Choosing high quality foods over quantity
// Adélie Houle-Lachance

Açai berries are known as a powerful antioxidant and a fruit that is rich in omega fats, protein, and vitamin C. While they are currently a booming fad, this berry can actually be categorized as a superfood. Superfoods have been around long before the popularity of the Açai berry. As people become more and more concerned with the quality of the food they are consuming, a window of opportunity arises for the superfood.

Superfoods are simply foods that have an augmented concentration of a wide array of nutrients, often providing full spectrums of vitamins or proteins, as opposed to foods that are high in a single type of nutrient, such as potatoes, which are primarily starch based.

In an age where food production has been rising, and continues to rise, exponentially, one might begin to pose questions about the sources and quality of the food they are ingesting. Environmental factors such as pollution and toxic chemical fertilizers should be taken into consideration, which, combined with genetic modifications and other alterations, have made the nutritional quality of our food into a questionable topic. Strains of even simple vegetables have become so genetically altered that food which could have sustained us years ago now needs to be supplemented with other sources of necessary nutrients in order to maintain a healthy, balanced life-style.

“History has shown repeatedly that the less you eat, the longer you live,” explains Yossi Rouch, a student of nutrition with a special interest in raw food diets and superfoods. He explains that by eating fewer nutrient-filled foods, the body “doesn't spend as much time filtering food” in order to obtain the nutrients in it. This leads to higher energy levels, increased concentration, better sleep, and an overall feeling of wellness, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

“It's like putting high octane fuel into your tank: [if you do] the engine will be more efficient and will run much smoother,” says Rouch

Many are seeking alternative diets, such as vegetarianism (not eating animal meat), veganism (not eating animal bio-products), and raw-food diets (only eating uncooked food). In any diet, however, one must be diligent to ensure they are not missing any spectrum of important proteins, vitamins and nutrients.

Unfortunately, this is often the case, as every body is unique: we each have our own physiology and cannot possibly live healthily under one common diet. We must therefore strive to understand our own make-up, and the type of food that consequentially allows for our bodies to be at their peak performance. Not doing so often creates deficiencies. That being said, this issue can be easily resolved with time to dedicate to research, and finding the appropriate supplements. Of this, superfoods are great examples.

Maca Root
Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon

Maca is a root and is considered a vegetable. It is shaped like a radish, and grows in four varying colours, high up in the mountainous soil of the Andes in Bolivia and Peru. Maca has been harvested by Peruvians since the mid-15th century, when it was consumed as a staple food. The root itself can be eaten cooked or raw. After being imported from the remote mountain villages where it grows, it is found here in Canada in powder or gelatinous-pill form.

Maca is made up of significant amounts of amino acids, essential minerals, vitamins, and 60 different phytonutrients (nutrients from plants). It is an adaptogen, which means that, when consumed, it helps the body defend itself against illness by supporting the endocrine gland. The endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones necessary for essential bodily functions.

Maca is, therefore, extremely beneficial for fertility, sexual functions, and libido-related activities; digestion; energy levels; and to your brain and nervous system. It induces elevated mood, increases sex drive and general stamina, allows for better concentration, strengthens the immune system, and is hormone-balancing.

Maca powder can be easily blended into a smoothie, added to salad dressings, or sprinkled onto any food. It has an earthy, chalky taste, and is thus tastier when mixed with other flavourful foods.

Theobroma cacao

The above Latin name is that of an evergreen tree which grows in South America, one that produces seeds known as cacao. Going back as far as 1500 BC, the Olmec Indians of Mexico used cacao to make chocolate, and grew the beans as a crop. The Mayans and Aztecs were also known to use cacao beans as currency. When dried, cacao beans can be crushed and powdered to make chocolate and any cocoa-based good, or eaten raw as a whole bean.

Though it is not technically a superfood, cacao is a powerful antioxidant, and of these it actually contains the highest concentration than any other food. Cacao also contains alkaloids and phytochemicals (chemicals from plants), one of which is Anandamine, an endorphin naturally produced by the body after exercising. Anandamine in plants is only found in cacao.

Raw cacao, as well as high cacao-concentrated dark chocolate, therefore leads to a healthier cardiovascular system, prevents osteoporosis and cancer, improves mental alertness, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

E3 Live
Aphanizomenon flos-aquae

E3 Live is a freshwater algae that has been wild-harvested from a lake in Portland, Oregon, USA. It is an organic, non-genetically modified, 100% Aphanizomenon flos-aquae blue-green algae. It contains 65 different vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and has more active chlorophyll than any other food. It is immensely nutrient concentrated, and some variations of the processed product have twice the concentration of nutrients. It is found in powdery-crystal form, which must be stored frozen until use, or in liquid form, which also requires refrigeration.

E3 Live is known to increase stamina and endurance, lift and balance mood, reduce stress, increase mental focus/concentration, balance blood-sugar levels, boost the immune system, restore overall biochemical balance, and help to grow healthy nails and hair.

What makes E3 Live unique amongst blue-green and/or other algae powders is that the plant is in fact alive, as opposed to being freeze-dried.

Goji berries
Lycium barbarum

Also known as wolfberries, these berries are small fruits similar to a cranberry and are related to tomatoes. They grow from trees in north-central and western China. Plantations can be found in the northern Chinese mountains, valleys and plateaus. In traditional Chinese medicine, Goji berries are referred to as the “longevity fruit”.

Not only are Goji berries rich in antioxidants, but they also contain 18 amino acids, 21 trace minerals including zinc, iron, and calcium, a wide array of B-vitamins, and vitamin C. They are also an excellent source of fatty acids, dietary fibres, and carotenoids, which are necessary for clear vision.

Goji berries additionally aid digestion and are great for improving bowel regularity, enhancing the immune system, strengthening the heart and liver, lessening fatigue, regulating blood-sugar, keeping skin looking young, and supporting brain health.

They are eaten dried or slightly dehydrated, a handful a day being a good amount, and are easily added to salads and granola, or eaten plain.

Garcinia mangostana

Mangosteens are fruits that grow throughout Southeast Asia, Central America, India and Australia. They are small, no bigger than a tangerine, and have a purple-coloured shell. Mangosteen fruit has been used as part of traditional medicine in Southeast Asia for centuries, as well as the leaves, stem, bark, and roots of the tree that the fruit grows from.

Mangosteens contain 40 of the 200 known xanthones, which are powerful antioxidants and immune-system boosters. They are a source of vitamin B1, B2, B6 and C, and contain important minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium. They are also high in phytonutrients such as catechins, polysaccharides, quinones, stilbenes, and polyphenols, many of which are great sources of antioxidants.

As well as boosting the immune system, which assists in the prevention of allergic reactions and diseases, mangosteen fruit helps treat inflammation, lower fever, stabilize blood sugar, relieve fungal infections, and lessen depression and anxiety.

Mangosteen is most commonly found in liquid form, either in juice, concentrated syrup, or blended with other juices and/or oils. It is an excellent addition to smoothies.

Mangosteens, or any other blood-sugar regulating superfood, are a great way of controlling cravings. Cravings are a vicious cycle, one that also happens to be easily remedied.

Cravings and holistic health

To begin, foods that contain high amounts of calories, sugar, and starch not only have little nutritional value, but they also trigger reactions in our blood sugar. These translate to uncontrollable cravings, and they are caused by bursts of insulin, which comes from climbs and crashes of blood sugar levels due to high starch or sugar content in food. So, eating less starchy and sugary foods means fewer cravings.

When it comes to overall health, there are a few easy tricks to keep in mind. Having a general understanding of how our body works is beneficial, especially when it comes to feeding it what it needs, when it needs it. For example, a common sign of dehydration is craving sugar or salt. When we are thirsty, we are also low in electrolytes, and as many of us have glucose addictions, the body will translate its need for water in a sudden craving for something completely different.

Overall, it is important to be consuming fewer organic foods that are rich in full proteins and whole nutrients rather than eating larger amounts of poor, processed foods. Grains like quinoa, fruits like coconuts, veggies like kale, and legumes like red lentils are a good place to start.

It is important to remember that superfoods are not a replacements for substantial foods, but are simply supplements that often make great snacks. However, they must remain an addition to an already balanced, healthy diet.

//Adélie Houle-Lachance
Features Editor

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