Tutorial Thursday #21 – superfoods

Super who? Super what? Superfoods!

For a few years now you constantly hear about foods like these:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Chlorella
  • Drumstick tree
  • etc.

But what is all of that exactly? Do I suffer from malnutrition if these ingredients are not on my shopping list, or is this just another trend for greenies and hippies? aerobis will put things right!

Tutorial Thursday 21  superfoods 1
Source: “An Indian Drumstick (cut)” by Aravind Sivaraj – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Super foods have their name because of their enormous nutrient density and because they have lots of positive properties.

Chia seeds

We’ll start off with chia seeds. This kind of seed comes from the flowering plant called Salvia hispanica (native to Mexico) and shows a high amount of mineral nutrients and micronutrients like calcium, zinc, and iron. It has many fibers and contains up to 20% protein. The most-commonly praised property, though, is the outstanding ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. This ratio should optimally be about 1:2 but in our modern life it has become completely unbalanced. You can find numbers of 1:25 or 1:30 in recent literature. Chia seeds can, under certain conditions, contribute to normalize this imbalance. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects while omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammations. So if there is an inappropriate balance it can lead to health issues. It is scientifically proven, however, that the high amount of fat in the seeds, as with all herbal foods, consists of alpha-linoleic acid. And the body can only convert 5% of this acid into the only digestible essential fatty acids EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). So the crop is pretty thin, but still not to be sneezed at because this conversion attracts enzyme activity which in turn leads to less building of inflammatory substances elsewhere. Additionally, they can spice up many meals and in a cereal and milk-less diet they can build the foundation for great desserts. That’s why chia seeds should be on your grocery list!

Tutorial Thursday 21  superfoods 2
By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Flax seeds

With flax seeds it is pretty similar. They have an equally high amount of fiber, minerals, and vitamins as chia seeds. The fatty acid profile and the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is even better. With up to 50% alpha-linoleic acid in the oil it is the food with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acid. You can consume flax seeds as a whole or grounded. You should, however, always let it soak in water or drink a lot of water after consumption because flax seeds absorb great amounts of water. Flax seeds are said to have a positive effect on the flora of the intestine. Flax seeds are great in fruit salads or pastries. We say: put them in your shopping cart!

Tutorial Thursday 21  superfoods 3
„Linum usitatissimum – Seeds“ by BastienM – Eigenes Werk. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution via Wikimedia Commons

Hemp seed

Hemp seeds are the seeds of the male hemp plant (cannabis sativa). The seeds are very oleaginous and thus rich in fat. They contain, just like chia seeds and flax seeds, many fibers and are rich in minerals like potassium, phosphor, magnesia, and calcium and in b-vitamins (e.g. thiamine) and vitamin E (tocopherol). With a ratio of 1:3 (omega-3 to omega-6) it is well within the range. Another advantage worth mentioning is the amino acid profile. Hemp protein contains all of the eight essential amino acids and is, thus, high grade. They are a great addition to self-made bread, trail mix, or in a fruit salad. If you have a high protein-demand you can resort to hemp protein with a clear conscience.

We have already talked about hemp protein <a href="https://www.aerobis.com/en/blog/tutorial-thursday-pflanzliche-vegetable-protein"in an earlier Tutorial Thursday and recommended it as an alternative to whey protein.

Tutorial Thursday 21  superfoods 4
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – “D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons”

Spirulina and chlorella

There are also some kinds of algae that can be used as a nutritional supplement. Two of those would be spirulina and chlorella. They belong to the blue algae that grow in very salty tropic waters. Spirulina contains up to 70% protein. In this protein, just like with hemp, there are all eight essential amino acids. Additionally, it contains β-carotene – a preliminary form of vitamin A – , B-vitamins, and vitamin E, as well as high concentrations of calcium, iron, and magnesia. Unfortunately, the effects on the amino acid balance can be neglected because of the very small intake amounts. However, don’t underestimate the effect on the micronutrient balance. You can buy the algae as a powder or in pill form but the taste very much needs getting used to. They are not a must but a great way to supplement with additional vitamins.

Tutorial Thursday 21  superfoods 5
“Spirulina tablets” by Original uploader was Perdita at the English Wikipedia – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Drumstick tree

Finally, there is drumstick tree, also known as horseradish tree. This flowering plant of the genus Moringa is mostly found in powder form. It is a very nutrient-rich food what shall be documented with this table:

substanceMoringaother foods
Vitamin A6,78 mgCarrot: 1,89 mg
Vitamin C220 mgOrange: 30 mg
Calcium440 mgCow milk: 120 mg
Potassium259 mgBanana: 88 mg
Protein6,7 mgCow milk: 3,2 g

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moringa_oleifera

In conclusion, superfoods can be a great addition to your, optimally, already well-balanced diet. They contain many nutrients, support your digestion, and spice up almost any meal. They really are super and can improve your physical performance in a natural way! But can they also save the world from evil? Well, that is a different story for another time…

Author: Fabien Mpouma

Fabien is bachelor of arts sportscience (DSHS) and since his studies he is working in the sector of health- and rehabilitation sports. He was course instructor for several institutions in the field of rehabilitation and mental and physical disease. He has a lot of experience in prevention with adults, youths, and children. He worked as regional manager for Outdoor Gym and now as a Personal Trainer and Foodcoach. Since 2014 he is Manager for Training & Education and Head Coach for aerobis. In 2016 he opened his own facility for Personal- and Grouptraining in his hometown Siegburg. Stay in contact with Fabien by sending him an email

Leave a Reply