation on the usual pasta.

Use it in: Soups, sides, entrées (great traditional pasta substitute).

Yacon

Yacon is a South American-native tuber cultivated since 1200 BC. It has several medicinal uses, and is often used as a healthy sweetener for diabetics. It is high in inulin, a indigestible complex sugar that breaks down slowly and promotes probiotic activity for good digestion and colon health.

Taste: Fresh and dried Yacon possesses a light, apple-like flavor. In syrup form, it is light, sweet, and fruity.

Available forms: In the US, it is most readily available in the form of dried slices and syrup.

Use it in: Smoothies, snacks, oatmeal, desserts.

Sea Vegetables

Among the oldest superfoods on the planet, sea vegetables are only recently enjoying mainstream recognition in the US, thanks to the increasing popularity of eastern cuisine.This superfood is one of the top sources of vegetable protein and plant-based vitamin B-12. They are high in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, as well as vitamins A, D and E, and contain about ten to twenty times the micronutrients of land vegetables.

Taste: One of the very few vegetables to fall in the "umami" category of flavor, this superfood has a distinct savory, salty taste across all varieties. Some or more mild than others, and others are almost sweet.

Available forms: Usually available in dried form, look for dulse (great salt substitute), kelp, nori (increasingly popular as a seasoned snack alternative to chips), and wakame from certified clean water sources.

Use it in: Soups, snacks, salads, dressings, entrées.

Mulberries

This anti-aging superfood is high in resveratrol–an antioxidant known to fight free-radicals, reduce inflammation, protect against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and some forms of cancer.

Taste: Dried mulberries are nice and sweet, tasting like a raisin with vanilla notes. Fresh mulberries are sweet, but a bit bland.

Available forms: Comes in red or white, and are most widely available in sun-dried form, as fresh berries do not ship well.

Use it in: Breakfasts, smoothies, snacks, salads, desserts.

Maqui Berries

This berry (shown above in powder form), is a staple in the diets of the Mapuche Indians of Chile–some of the longest-living people in the world. This berry contains the highest known amount of antioxidants in any known fruit, and is known to have very strong concentrations of two antioxidants that repair and protect DNA. It also contains ant-inflammatory properties, and a healthy dose of vitamin C.

Taste: Mildly sweet, reminiscent of blueberries. It is also commonly used as a natural food dye.

Available forms: Maqui is not available fresh in the US, but it can be found in freeze-dried powder form.

Use it in: Breakfasts, smoothies, snacks, salads, desserts.

Maca Root

A root vegetable, Maca originates from the highlands of the Peruvian Andes. Its superfood power exists in its properties as a rare class of plant known as "adaptogens", which means upon consumption it can "adapt" to fight stresses in the body wherever needed. Maca provides a burst of energy, supports the adrenal glands, balances hormones, and promotes sexual health.

Taste: Earthy, nutty, slightly sweet.

Available forms: Raw or concentrated whole root powder is best for storage and use in recipes.

Use it in: Breakfasts, smoothies, soups, entrées, desserts.

Hemp Seeds

This superfood seed was among the very first crops planted in the American colony of Jamestown (Before the United States was a country!), and at one time a mandate required all farmers to grow it. Its composed of a well-balanced mix of omega-3s, is high in complete vegetable-based protein, fiber, and offers an impressive range of minerals including iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium.

Taste: Raw seeds are soft, rich, and pleasantly nutty, similar to sunflower seeds. Roasted seeds have a pronounced nutty flavor, similar to almonds. Hemp oil provides a rich, nutty flavor as well.

Available forms: Look for hemps seeds in raw and roasted forms, as well as hemp milk. All commonly available at health food stores. Hemp oil is also available, though it is not technically considered a superfood due to its low nutrient density–that said it's still one of the best oils for you.

Use it in: Breakfasts, smoothies, snacks, salads, dressings, soups, entrées, desserts.


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