Foods that Pack More Punch!

This blog is to help you pack more superfood punch into your daily diet.  Here are a few of the more trendy super food additives on the market.

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Maca:

Maca is a cruciferous vegetable grown in Peru whose root is has been used traditionally as an aphrodisiac.  Maca root can either red, black, pink and yellow in color which all have similar benefits, although specific types are thought to be more beneficial for certain medical conditions. The taste of maca can be described as earthy, slightly nutty, with a hint of butterscotch.

Uses: Maca root has been shown to reduce symptoms of menopause, particularly those related to mood, but also possibly hot flashes. This root can also help your body deal with stress and hormone imbalances, in addition to improving mood and increasing energy. Also, maca is packed with some essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, copper and iron, as well as amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants. 

Method of ingesting:  Maca can be found in capsules but is mostly found in powders which can be added to tea, smoothies, oatmeal or mixed into recipes. However, heating maca may diminish some of its nutrients.

Dose: There is no established optimal dose for maca, yet the maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5- 5 g per day.

Note: Precautions should be taken by individuals who have thyroid issues, those taking hormone altering medications, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Matcha:

Is made from green tea leaves.  These tea leaves must be grown in the shade for about 4 weeks. They are then dried and crushed into a powder form.  This powdered form contain about 137 times more antioxidants than loose leaf green tea.

Uses: is a potent cancer fighting superfood.  This is done through the high amount of the antioxidant called catechins found in matcha. Studies have shown that drinking matcha can help increase your resting energy expenditure which can help with weight loss and maintaining weight loss.  It also contains caffeine which can help keep energy levels up.

Method of Ingesting:  It comes in a powder form that can be added to hot water to make a tea.  The powder can also be used in smoothies and other foods.  Matcha has been put into lattes, puddings, oatmeal and other desserts.

Dose: To make the tea you should use about 2 to 4 gms for 8 ounces of hot water.  It is recommended to limit matcha to 8gms per day (4 teaspoons).  Some recommend consuming only 4 gms per day at most.

Note: There have been shown to be increased levels of lead in Matcha that is consumed.  Normally it stays in the leaf when you drink it as tea and is therefore not an issue.  But when consuming matcha you consume the entire leaf.  Do not give matcha regularly to children due to the lead content that could be in the leaf.

lions mane

Lion’s mane:

Uses: The mushroom Lion’s Mane has been shown to have many bioactive compounds that have beneficial effects on the body, especially the brain. This mushroom has been shown to increase the body’s production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain which is essential for neurological and cognitive health. Lion’s Mane promotes mental clarity, focus, memory and overall cognitive function and may protect from dementia and Alzeheimer’s disease. Other neurological benefits have been found including reduced anxiety and depression. 

Method of ingesting: Lion’s mane is rarely found in regular grocery stores but can be bought in capsules, powder and liquid extracts. The flavor of this mushroom can be described as “seafood-like”, therefore capsules might be preferred. Alternatively, another great option is to add Lion’s mane powder or liquid extracts to smoothies to hide the flavor.

Dose: While one human study found an effective dose of 3g/day, commercial preparation of Lion’s mane varies in composition, strength and purity. Therefore, an optimal dose and form is difficult to specify. Paul Stamet’s, a fungi expert, recommends 1-1.5g per day of the mushroom and has his own reputable supplement company called Host Defense.

https://hostdefense.com/

spirulina

Spirulina:

Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet that gained popularity when NASA began studying it’s nutrient contents and health benefits for astronauts. It contains about 60% protein including all the non-essential and essential amino acids. 

Uses: 1 tablespoon can have 4gms of complete protein. It also has a good amount of essential trace minerals and vitamins. Spirulina is often used as a vegan source of B12, however studies suggest that it is not absorbed well after ingestion. This algae also contains beneficial pigments that give it it’s rich color and function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Studies have shown that spirulina can improve lipid and glucose metabolism thereby lowering triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol, HbA1c and increasing HDL cholesterol. Spirulina also supports the liver, protects the heart and brain, lowers blood pressure, and can aid with nasal congestion from allergies.

Method of ingesting: Spirulina is sold in tablet, powder and liquid extract form and can be added to juices, smoothies and baked goods. Unfortunately, spirulina has a pungent “seaweed” taste and might be the worst tasting functional food on this list. 

Dose: There is no specified optimal dose for spirulina but most products range from 3-5gms. Be aware that some research has shown hat spirulina can absorb metals and can be toxic in very high doses.

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Chicory root:

Is a plant that resembles dandelion and has blue flowers.  The root is the medicinal part of the plant. It grows across America.

Uses: Chicory root is comprised of 40% inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber that has many health benefits. Inulin helps optimize gut health by maintaining a healthy balance of good gut bacteria, boosting immune function, optimizing nutrition absorption, preventing constipation in addition to lowering cholesterol. Several studies have found that inulin has a beneficial effect on insulin resistance and blood glucose levels, however research on chicory root’s effect on blood sugar and diabetes management is limited. Chicory root has anti-inflammatory properties which is beneficial to health since inflammation is a main contributor to many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, a small study done with individuals who have osteoarthritis showed that 70% of patients showed a 20% improvement in regards to inflammation, pain and stiffness in their joints.

Method of ingesting: Chicory root is most commonly dried and then crushed into a powder.  Chicory root has a taste that is similar to coffee and is also slightly sweet. Many people consume it as caffeine-free coffee replacement or use it as a sweetener in baked goods, tea or coffee.

Dose:  No official recommended dosage has been established for chicory root, therefore it is suggested to follow the recommendations of the product instructions.  Chicory root is considered safe for most people, however when consumed in excess can lead to gas and bloating due to its high fiber content.

Note: Chicory root should not be consumed by pregnanat women as it may trigger menstrual bleeding or miscarriage. Additionally, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to chicory especially those who have an allergy to ragweed or birch pollen.

brown powers
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Turmeric:

This spice comes from the roots of the Curuma Longa tree. This spice has been used in high amounts in the AS=sian culture.

Uses: Is widely known as a powerful anti-inflammatory spice.  Turmeric is used in a variety of Indian dishes and curries.  It gives food its characteristic yellow hue and earthy taste.  Curcumin is the ant inflammatory compound in turmeric.  The anti inflammatory properties of curcumin and turmeric have been shown to help prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, This spice has also been studied in relation to cancer prevention.  Curcumin has been shown to help control blood glucose levels by improving insulin sensitivity in cells.

Method of ingesting: Can be consumed in its powder for from the spice root.  Add this spice to teas, oatmeal, curries, sauces, marinades.  Pill form is also very common and easy to find.

Dose: recommend to take 500-2,000mg per day.  People with kidney stones, gallbladder disease or are on blood thinning medications should not take high levels of curcumin.  People who are at risk of hypoglycemia may want to avoid high levels of curcumin as well.

Notes: make sure you eat your turmeric with black pepper or get a supplement with black pepper in it to help increase absorption of the curcumin.

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Goji Berries:

These are berries that come from a shrub that grows in the Mediterranean area.  They have been used in eastern medicine for over 2,000 years.

Uses:  Studies have shown consumption of goji berries to lowering blood pressure and blood glucose levels.  There have been studies connecting the antioxidants and vitamins in the goji berry to help with eye health and preventing vision loss.  Goji berries are high in Vit C, Vit A, beta-carotene and other antioxidants.

Method of ingestion:  Can be consumed in the same way other dried fruit is consumed: yogurt, smoothies, salads, etc.  Can be used in teas.  Can be consumed in powdered and capsule form.

Dose: There are no recommended doses for goji berries.  If consumed in the form of food then there is no upper limit.  If you are going to start taking goji berry supplements you should check with your doctor first.

Note: contraindicated with people on blood thinners and certain blood pressure medications.

 

This blog was written with Talia Adler, Registered Dietitian in Training.