The term superfood has no official scientific definition. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s a food that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber , or fatty acids) and considered beneficial for one’s health. That means common foods like blueberries and the more exotic foods like acai berry could both be considered superfoods.
While the word superfood has been criticized as mostly a marketing term, it is helpful to identify which foods are more nutrient-dense than others. Focusing on a whole food, plant-based diet is the most important change you can make for long term health. Adding superfoods can enhance a stellar diet but is not a substitute for carb-heavy, sugar-laden foods. Below are the top superfoods to add to your pantry in 2018.
You may be familiar with other green powders like matcha and spirulina that have superpower qualities when added to your morning smoothie. Moringa tops all of them as a single tablespoon contains a whopping 60% of your daily recommended iron intake. It’s also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, B2, B6 and C. It looks like a fine, velvety-green powder that is native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. It has been used for centuries to fight chronic diseases like arthritis, digestive imbalance, diabetes, and heart disease.
Moringa has even been used in early clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and has been shown to balance neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which makes it useful to manage stress and balance mood. Moringa is also rich in antioxidants and compounds that improve thyroid health, which makes it useful for increasing energy, low libido and insomnia .
With impressive nutritional value, moringa is showing up in everything from snack bars to skin oils. I recommend buying it in powder form so that you can add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie, sprinkle on top of avocado toast, or add to hot water for a powerhouse tea.
You can even make an antioxidant face mask that will leave your complexion refreshed and bright. Just combine ½ tbsp organic Manuka honey with a pinch of organic moringa powder, the juice of ½ a lemon and enough water to make a paste. Apply to face and neck, and wash off with warm water after 15 minutes.
Despite the name, this superfood is actually a root vegetable that originates from Africa. They are a small, raisin shaped food that contain 40% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber in just one ounce. This resistant starch fiber helps to keep our digestion moving as it gets of toxins found in our stool. In addition, they contain the highest amount of prebiotics vs any other food on the market. Prebiotics are food for the healthy bacteria in our gut and help maintain a healthy microbiome.
While probiotic benefits have become more well known in recent years with the growing popularity of foods like kombucha and sauerkraut, all types of fiber that we get from plant-based foods play a major role in gut and digestive health.
Tigernuts are an incredibly versatile superfood and can be used in a variety of ways – eaten plain, made into a nut milk, or even nut flour. One of my favorite ways to include tigernuts in my diet is to make a traditional horchata. I blend the tigernut milk with dates, cinnamon, and vanilla bean and then strain through a nut bag. It also tastes great when added to freshly brewed coffee. The flour also makes excellent gluten -free pancakes and cookies.
If you are sensitive to high fiber foods or have IBS, start low and go slow. Eating too much fiber at one time can cause abdominal cramping, gas , bloating , and/or diarrhea.
With the legalization of medical marijuana sweeping across the country, cannabinoids are quickly losing their stigma and becoming a staple. In November 2017, the Medical Board of California released guidelines for the recommendation of cannabis for medical purposes. As a physician who regularly prescribes medical-grade herbs and supplements , the world of cannabinoids and its potential applications is on the verge of becoming mainstream.
The list of qualifying conditions that cannabinoids treat is long. This herb is touted to help reduce joint pain and intestinal inflammation , calm anxiety , and cure insomnia. It almost sounds too good to be true. Recent research even shows that it can assist in weight loss and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
In 2018, I believe we will see more physicians starting to recommend cannabinoids such as CBD oil to patients as a second or third-line therapy. With little to no side effects and the opioid crisis looming over us, it makes sense. Many forms are available over the counter now, from creams to candles to tinctures. There are also many strains of cannabis, and they are not all equal, so we recommend talking with a medical professional who is proficient in cannabinoid use in clinical practice before starting.
Ready to try even more recipes with some of our favorite superfoods? Get started with our Blueberry Almond Smoothie for breakfast , try a slow-roasted Salmon and Quinoa Bowl for lunch or dinner and make these Tigernut Chocolate Chip Cookies for a sweet treat.
Remember moderation is still key even when it comes to any superfood. More is not better and I recommend rotating every few days for each of the above. Whether you choose to incorporate one or all of these into your daily diet, your body will thank you for it!
Dr. Tiffany Lester is a board-certified Integrative Medicine Physician who has practiced a holistic approach to health for over a decade. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she completed her training in internal medicine. She also graduated from the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil, and has extensive training in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Lester is also featured as a teacher for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and regularly contributes to national wellness publications.
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