Superfood Siobhan

Healthy Plant Based recipes that make you look and feel great

My Top 7 Superfoods and Why I Love Them

By Monday, November 11, 2013 ,

If you looked into my cupboard in the kitchen you'd see a lot of packets and jars of various superfoods. It's safe to say I have a bit of a superfood obsession, I even take them on holiday with me! I just can't eat a plain bowl of oatmeal. I'm often asked "Why do you use ____ superfood?" and I reply "Because I like them and they taste good!" and that's true, but as well as that, I also use superfoods as a way to supplement a healthy and balanced plant based diet and ensure all my nutritional needs are met. It's sometimes difficult to get all the nutrients you need from food alone, and rather than take vitamin tablets, I choose the natural route and consume superfoods.

So what is a superfood? Superfoods are plant based foods which contain antioxidants, vitamin and minerals in a super concentrated form. Superfoods don't replace the ordinary foods in your diet, instead they act as a natural supplement, allowing you to consume vast quantities of essential nutrients without needing to eat immense quantities of food.

As with any new medications or supplement introduce superfoods slowly in your diet, and if you have any problems with them, stop taking them at once. They're fairly potent, so don't overdo any of them!

Maca Powder

Maca powder comes from the ground up Maca root, and it's indigenous to South America, in the mountains of countries such as Peru. For hundreds of years it has been used by the native Peruvians as a food source due to it be rich in a wide variety of essential nutrients. It also has a delicious malty flavour that works great in oatmeal, green smoothies or desserts. Maca powder is rich in vitamin B1, B2, C, and E, and it is also high in calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. It's around 10% protein and it also contains essential fatty acids which are vital for optimum brain function.

It hasn't been formally tested, but Maca is also known to be helpful in treating and managing depression, anxiety, mood swings, menopause, migraines and fertility, due to it managing hormone levels, such as estrogen and pro estrogen. However, this also means that too much maca can be over stimulating and cause insomnia, so start off with 1/2 tsp and work your way up to a maximum of 1 tbsp a day. It's not necessary to consume maca daily to reap the benefits, so you can take it on alternate days to ensure you don't throw your hormones out of balance.

Maca is also great for boosting energy levels, so it fights fatigue and makes a true endurance food for athletes and those living busy lifestyles, with it promoting stamina and optimum mental function, too. 

Add maca powder to breakfasts, such as oatmeal, overnight oats or smoothies or add to your favourite raw desserts.

Cacao Powder

Cacao powder is the pure version of cocoa. It's the sort of chocolate we should be all be consuming, as it's the pure, unadulterated version with all of the iron and antioxidants we all hear about being so great for us, but without the sugar, dairy, processing, heat damage and additives that destroy the nutritional value.

Cacao comes from Theobroma Cacao beans, which literally means the "Food of the Gods" and is rich in various minerals, including copper, manganese, chromium and zinc as well as essential fats and carbohydrates. Cacao also contains 20% of the RDA of iron per ounce serving, contains large amounts of magnesium which helps to build strong bones, is important for heart health, and muscle function and is also a muscle relaxant so it helps with feelings of calmness. Cacao also contains sulfur which helps to form strong nails and hair.

Cacao is also high in antioxidants, far more than foods such as green tea, black tea, red wine or blueberries. In fact it has 4 times the level of antioxidants than green tea and has 600 antioxidants in comparison to blueberries which have 40. Great for colds and flus, cacao also contains high levels of vitamin C for immune functioning and protecting against illnesses. Cacao also promotes cardiovascular health such as lowering LDL cholesterol, protects from environmental toxins and may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Raw Cacao is high in numerous neurotransmitters, and promotes a positive and happy outlook on life due to increasing levels of Serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS systems, and promotes a sense of well-being, Endorphins which produce a feeling known as a 'runner's high', Phenylethylamine that elevates mood and acts as an anti-depressant, and helps increase focus and alertness and Anandamide which promotes relaxation, and helps us feel good longer.

Use cacao in smoothies, raw desserts, baking, oatmeal or to make raw chocolate sauces, and the cacao nibs in place of chocolate chips

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are another amazing plant which is native to regions of Central America and Mexico. It's related to the mint plant and can be found in white or black form. They've been used for hundreds of years as a staple of a healthy diet for Mayans and Aztecs and are known as the 'running food'. They are fantastic for athletes due to their energy density and also bulk up vegan dishes.

High in protein, fibre and amino acids, antioxidants and minerals, chia seeds are a wealth of plant based nutrition, with the fibre promoting satiety, the amimo acids promoting a healthy weight, improved mood and improved sleep, and the other minerals being great for overall health.They're also high in Omega 3 fatty acids, with 60% of the lipids being omega 3's, which are known to reduce high cholesterol, reduce inflammation and promote brain function. The soaked seeds also reduce blood sugar spikes, so they are considered a potential treatment for conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Soak chia seeds in liquid to make a chia pudding, for a perfect snack, dessert or breakfast. You can also sprinkle chia seeds on salads, curries, soups, desserts or oatmeal for added nutrition, or use as a vegan egg replacer.

Hemp Hearts (Shelled Hemp Seeds)

Despite the name, hemp hearts aren't actually made from the infamous marajuana we all know, instead, they come from a legal variety of the cannabis plant, and consuming them will produce no drug-like effect. 

However, hemp hearts do have a number of real health benefits, due to hemp being incredibly high in protein, with 33% pure digestible and complete protein, high levels of omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, and all 10 essential amino acids. This means that hemp hearts make a great food for vegetarians and vegans in order to get nutrients that would otherwise come from animal products, in order to ensure healthy hair, skin and nails, without resorting to soy. These nutrients also promote a healthy immune system and optimal heart function, as well as preventing disease and diabetes, and the omega 6 fatty acid GLA, which is also found in spirulina, is known to help regulate hormonal conditions and help with immune function.

Hemp hearts also contain high levels of many trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium and copper and vitamins D and E, meaning it is a fantastic way to supplement your diet with extra nutrients that you cannot get from food alone. It is known to be effective in treating conditions such as eczema and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Crohn's disease and bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis.

You can use hemp in nut milk form for your breakfast, in a protein powder form as a supplement after workouts, or as seeds, sprinkled on salads, desserts, soups, curries, and breakfasts. 

Goji Berries

These little red berries pack a real punch nutrition wise. They're one of the most nutritionally dense berries on earth, having been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5000 years, and are typically found in Asia and South America.

They are a complete source of protein, containing all 8 essential amino acids, as well as 10 other amino acids, which is more than any other fruit on earth. They are also loaded with vitamin C, contain more carotenoids than any other food and have 4 times the antioxidant level of blueberries. Not only that, but these little berries also contain vitamins B2, B6 and E, calcium, zinc and 16 times the iron level of spinach. 

These little berries also have natural anti inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties that boost the immune system, and high levels of antioxidants that increase the alkalinity of your body, improve eyesight and promote healthy skin. Not only that, goji berries also cleanse the blood and support optimal organ function, assisting with heart health and promoting good circulation, and were used in ancient Chinese medicine to assist with managing and preventing diabetes, high blood pressure and fever.

These berries are great added into all food, sweet or savoury, or sprinkled on top of salads, oatmeal, smoothies and desserts.

White Mulberries

These deliciously sweet and crunchy dried berries are a true addiction of mine, plus they're bursting with nutrients too. Native to Asia, white mulberries are rich in antioxidants which prevent free radicals, such as resveratrol, which is also found in red wine and promotes longevity, heart health and overall vitality. This potent phytonutrient has also been linked to helping with slowing the growth prostrate cells and tumours.

Like other berries, white mulberries are high in vitamin C, but they also contain large quantities of iron, calcium Vitamin A, E and K, Folate, thiamine, Pyridoxine, Niacin and dietary fibre and have unusually high levels of protein for a berry. Mulberries are also rich in polynutrients like flavonoids, lutein, B carotene and A carotene, and are thought to be beneficial for cardiovascular health problems due to improving blood circulation and reducing the risk of blood clots and strokes due to lowering blood pressure.

Add white mulberries as a topping for oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, desserts or snacks for a crunch and burst of extra nutrients.

Coconut Products- Coconut oil, Coconut Water, Desiccated Coconut, Coconut Milk/Cream

This is quite possibly my favourite superfood ever. Coconut is the most versatile and incredible food and there are so many forms in which you can enjoy its goodness.

Coconut oil is an oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts, and has a amazing coconutty taste. It's a solid at room temperature, but when exposed to heat it melts like any other oil. There's a lot of speculation about whether the saturated fats in coconut are 'bad' for you, but in my opinion, saturated fats from plant based sources are a great addition to a healthy diet, and whilst I am undecided on trends such as consuming coconut oil by the spoonful, in moderation, I believe that it's very beneficial and makes a great replacement to other oils. 

Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids which in moderation are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, increase circulation, heal viruses such as influenza and manage cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is also known to assist with increasing metabolic rate, and is thought to help with managing a healthy weight and provide more energy to the brain for optimum mental clarity and physical muscle function. Coconut oil is also an antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral product due to lauric acid, so it's wonderful for those with conditions such as IBS, as it also strengthens the intestines and helps to ease reflux. It boosts overall immune system function and also reduces joint and muscle inflammation, so it's great for athletes too. 

I use coconut oil in all my cooking and baking as it is heat stable, unlike oils such as olive oil. This means that it is suitable for cooking at high temperatures without the risk of it denaturing and going rancid, and creating dangerous free radicals. Coconut oil is also essential for creating raw desserts, due to being a solid at room temperature. Not only that, it also makes a great hair mask or facial moisturiser. For healthy hair I definitely recommend argan oil or coconut oil as a deep conditioning treatment. Smooth it into your hair, plait it and sleep with it in overnight, and when you wash your hair in the morning it’ll be a lot softer, more manageable and it'll smell beautiful. Coconut oil is also beneficial for conditions such as eczema and makes a great moisturiser for very dry and sensitive skin.

Coconut water is the liquid extracted from young coconuts, and it's a true superfood in my opinion as it's so nutritionally rich. I use coconut water as a post workout drink as it's a powerful natural isotonic that fights dehydration quickly by replacing fluids, electrolytes and minerals lost from sweating. Not only that, it's also sugar free, boosts energy and endurance and helps to repair damaged muscle tissue so it's the perfect natural alternative to a regular sports drink. It's also antibacterial so it's useful in treating tooth decay and digestive issues, as well and colds and flus.

Desiccated coconut is just the dried flesh of coconuts, so it contains all of the benefits of coconut oil, but with the addition of carbohydrates, proteins and fibre. It's perfect sprinkled on top of oatmeal, smoothies, desserts or pancakes, or place a packet in the food processor to make your own coconut butter!

Coconut milk/cream adds a gorgeous depth and creaminess to curries and soups, without the need for dairy products. It's also wonderful in vegan desserts and baking, and contains all of the fantastic health benefits of coconut oil, but in a creamier and more easily consumed form.

These superfoods are all nutrient packed additions to a healthy and balanced plant based diet and should be consumed in moderation. Other superfoods which you can eat in greater quantities as a part of meals and alongside your fruit and vegetables include raw nuts and seeds, avocados, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, millet, tahini, hummus and tempeh. 

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  1. thank you. you are really awesome source of information and inspiration!

    keep on doing this))

    1. Thank you! I'm really glad to hear it :)

  2. I have a few questions if that's okay!
    Are chia seeds s healthy thrown into oatmeal while it cooks, or should they be soaked overnight first to reap the health benefits?
    Do goji berries come fresh? I've only ever seen them dried.
    And what is the most simple easy way to eat cacao powder? I don't have time or equipment to make raw desserts, can it be drank as a hot chocolate?

    1. The benefits are the same either way, as long as you give them enough time to swell up. You could make a chia gel and store it in the fridge and just add a few tbsps of that when you cook your oatmeal, to save having to cook your oats for 15 minutes whilst waiting for the chia seeds to soak up enough liquid.

      I've never seen fresh goji berries either, perhaps in Asia?

      And I suppose you could make a hot chocolate with it, but it's incredibly bitter and you would need an awful lot of sweetener. Why not add some to your oatmeal?

  3. Hi! Just a quick question, is this product cocao nibs? I think I got confused when buying it :(

    1. Hey! Cacao nibs are the same thing, they're just in whole nibs, kinda like chocolate chips, rather than ground up into a powder :)

  4. Hey! Thankyou so much for this! I was just looking on amazon and came across something called Chlorella.. and spirulina powder? I was wondering what your thoughts on them were, if you've had them before etc? :)

    1. I don't really have much of an opinion on either of them, to be honest! I'm sure they have a lot of health benefits, Spirulina especially is incredibly good for you and is amazing for vegan protein, but I don't use them :)

    2. Okay, I was just wondering, thankyou :)

  5. Hi Siobhan, I stumbled across your blog this afternoon looking for a recipe, ive just made your saag aloo, and have been hooked reading everything else you've been writing about! your so informative and its great to be able to find out about things i've had no knowledge of before, so thank you and please keep up the great work!

    1. Hi there, I'm glad to hear you like my blog- thanks so much! :)

  6. You said in moderation so how often do you recommend having the super foods. Ps I absolutely love your blog. <3

    1. You can have them daily if you wish, moderation just means not eating the entire container/packet at once :)

  7. Hey Siobhan! First, thank you so much for being such a great inspiration, your recipes are amazing and I've already tried a couple of them, I'm a huge fan! I was just wondering though, were do you buy your mulberries from? I can't seem to be able to find them anywhere - sold out most of the time, although I've found some on eBay recently. Can you recommend a brand and a place to buy them from, please? Thank youuuuu :)

    1. Hello! They're not really sold anywhere so I buy mine in bulk on Amazon from whoever is cheapest at the time!

    2. Aw okay that makes sense, thank you :D

  8. Very informative! Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and advice! Much appreciated :)

  9. Hey Siobhan!:-)
    Since many of the superfoods are high in calories, is it okay to eat them even if you don't exercise that often? I get that they're nutritious and benefit your body any way, I was just wondering if it might be a problem since they add a lot to my daily calorie intake. Thanks!:)

  10. Chia seeds are one of my absolute favourites superfoods. Great article.