You’ll find no shortage of celebrities endorsing various superfoods all over the world wide web and their social media accounts; which is all well and good until you get a closer look at the price of these super-expensive life enhancers! WARNING: Beware of the following hash tags when scrolling: #superfoods #functionalfoods. But really, you don’t need to burn a hole in your wallet to achieve a healthy and balanced diet. Keep reading for some delicious, healthy, and very affordable alternatives to so called superfoods! I like to call them Supercharged Foods.
Many of you may be wondering, what makes a food a ‘superfood’? Well, to be honest there’s no concrete definition, however, the name ‘superfood’ is actually a marketing term, not a scientific one. A superfood is described as being any food that contains high levels of antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants are well known for their ability to strengthen the immune system, thereby warding off diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
The health benefits of these ‘superfoods’ are the result of studies done on specific essential nutrients, that are known to prevent disease and improve immunity, and the foods that they can be found in, in large amounts. If studies show that a specific food contains high concentrations of antioxidants, trace minerals and vitamins, such as Vitamin C, K and B, it can then be referred to as a superfood.
Each time a new study is released shedding light on the health benefits of a specific food, the media runs with this information, publishing their own news stories about these newly researched superfoods. In 2014 kale farmers struggled to keep up with the new demand for kale after several studies reported that kale contained high levels of antioxidants and other essential nutrients, leaving many supermarkets out of stock. The media has a lot of influence over consumers, and with consumers becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of eating healthy wholesome foods, it’s no surprise that supermarkets take advantage of this by drastically increasing the price of these foods!
However, some studies can be misleading, and the results reported can be misinterpreted by the media and consumers. Just because studies have reported that a specific food, such as blueberries, contain large amounts of antioxidants, it doesn’t mean that you have to start eating blueberries every day to maintain vibrant health! Superfoods aren’t the only foods that contain essential nutrients. And by eating a balanced diet that is full of variety, you can guarantee that you’re eating enough essential nutrients without even picking up a superfood.
It’s safe to say that the superfoods market is booming and supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies are taking full advantage of it. But the hype of superfoods tends to shine a negative light on many other beneficial wholefoods. Apples and oranges are neglected for berries, rice and pasta are replaced with quinoa… But why should superfoods be thought of as healthier than other unprocessed foods or Supercharged Foods? Is it because they cost more in the supermarket? Or maybe it’s because the local news reported a story about kale, but not English spinach.
The take home message here is fill your trolley with good, unprocessed healthy foods and try to buy what’s in season….that’s usually the fruits and vegetables on special by the way.
Here’s a snapshot on well-known Superfoods and their nutrients:
- Kale: contains large amounts of Vitamin A, K and C.
- Avocado: contains monounsaturated fats, fibre and Vitamin C.
- Acai berries: contain fibre, antioxidants, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
- Goji Berries: contain fibre, antioxidants, valuable trace minerals and vitamins, phytosterols.
- Blueberries: contain antioxidants, manganese, polyphenols and Vitamin C and K.
- Chia Seeds: contain omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- Quinoa: contains large amounts of protein, iron, zinc and Vitamin B.
- Coconut Water: contains natural sugars and electrolytes.
If you’re on a budget and want to experiment with more affordable alternatives, look for these key Supercharged Foods and enjoy their associated health benefits:
- Broccoli: contains high amounts of Vitamin C, calcium and fibre.
- Spinach: contains folate, fibre, Vitamin C and iron.
- Sweet Potato: contain niacin, Vitamin A and C.
- Kiwi fruit: contains fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and phytochemicals
- Buckwheat: contains fibre, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, Vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Sardines, Salmon and Mackerel: contain high levels of protein and omega 3 unsaturated fats.
- Nuts: contain zinc, iron and unsaturated fat.
- Water: needed to help carry nutrients and oxygen to cells, both of which if are in low supply, can lead to fatigue and nausea.
And if you’re wondering how to use these foodie gems, why not try my one of the following nutrient-dense recipes from my recipe book Heal Your Gut. Work them into your meal plans each week to get the best results.
The following recipes using Supercharged Foods will help you meet your nutrient needs and keep your tummy strong, without costing you an arm and a leg.
Serves 3 – 4
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil or 2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
60g (2 ¼ oz/ 1 cup) broccoli, roughly chopped
450g (1 lb/ 1 bunch) English spinach
600g (1 lb 5 oz/ 1 bunch) bok choy (pak choy)
155g (5 ½ oz/ 1 cup) diced butternut pumpkin (squash)
1 litre (35 fl oz/ 4 cups) vegetable stock
250ml (9 fl oz/ 1 cup) coconut milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes, to serve
Melt the oil or ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and green vegetables and sweat for 3 – 4 minutes.
Add the pumpkin and stock, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, pour in the coconut milk, then cook, covered, for a further 20 minutes.
Removed from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Serve sprinkled with yeast flakes.
Creamy Buckwheat Porridge With Coconut Milk
Makes 625ml (21 ½ fl oz/2 ½ cups)
170g (6 oz/1 cup) creamy buckwheat, or regular buckwheat soaked overnight and rinsed
750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) filtered water
pinch of Celtic sea salt
250ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut milk
1 handful of fresh berries, to serve (optional)
Put the buckwheat, water and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 25 minutes or until tender, stirring regularly. Add a little more water during cooking if necessary.
Add half the milk and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the porridge has a thick, creamy consistency.
Spoon into a bowl, pour over the remaining milk and top with fresh berries if desired.
Salmon and Broccoli Bowl
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
½ head broccoli, cut into florets
1 tin salmon in springwater or 100g (3 ½ oz) fresh salmon fillet, skinned and deboned
125ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) almond milk
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Cook the turnip and broccoli in a saucepan of boiling water for 8 – 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
If using fresh salmon, put the salmon in a small frying pan over medium heat and pour over the almond milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 7 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked.
Place the salmon, with the almond milk it was cooked in, and the cooked vegetables in a food processor and pulse to your desired consistency. If you prefer a smoother consistency, add more almond milk. If you prefer a chunkier version, omit the processing step and simply mix everything together in a bowl. Serve with a grind of black pepper.
Lee’s Green Juice
350g (12 oz/ 1 bunch) English spinach
1 handful of mint
1 handful of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, halved lengthways
a few lettuce leaves
4 celery stalks
2 – 3cm (3/4 – 1 ¼ inch) piece of ginger, peeled
6 ice cubes
With the motor running, feed all the ingredients except the ice cubes into a juicer one at a time.
Pour into a glass over the ice cubes and sip slowly to enjoy the juice’s myriad benefits.
Why not give these recipes a try and let me know how you go? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.