Written by; Nikita Manduca
Nikita is currently studying to be a Health Coach with Cadence Health, Australia. She is passionate about healthy food and runs a lifestyle and well being page called Naturally Nourished by Nikki where she seeks to guide and educate people to become the healthiest versions of themselves.
My Favourite 10 Ingredients and their “Super-Powers!”
Experimenting with different ingredients is a great way of finding new and exciting flavours to incorporate into your diet – and when these ingredients are loaded with “super powers” it makes it all the more interesting! I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term “Superfood” – but what is a superfood exactly? There is no set criteria for determining what is and what isn’t a superfood but the term is normally used to refer to nutrient-rich food that is considered to be especially beneficial for one’s health and well-being.
Below I have listed my favourite 10 superfoods, most of which I use on a daily basis. You are probably familiar with quite a few of the ingredients but there may be a few others that you’ve heard of but never experimented with – after reading this you may want to stock up on the lot!
CACAO. Raw Organic Cacao is a plant based protein that is the richest source of iron, calcium (more than cow’s milk), magnesium and has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. Magnesium is super important for a healthy heart and helps turn glucose into energy, enabling your brain to work with laser-sharp clarity and focus. It has been scientifically proven that cacao has bliss chemicals which are associated with cosy feelings of wellbeing, happiness and can even alleviate depression. It is a natural stimulant, the perfect “pick me up” when I’m feeling low and lack energy rather than relying on an extra strong coffee. There’s loads of ways to eat this superfood, whether its making raw chocolate, bliss balls or smoothies but its very important not to add heat as you’ll end up killing the nutrients from its natural form.
CINNAMON. Cinnamon is a spice that has shown to help regulate blood sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes. It is a metabolism booster and has an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. As a digestive, cinnamon dramatically reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS, especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria, healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally. It is very strong and no more than 1/2 a teaspoon is needed which you could easily add to your smoothies, desserts, fruit etc. I tend to find that is a great sweetener for anything sour or bitter where no added sugar is needed.
GARLIC. While the benefits of garlic for liver health and beyond are many, one reason for its superior effects has to do with the fact that garlic contains numerous sulphur-containing compounds that are known to activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. Anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic can also benefit our musculoskeletal and respiratory system. It has also been shown to improve inflammatory conditions when referring to allergic airway inflammation. Garlic is one of the easiest and most subtle ingredients to add to your meals. Soups, salads, dressings, sauces, the list goes on.
HIMALAYAN SALT. Himalayan salt is nothing like regular table or sea salt. It has so many health benefits which other salts do not. It controls the water levels within the body, regulating them for proper functioning, promotes stable pH balance in the cells, overall sinus health, healthy sleep patterns, reduces cramps, increases bone strength and much more. To include Himalayan salt into your diet is as simple as switching the salt you currently use. The taste is the same but the nutritional benefits are extreme.
NUTS. Nuts are a mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fibre which will help you feel full and suppress your appetite. They naturally reduce inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal and lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels. LDL plays a major role in the development of plaque that builds up on the blood vessels. Therefore, eating more nuts can promote in lowering the levels of inflammation linked to heart disease. My favourite way to eat nuts is in a raw dessert or as a nut butter – with my cereal or smeared on some toast, banana or any fruit I have available. My favourite nuts are almonds, they make a great snack or addition to any dish or sauce, not a day goes by without me eating them!
GINGER. Ginger is my ultimate favourite. It gives a kick to any recipe that makes it taste more complete. So tasty and fiery! Ginger is full of antioxidants, is very soothing and eliminates any gastrointestinal distress, prevents symptoms of motion sickness; such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cold and sweating and has many anti- inflammatory and anti tumor effects on the cells. I much prefer fresh ginger, in fact I encourage you to buy it fresh, you can peel it, chop it into portions, wrap in cling-film and store it in the freezer. This way you will always have it at hand for grating into curries, soups, making hot drinks or using it in dressings or desserts.
COCONUT OIL. Coconut oil is one of the best sources of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA’s), a healthy form of saturated fat that is much more easily metabolized and converted into energy. Always purchase virgin oil which means it hasn’t been overly refined or bleached. When roasting or pan-frying, coconut oil is a good fat to use as it does well at high temperatures. The fat found in coconut oil is different to that in animal products and can actually boost metabolism, promote body-fat release, reduce the risk of diabetes and increase the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. The great thing about coconut oil is that you don’t need to eat it for it to help your body. Simply applying it to your skin or hair promotes many benefits and it is also a great moisturizer.
CHIA. Chia seeds might be tiny little seeds but they rank high on my superfood list. They act as a natural blood sugar balancer due to high fiber content and healthy fats which are essential for your body’s ability to balance insulin levels, blood pressure and extremely beneficial for heart health. Studies show that the addition of chia seeds to your diet also reduces visceral adipose tissue, a “belly fat” tissue that effects the metabolism of the body and is a component of obesity! They also rank among the top plant based sources of protein and are packed with a powerful antioxidant punch to help replace some of those nutrients lost when exercising. They’re high in essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron and niacin. Soaking the seeds helps to maximize the benefits.
LENTILS. With 16 grams of fiber per cup, lentils can lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar. They pack in vitamins, essential minerals and 18 grams of protein in just one cup. They have been used as a weight-loss aid since all that slow-burning fiber and complex carbohydrate can fill you up and keep you satisfied longer. Lentils are a great substitute to any pasta, rice or even quinoa dish. They also act as a great binding agent once overcooked! Use them in curries, soups, to make veggie burgers or even veggie “bolognese” – I also love them in salads!
TURMERIC. Turmeric is an Indian spice that is one of the best for your health and long known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It promotes balanced mood, encourages balanced blood sugar levels and is also great for weight loss as it transforms regular fat-storing sells into fat-burning ones. I find this spice is probably my most used ingredient when it comes to cooking. It has such an intense, appealing flavour and such a vibrant colour that not one savoury dish which I’ve cooked has ever tasted better without it! You can add it to roasted vegetables, add a pinch to the pot when cooking rice or noodles, try it in dressings, in soups or curries, blend into smoothies or even make turmeric tea.
And there you have it! My 10 favourite ingredients – can’t live without them! Why not experiment with a few? Who knows, they might become some of your favourites as well.