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Your Super-Fast Guide to Superfoods

Guest blog by Lauren McLaughlin, TGS Brand Manager.

What the heck is a Superfood?

We all know that superfoods are super good for us and we should be eating them a super lot. And that’s all fine and dandy. But most of us have no idea what differentiates superfoods from the rest.

Superfood Mason Jar

 As a fun little experiment, I asked 10 different people if they could define what “superfoods” are. The results? Less than conclusive.

Everyone knows superfoods are good for them, but no one knows why or how. Most people struggled to name more than one superfood and can’t identify any tangible benefits these foods might provide them.

To put this debate to rest, you should know that there is no scientific definition of the word “superfood”. On a general basis, they are foods - usually plant-based, but can also include fish or dairy - that are extra jam-packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. But what is scientifically proven is that superfoods can boost your immune system, make you feel more energetic, and help you manage your weight goals.

So where did this term come from if not from the good scientists, nutritionists and dieticians that we depend on for dietary information?

The Ancient Origins of Superfoods

North Americans were the first to introduce the term “superfood”, just 13 years ago in the 2003 bestseller, Superfoods Rx. Throughout this book, Steven Pratt highlights 14 superfoods, including blueberries, salmon, oats and soy, that are dramatically better for our health and longevity.

The real game changer occurred 5 years later, when Dr. Oz made an appearance on Oprah and introduced us to a new superfood - the acai (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”).

And that was when North America fell in love with superfoods. Quinoa. Kale. Acai.

In the past decade, the demand for quinoa has skyrocketed to the point that it is now rivalling cocaine as Bolivia’s number one export. Not to mention that 2013 was named the “International Year of Quinoa”. According to myfitnesspal, a calorie-counting app, the consumption of kale increased 710% between 2011 and 2014.  And the number google search for the term “superfoods” has more than tripled since 2013.

"Superfood" Trend Report

Superfoods Trends

Google Trend Report. Interest over time. Web Search. Worldwide, 2004 - present.

The Good Stuff’s Top 5 Favourite Superfoods

That’s awesome. Now I know what a superfood is, but how do I incorporate them into by diet? Well if we were going to give you our opinion, we would say smoothies, smoothies and finally, smoothies. But we understand that not everyone wants to consume 100% of their meals blended.

So we’ve compiled a stellar list of The Good Stuff’ favourite superfoods. These are the superfoods we’ve chosen to incorporate into our smoothies, and we’ve drilled down exactly what benefits you’ll get from them.

 1. Kale

Kale

Everyone knows the greener, the better. And it doesn’t get much greener than kale.

Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with 684% of the RDA for Vitamin K, 206% for Vitamin A, and 134% for Vitamin C.

So it’s got a lot of vitamins. But let’s explain it further. RDA is the Recommended Dietary Allowance, meaning it is the daily intake of nutrients required for an individual. In a nutshell, eating one cup of kale is sufficient for your Vitamin K intake for the next 6 days. And that is stellar for our bodies because Vitamin K is essential for preventing heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. So just think, K is for Kale.

More on vitamins: Gram for gram, kale has twice the Vitamin C of an orange and more calcium than a glass of milk.

Keep in mind it’s important to consume kale cooked just as much as uncooked. Don’t get too hooked on your kale smoothies because the process of steaming kale frees some nutrients, like magnesium that you can’t access otherwise.

 2. Goji Berries

Goji Salad

Goji Berry Salsa by GoJoy

We can’t say enough good stuff about goji berries. They have the highest concentration of protein in any fruit. They have 15 times the amount of iron that spinach does - and iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. And they remain very low in calories, meaning you are still getting all your nutrients while keeping an eye on the scale.

There’s more.

These little guys are the most versatile of all the superfoods on this list. We like to use the fresh berries and blend them straight into our smoothies, BUT you can also top your smoothie bowl with the dried fruit or you can even buy the powder for easy storage and easy blendin’. Don’t be shy. Feel free to throw the dried fruit on top of your salads or into your trail mix as well.

And of course, these tiny berries have an even smaller environmental footprint because they are grown right here in Aldergrove, BC!

 3. Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

In my opinion, Swiss chard is one of the most undervalued leafy green vegetables. With all the hype around kale and spinach these days, there just isn’t enough room for Swiss chard to compete.

But let’s cut to the chase. One cup of Swiss chard will give you 636% of your Vitamin K, 60% of your Vitamin A, and 42% of your Vitamin C. Not only that, but Swiss chard’s bright rainbow of colours are way more exciting to cook with (and make smoothies with) than spinach’s plain old green.

So if you’re not looking to hop on the kale bandwagon, Swiss chard is a top-notch alternative. You get the same vitamins and antioxidants as with kale, without having to break down and join the crowds of kale fanatics.

 4. Turmeric

Turmeric

Golden Mylk by Westender. See full recipe here.

Turmeric is what gives curry and mustard their bright yellow colour. So why on earth would you want to mix that in your smoothies? Well, turmeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory (painkiller) compounds in the world. Event stronger than compounds found in aspirin.

And inflammation sucks. Especially for athletes. It’s what makes us feel sore, tired, and weak the day after a huge workout.

But what’s more important, our bodies can only properly absorb turmeric when it’s paired with black pepper. And that is exactly what we’ve done in our Wise Ninja and Kitsilano Sunrise smoothies. Seems odd, but it’s the reaction between these two spices that makes turmeric’s health benefits readily available for our bodies to ingest.

 5. Hemp hearts

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Pro70 Smoothie by Manitoba Harvest. See full recipe here.

Hemp hearts are nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, and vegan. No wonder they’re blowing up in Vancouver.

So if hemp hearts don’t have any of those things in them, what do they have? Hemp hearts are your one-stop shop for plant-based protein. They’re the inside of a shelled hemp seed, built up of 30% protein, 30% omega fats, and 7% fiber.

Fun fact: “Hemp is a variety of cannabis plant, but the only high it will give you is a nutritional one”. (Time, 2014)

And there are endless ways you can incorporate them into your diet - sprinkle them on top your smoothies, cereal, yogurt and salads or even blend them straight into your smoothies (that’s what we like to do). 

Can you think of any other superfoods we should be incorporating into our smoothies? Drop a comment below.

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