Forget Batman vs Superman. The real question is “Açaí vs Kefir: which one packs the most punch?” If your immediate response is “Who?!” then you obviously haven’t met some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. (Yeah, sorry. Açaí and Kefir are not the sexy, muscled hunks you had visions of).
What they are, is something called “Superfoods.” While there is no definition of what exactly a superfood is, it is generally agreed that foods which fall into this category are nutrient powerhouses with very large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals – all nutrients we need to fight diseases, be more energetic, live longer and even (drum roll, please)… lose weight!
Research has shown that superfoods help reduce the risk of chronic disease and people who eat them are healthier and thinner than those who don’t. Fortunately, some of them – like tomatoes and blueberries –form part of the daily diet for most of us. However, in order to get the most benefit from superfoods, we need to make a conscious effort to incorporate more quantities and a wider variety of them into our diets, including those below:
Pronounced ah-SAH-ee, açaí is a Brazilian berry with extremely high levels of antioxidants, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omegas 3,6 and 9, which lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The berry is known to promote healthier and younger-looking skin, boost energy levels and improve digestion. And if that’s not impressive enough, consider this: a University of Florida study showed that extracts from the acai berry destroy cancer cells. In the study, six different chemical extracts were made from acai fruit pulp, and four of the extracts were shown to kill significant numbers of leukemia cells when applied for 24 hours. That’s superpower right there.
You’ve likely heard of and even eaten goji berries. What you may not know is that the goji berry is one of very few fruits that actually contain proteins. Which makes the berry a great addition to your diet, because unlike animal proteins, the protein you will get from goji berry is undisturbed and unaltered, since you can eat it raw.
Goji berries are low in calories, fat-free and are packed with fibre – making them excellent for digestive health and for weight management and weight loss.
Kefir is a cultured milk product that is packed with probiotics – healthy bacteria which assist with digestive health generally. Made by adding grains to partially skimmed cow’s milk and allowing it to ferment for 24 hours, kefir contains live bacteria and yeast that have major health benefits. During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast lower the milk’s pH balance, change its texture and composition and give it a sparkling yet tangy flavor.
175 milliliters of kefir is enough to provide you with 20 percent of your daily calcium requirement, as well as vitamin K2, which helps you metabolize calcium. Not only is this important for improving bone health, it helps reduce the risk of fractures and slows the progression of osteoporosis.
Cocoa contains flavonoids, which are known to help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. It is made up of complex molecules which are potent antidepressant compounds. One of the compounds, called polyphenols, is believed to be responsible for the cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits of chocolate. Another compound in cocoa, Phenylethylamine (PEA) produces the same brain chemistry as falling in love. No wonder we swoon when we see chocolate! With fewer than 15 calories per tablespoon and almost no fat, cocoa powder is an easy way to increase your superfoods intake.
However, be careful when buying. Stay away from cocoa powder with labels that include Dutch or alkalized cocoa. These two terms mean that the powder has been processed, and up to 90 percent of the antioxidants have been lost in the process. Always buy raw or nonalkalized versions.
They do not look particularly appetizing, but seaweeds are serious superfoods packed with omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, iodine, and zinc, all of which are good for the bones and other vital organs. Omega 3s are beneficial for heart health, of course, and may help prevent heart attack and stroke. Nori is the most popularly eaten seaweed as it is used in sushi. However, there are others like dulse, arame, hijiki, wakame. A good way to spice up your meals is to try some of these.
If you don’t like fish but need your omega 3s, chia is your go-to superfood. It is a Mexican seed rich in nutrients and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and calcium. Although there hasn’t been much research carried out on the benefits of chia, anecdotal evidence suggests that it helps boost energy and lower cholesterol. Chia is full of fiber, which aids digestion, and it also helps stabilize blood sugar, making it potentially beneficial for diabetics.
There are many more superfoods of course, but these are great ones to start with. They are highly beneficial and your body and health will thank you for incorporating them into your diet.