Super who? Super what? Superfoods!
For a few years now you constantly hear about foods like these:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Drumstick tree
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!
Super foods have their name because of their enormous nutrient density and because they have lots of positive properties.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
|Vitamin A||6,78 mg||Carrot: 1,89 mg|
|Vitamin C||220 mg||Orange: 30 mg|
|Calcium||440 mg||Cow milk: 120 mg|
|Potassium||259 mg||Banana: 88 mg|
|Protein||6,7 mg||Cow milk: 3,2 g|
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…