Supernatural

Even the most health-centric among us are craving more from their food. While the most elemental agricultural products—fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains—may be what you first think of as ideal natural choices, the fact remains that today’s apple is not the same as the apple your grandparents ate. Although some varieties now appear larger and more attractive, in reality they are often higher in mass and kilojoules with fewer overall nutrients.

To solve this nutritional disparity, attention is turning to superfoods: an eclectic group of plant-based foods that pack in the most micronutrients, or benefits per kilojoule (a quality known as “nutrient density”). From leafy greens like cavalo nero (kale) and spinach, to small seeds like chia, flax and hemp, the nutrient-dense world of superfoods is vast and flavourful—and easy to incorporate into any diet. For those looking to revitalise their health, there are plenty of exciting new foods to try.

Julie Morris is the author of Superfood Cuisine (Navitas Naturals, 2011).

MAQUI BERRY

The South American maqui berry, also called “Chilean wineberry”, is one of the world’s most antioxidant-rich fruits.

Nutrients It has more than 10 times the antioxidant power of a blackberry!

Benefits Researchers are studying maqui’s role in helping to reduce inflammation, ease arthritis, suppress blood glucose and regulate cholesterol.

How to prepare Mix the tangy, bright-purple powder into smoothies, juice or oatmeal.

SEA VEGETABLES

Among the oldest living species on Earth, highly alkaline sea vegetables far surpass the nutrient density of any land vegetable. Varieties include nori, wakame and kelp.

Nutrients A quarter cup of kelp (20 grams) provides about 15 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and more than 276 per cent of iodine.

Benefits Vitamin K aids with blood clotting and can help keep bones strong. Iodine supports thyroid health.

How to prepare Combine with vegetables, proteins or grains. Try them in salads or in dried form as a snack.

Eat in moderation, as excess iodine can lead to thyroid disorders.

CACAO

Is chocolate really a superfood? The answer is yes, if it’s in the form of cacao—chocolate’s natural, raw state. Cacao is native to South America, where it was traditionally consumed ground up into an unsweetened drink.

Nutrients Raw cocoa powder is one of the top sources of antioxidants, with about four times the amount that goji berries offer.

Benefits Researchers are studying cacao’s health effects, such as reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and enhancing skin’s UV protection.

How to prepare Use cacao powder in place of unsweetened chocolate in dessert recipes or smoothies. Snack on cacao nibs.

super berry smoothie

Blend ingredients together and enjoy!

1/2 cup mango chunks

1/2 cup strawberries

1 tbs chia seeds*

1 tbs maqui powder

Water, to blend

Stevia, to taste

Recipe adapted from Jennifer & Jaclyn at sketchfreevegan.com

* Chia seeds are also a superfood, rich in dietary fibre and calcium.