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Unhyped, But Noteworthy, Superfoods

Posted on by Evergreen Nutrition
Image Unhyped, But Noteworthy, Superfoods

The term "superfood" brings to mind kale, chia, blueberries, and other fads promoted by popular household-name doctors and your local Whole Foods store. There is no strict definition of a superfood, however. Naturally it makes sense that the food in question be nutrient-dense, presumably containing antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. For the record, there are plenty of other vegetables equally or even more nutritious than the overhyped kale! In this newsletter we will look at some of the popular contenders for the name of superfood, as well as some lesser-known ones which we believe deserve the term.

Bee Pollen

Without a doubt this substance is truly a superfood. When ancient Greek myths spoke of "ambrosia of the gods," this was probably the substance referred to. Not a true bee-manufactured product like honey or royal jelly, bee pollen is simply the flower pollen collected by bees and brought to the hive. Since pollen is the plants' reproductive essence, it is incredibly potent, concentrated nutrition, containing the primal life-force of the plants from which it is gathered. Pollen contains nearly every vitamin and mineral needed to sustain life, but it is the vast range of phytochemicals and other substances present which contributes to its power. It is one of the richest sources of the bioflavonoid rutin in existence, which strengthens blood vessels to prevent cardiovascular issues and stroke. Very high in lecithin, pollen may help with memory, maintaining healthy cholesterol ratios, and male fertility. Extraordinarily rich in nucleic acids (RNA/DNA), pollen may help with healthy aging and repair of tissues as well as protein synthesis. Amino acids in their free-form state are very high and easily assimilated. Athletes will appreciate the quick and sustained energy received from the high levels of B-complex vitamins. Pollen also contains hormone-like substances, antibiotic substances, and a treasure-trove of enzymes, all of which have a beneficial action on the body.

Barley Grass

Not as flashy as its relative, wheat grass, barley grass flies under the radar and deserves more attention. Everything wheat grass does, barley grass can do and more. High in detoxifying/blood-building/alkalizing chlorophyll, barley grass also contains vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other minerals. Barley grass is rich in easily-absorbable protein, and is one of the richest sources of powerful antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. This enzyme is highly anti-inflammatory, particularly benefiting osteoarthritis, in addition to neutralizing the strongest free radicals in their assault on body tissues. Barley grass antioxidant enzymes also help protect against UV and other radiation. Other antioxidants present are beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol succinate, a form of vitamin E. Laboratory tests have shown that this special form seems to inhibit several types of cancer. Barley grass has been shown to be anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, and to lower blood sugar levels. James Balch. author of best-selling book Prescription for Nutritional Healing has said, "The variety of vitamins and minerals found in barley juice is unmatched by any other single fruit or vegetable."

Nutritional Yeast

The original superfood, these yellow flakes have long been a health-food store staple and with good reason. This is an inactive yeast which does not contribute to candida. Saccharomyces cerevisiae contains roughly 50% protein by weight, making it higher than any animal protein source including beef, generally used as the benchmark for protein content in foods. It also contains more B-complex vitamins and minerals by equal weight measure than flesh proteins. This includes B-12 and the "un-lettered" B vitamins such as choline, inositol, and PABA. The mineral content is very high, particularly in chromium and selenium, making it helpful in blood sugar balance. Nutritional yeast is lacking in fat and vitamins A and C. The antioxidant level is high, with superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase present. Along with bee pollen, it is one of the richest sources of nucleic acids for cellular repair. One caveat is that in high amounts it may offset calcium levels in the body as it is very high in the mineral phosphorus. The amounts generally consumed are not sufficient to do this, but if you do consume a lot of nutritional yeast, simply make sure that you have adequate calcium in your diet as well. It is available unfortified, or in fortified form where additional B vitamins are added for extra nutrition. The flakes or powder can be added to hot dishes, sprinkled on popcorn, mixed into sauces and gravies, or even added to smoothies, although the high protein content does not lend itself for inclusion with fruit-based blends.

Red Palm Oil

Red palm oil enjoyed some brief popularity several years ago but deserves greater longevity for it is so rich in antioxidant compounds it puts most other "superfoods" to shame. Like coconut oil, it is a saturated fat, meaning that it is very heat-stable and may be used for high-heat cooking such as frying. Its wealth of antioxidants also protect it from deterioration due to heat. Do not let the fact that it is a saturated fat alarm you; it contains no cholesterol and is in fact extremely cardio-protective, owing to the highest levels of antioxidant tocotrienols in any edible oil. Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family but have been shown to be 40-60 times more potent than tocopherol (standard vitamin E) as an antioxidant, particularly benefiting cardiovascular health. Clinical trials with subjects with high blood cholesterol receiving a palm oil-derived tocotrienol supplement demonstrated significant reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels within four month of supplementation. Continuous significant reduction was seen on the fifth and sixth month. The oil's rich red hue derives from the wealth of carotenoids present, including lycopene, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and gamma-carotene. Palm oil contains the highest alpha-carotene level among all the plant sources. Research has shown consumption of red palm oil significantly enhanced vitamin A levels in humans, and it is beneficial in preventing vitamin A deficiency. Other nutrients present are phytosterols, coenzyme Q10, vitamin K, and squalene. Consuming red palm oil whether in cooking or mixed into prepared food will confer glowing, supple, youthful skin as well thanks to the antioxidant carotenoids and tocotrienols. Both compounds selectively accumulate in the skin and protect it from oxidative stress as well as UV rays, ultimately having anti-aging effects. When buying red palm oil, be sure to ascertain that the product is sustainable and is orangutan-safe. Evergreen Nutrition sells Nutiva's red palm oil, which is fair-trade, from small family farms with no harming of orangutan habitat.

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