What are super foods and why do we need them?

 Nowadays much has been heard about super foods, certain foods that have stood out due to their exoticism, due to their native places, as well as their super tonifying or super detoxifying properties.  Many of them came into fashion use, such as Maca from Peru, Goji berries from Tibet (China), or Chias seeds that originate in Mexico and Central America.

It is true that more and more people are exposed to a huge number of external and internal environmental aggressions, such as a high degree of stress at work, family, unhealthy diet and environmental pollution. This continued aggressions on the body will result in physical and mental exhaustion that can be manifested by a weakened immune system, extreme tiredness, or levels of stress and high emotional changes that can lead to serious health problems later.

As this panorama of our society is becoming more common and widespread, we must understand that the nutritional needs of an organism that is exposed to such aggressions will be much higher in terms of the essential elements that ensure adequate energy levels.

Therefore, it is understood that recently began to appear this market niche of super foods, which give a nutritional response to the population they really need, to improve their quality of daily life physically and mentally. Making people balanced and enjoying life with maximum health potential.

What are super foods?

High-phytonutrient foods with high health benefits are called superfoods.
If consumed regularly bring extraordinary health benefits. These foods are generally natural and contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids or antioxidants. The incorporation of these foods into daily food improves overall physical and mental health.

Superfoods are a great choice for all those who practice a healthy lifestyle and want to preserve health and prevent disease.
Superfoods are thus designated as foods which, for a given energy value, have a high concentration of essential nutrients, enzymes and antioxidant phytochemicals.

The plants contain biologically active compounds, called phytochemicals, that are responsible for determining their color and taste, giving them protection during their growth and attracting birds and insects, which guarantee their pollination and seed dissemination. The darker the color of these foods, the greater their richness in vitamins and minerals, such as broccoli, spinach and cabbage, which have a dark green color.

Spinach and cabbage contain lutein, a phytochemical from the carotenoid group with antioxidant and protective action of the macular region of the retina, helping to decrease age-related deterioration of vision, helping to prevent and ameliorate Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD).

Scientific studies have discovered several categories of phytochemicals, among which phenolic compounds (flavonoids, phenolic acids and complexes condensed tannins), carotenoids (carotenes and xanthines) and several others present in foods such as garlic (allyl sulphides), broccoli (sulphorophane), Shiitake mushrooms (lentinula edodus), etc ...
Generally, green plant foods, fresh fruits and nuts, seaweed and even the products of the beehive can be called super foods, as they have a high capacity for absorption of free radical oxygen, the greater the ability of food to fix oxygen, greater its antioxidant capacity.
Phytochemicals and various types of extracts from these foods may be included in your diet through multiple dietary supplements that provide them, making it more practical to include them in the daily routine.

What are the most important functions of super foods and how to combine them together?

Know which Super foods that are invigorating

Super foods can be used to provide healthy and sufficient energy to the body and tonify the general tiredness or burnout, and mental and physical exhaustion. As will be the case with Maca, Goji berries, Ginseng, cacao, Reishi or Ganoderma mushrooms, Shitake mushroom, cane molasses, pollen, honey and molasses.

All these super foods, tonify the immune system, boost energy levels, and increase wellness and mental clarity. Natural Cocoa is an excellent stimulant and natural antidepressant, increasing serotonin levels without any addictive side effects.

Molasses of Cana and Goji berries are all excellent blood tonic, being an ideal combination for anemias and generalized states of exhaustion. It will be advised to add Maca, Ginseng or Royal Jelly, or both, if there is extreme tiredness in which the person only wants to lie down, talk little, with the pale complexion, and with little initiative and motivation to do things.

If there is anything related to a weakened immune system, where the person easily catch a cold or a flu, or becomes susceptible to having viruses, or has common urinary tract infections, or recurrent episodes of Herpes Zoster manifestation, strong natural immune system stimulators such as the Chinese mushrooms Reishi (Ganoderma), Shitake and the pollen are advisable to use.

Know which super foods that are detoxifying

There are super foods that are useful for removing excess body toxins accumulated either from overeating unhealthy foods, or from excess sedentary lifestyle, and accumulating stress that does nothing to eliminate toxins and cell renewal. In order to have an healthy organism it will always be important to do sport so that a good supply of blood can reach anywhere in our body and make all our body cells to regenerate. Only in this way we can promote a healthy life for all our cells and organ systems.
So remember, that all the super foods that will be mentioned below will be those indicated for people who have an unhealthy diet, accumulation of stress and excessive sedentary lifestyle, or also for health prevention.

Thus we can count on the help of super foods like Spirulina, Chlorella Algae, Wheatgrass, Barley Herb, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, and Broccoli.

All these super foods are currently in the form of powder. Recently they started to add a common vegetable, like the broccoli powder, to the group of super foods. Because broccoli contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane, the stimulant properties of one of the systems responsible for the detoxification of the organism, make this food useful in the elimination of carcinogens. Preventing cancer. Having a strong antioxidant effect.

Whether chlorella algae, spirulina, wheat grass and barley grass can be great super foods to start the day in a lighter and energetic way. Please note that this energy is not equal to the energy that comes from drinking a coffee, which is a stimulating energy. This energy comes from a result of elimination of toxins, cleansing of the liver and kidneys, thus giving a sense of well-being, lightness and energy, accompanied with some clarity and mental freshness.

We advise to do this in the early morning before breakfast, because during the night much of our blood was stored in the liver. Since the liver is a purifying organ, it will be good idea to clear daily our filter, to clear all its accumulated impurities during night. The same way we have a shower externally every day, we should also bath our inside body.
Another healthy advise is to take a glass of warm water with a few drops of lemon earlier in the morning  at least 30 minutes before breakfast. This recipe has a similar effect and is effective for the same reasons as stated above.
Incidentally there is a treatment called by the "Cure of the lemon". 

The most famous super foods

Wheatgrass: Germinated wheat grain herb, with a high content of plant enzymes, which promote digestion and benefit weight loss.
It comes from young wheat leaves and does not contain gluten. It is extremely rich in chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals such as iron and vitamins A, B and C.

It is known to potentiate the purification, nutrition and reconstitution of the blood. Wheatgrass juice is a very interesting and complete nutritional drink. Young wheat leaves are consumed in juice or dried powder.
Barley grass: With minerals such as calcium, iron and vitamins like C and B12, it also contains flavonoids. Studies suggest that barley grass juice, by its constituents, benefits antiviral activity and has a detoxifying effect.

Broccoli: Regulation of blood pressure (hypertension), antioxidant properties of body tissues. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and relaxes the muscles of the heart and arteries. Antioxidants that benefit the macula of the eyes and help in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Contains calcium and Vitamin K, which strengthens bone and prevents osteoporosis.

Algae: They are plants with great antioxidant capacity, due to their content in fucoxanthines (phytochemical of the group of carotenoids, which gives a pigment of brownish color to the algae).
Algae provide important nutrients, such as iodine and selenium, often absent from strictly vegetarian food, and should therefore be a food of choice for vegetarians. Recent studies point to the protective effect of these nutrients, to eliminate the risk of developing cancer, among Japanese women. The sweetest variety of seaweed is Nori, commonly used in making sushi, but also used in soups, salads and fried dishes.

Spirulina: Microalga cultivated and consumed thousands of years ago by indigenous peoples of Mexico and Africa. Studies have shown that Spirulina can help control blood sugar levels, making it an advantageous food for diabetics. It can also be used, for example, as a general revitalizer, as a dietary supplement in weight loss and in case of weak nails.
It is a bacterium belonging to the group of cyanobacteria. It is a complete protein of high biological value containing all the essential amino acids. It offers important polyunsaturated fatty acids, and is also rich in B-complex water soluble vitamins, vitamin C and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
At the minerals level, it is rich in potassium, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus and magnesium, also containing a set of antioxidant pigments such as betacarotene, chlorophyll and xanthophyll. The main nutritional benefit is the powerful antioxidant effect that results from its great vitamin and mineral richness.

Alga Chlorela: Freshwater algae also contains proteins with a balanced ratio of amino acids. It also contains B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E, and its intake is beneficial for the promotion of immunity and good cardiovascular functioning. It is a green algae, very popular in Japan, of the group of chlorophytes, rich in chlorophyll. It is a very complete food because it contains proteins of high biological value, 18 amino acids (including eight essential amino acids), vitamins and minerals, enzymes, fiber and chlorophyll. It is also rich in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and particularly vitamin B12.
Being extremely rich in chlorophyll, it stimulates the formation of red blood cells, it benefits the metabolism and the respiration. It plays a role in enhancing the immune system, in the ability of cells to communicate, and in the identification of foreign bodies by lymphocytes. Because it is rich in antioxidants and nucleic acids, it favors tissue growth and maintenance.

Goji Berries: Originating in Tibet, with vitamins, minerals and proteins with a balanced ratio of amino acids. Excellent antioxidant food, making it an ideal natural food to reverse aging. Similar to raisins, they come from the Chinese plant Lycium barbarum.
They are rich in antioxidant polysaccharides and an excellent source of protein with 18 different amino acids, among which are the eight essential.
They also contain minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, calcium, selenium and phosphorus and vitamins B1, B2, B6 and vitamin E. In addition to the excellent nutritional value, essentially polysaccharides are the elements responsible for the extraordinary antiaging effect of these berries. They have benefits in the prevention of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, strengthening the immune system.

Cocoa: Strong in antioxidants and magnesium, it provides protection against free radicals, provides energy and promotes muscle health. The advantages of consuming cocoa powder are numerous. It is a food rich in vitamins (such as vitamin C and vitamin E) and minerals (such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and sodium), and contains good amounts of fiber. Cocoa is a powerful antioxidant, so it prevents premature aging and the onset of some diseases.
One of the main benefits of cocoa is that it improves mood because it is a source of tryptophan (the amino acid responsible for the production of serotonin), a neurotransmitter linked to well-being. Cocoa elevates the levels of serotonin (neurotransmitter) that improves mood, is a source of dopamine, which acts on movement control, memory and pleasure sensation and phenylethylamine that acts on the central nervous system, generating a good feeling of well-being.
Cocoa helps to regulate the intestinal flora because it contains flavonoids that serve as food for probiotic bacteria - which, in turn, benefit the intestine. Rich in phytochemicals and antioxidant flavonoids (which fight against free radicals), cocoa helps promote cardiovascular health. Cocoa also helps control cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Cocoa can help people with diabetes because it is related to an improvement in the action of insulin (hormone related to the disease).

Maca: The root of Maca, originally from Peru, was consumed as powder by the Inca warriors, who thus guaranteed their stamina and physical strength. It has also been traditionally used to increase sexual desire, promote fertility and improve immune function. It is important to highlight their qualities to balance the hormonal levels, taking as an example for irregular menstruation that is a condition that affects many women. It may also be useful for osteoporosis, menopause and improve the immune system, thanks to its vitamin C and B content with trace elements. Being a great food in the fight against tuberculosis, helping to improve memory, intellectual performance, or in preventing depression.

Açai: Berries that are part of the diet of the tribes of Amazonia. They are grape shaped and have a purple color and a tropical fruit flavor, with antioxidant properties, for their high level of anthocyanins, which are pigments that are also found in red wine. The nutritional content stands out the richness of protein and lipids, with essential amino acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and also important vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin A and C, calcium and iron.
It is known to be energetic and nutritious, helping, for example, to restore normal levels of the body after exercise. The antioxidant effects are the most noticeable feature of these berries.

Coconut: Fresh coconuts are a source of electrolytes. Its juice (coconut water) is a healthier alternative to sports drinks produced by the industry.

Coconut oil: The saturated fat present in coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids whose digestion is easier compared to other saturated fats (eg: meat, butter and eggs). These fatty acids are sent directly to the liver, the production of energy from them being more immediate and more effective.

Walnuts: Its consumption is associated with a reduction in the development of cardiovascular problems. They contain the phytochemical ellagic acid (phenolic compound) responsible for the antioxidant properties of this food, together with selenium and vitamin E. They also have a balanced proportion of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chia seeds: Chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.), native to Mexico, is a small seed of oval shape, light brown in color, whose nutritional composition and health benefits have been known for hundreds of years.
They provide energy and, in addition to highlighting their richness in omega 3, are rich in antioxidants, calcium, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
They are an excellent source of fiber, with antioxidants and minerals, being the known vegetable source richest in omega 3 fatty acids. Rich in mucopolysaccharides, they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, being highly satisfying, contributing to appetite control in slimming diets.
It is especially beneficial for intestinal health. The mucilage’s of these seeds can fix up to 12 times their weight in water, which improves the quality and consistency of the feces in case of diarrhea. In addition, they contribute to the creation of a mucilage layer in the intestinal wall, in which the pathogenic bacteria are blocked and the mucous membranes can thus recover faster.

Products of the bee hive

Royal jelly: It is a milky secretion, a product of the secretion of the glands of the bee head. The queen bee feeds almost exclusively on royal jelly and lives about 40 times longer than the rest of the bees. Rich in nutrients such as vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vital for healthy hair and skin.

Pollen Grains:The pollen is collected by bees from plants and aggregated into granules. With a high protein content, it is especially beneficial for athletes' nutritional and extra energy needs and for convalescence states. It is a natural antidote for fighting allergies (hay fever) and sinusitis. Studies show that by its composition, pollen helps slow down aging and improves mental and physical ability.

Propolis: Propolis is a substance that lines the walls of bees hives. Research shows that taking propolis during colds and flu helps to decrease its duration and symptoms, including cough and inflammation of the mouth.

Molasses: Is a byproduct of the refining of sugarcane juice. Molasses contain a large number of essential minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, Chromium, Cobalt and Sodium. It is a good source of carbohydrates and energy and contains sugars. In addition, molasses offers several vitamins such as Niacin, Vitamin B6, Thiamine and riboflavin. Molasses is very low, both in the content of fats and fiber.


Posted by Dr. João Carrilho

Dr. João Carrilho
Doctor in Traditional Chinese Medicine by Southwest Medical University, China.
Licensed Acupuncturist (N.0500096) and Phytotherapist (N.0400028) by the Portuguese Health Ministry.
Post-Graduated in Health Sciences at Oporto University, Portugal

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