You’ve probably heard or seen the names of many superfoods like maca, mesquite, lucuma, cacao, chia, goji and shilajit - just to name a few. If you’ve ever come across some of these rare gems, you’ve also probably seen the super price tag.
Now, I love superfoods, and I definitely do use those listed above as a little extra something special for my smoothies, but the term superfood tends to get misused a lot - only saving it for trendy hard to find (and somewhat pricey) items. And yes, while they do have some awesome nutritional benefits and pack a lot of punch, there are many other superfoods that get ignored that are more widespread and cost effective.
The Best Free Superfood
One of my current favorite superfoods can be found in your own backyard, it’s a great detoxifier (especially for the liver), is high in calcium, iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. We usually discard this little wonder as a weed– so instead of composting Dandelion leaves why not add them to your meals? Dandelion leaves do have a bitter taste, but bitters are great for stimulating digestion so they are an ideal way to start off your day.
I love to juice the leaves, but you can also add them to a green smoothie if you don’t have a juicer. Other great ways to use them would be in a salad, nori rolls, or a wrap.
Most grocery stores are starting to carry dandelion leaves and they should cost around the same price as a bunch of kale or head of lettuce.
If you do decide to pick them, make sure it’s in a location you’re allowed to pick from and to steer clear of areas where pesticides (like the common grass fertilizer) has been applied, and keep away from areas located near the street as you don’t want all that exposure from car exhaust. A good rule of practice is – if you’re picking it; make sure you know what you’re picking.
A Well Loved Super Food
My next favorite superfood gets a lot of attention in the holistic world, and for good reason; I present the Avocado. I used to have a huge fear of consuming anything with fat in it – but we need fat, our cells are made of lipids. Without fat, we end up depriving our bodies and this can lead to inflammation, skin and hair issues (dry, damaged, dull), and can cause us to harbor a little extra weight.
Avocadoes are considered a complete protein, and help raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good fat) while lowering LDL levels (the bad fat). They are high in Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, selenium and zinc. My favorite way to incorporate avocadoes is in a big salad with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and Himalayan salt, but they can be added to smoothies to create a smooth creamy texture, quinoa/rice bowls, guacamole, and so much more.
A Super Herb
One of my all time favorite herbs is also one that’s super accessible, and that’s none other than Parsley. Most people are familiar with using parsley as a way to help combat bad breath, as it’s often been said one should chew on a parsley sprig after consuming garlic. It’s also a versatile herb that’s great in dips such as hummus, or as a salad topper, or an addition to fresh homemade pasta sauce, and it’s also great to add to your morning juice.
Parsley is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folic acid. Some raw foodists also praise parsley for preventing or helping treat iron related anemia.
The Forgotten Superfood
Lastly, a superfood that’s often been ignored, or more likely overshadowed, is Carob. Ok, I know it doesn’t quite taste the same as chocolate and I’m not saying to replace your beloved cacao either, but carob shouldn’t be left on the shelf as it has a lot of great benefits. It contains magnesium, iron, calcium, Vitamin B, and Vitamin E, and it contains no caffeine.
Chocolate is actually a high allergen food – many people are sensitive to it, so carob is usually a great replacement. Yes the taste is a little different, but adding it to a coconut (another awesome superfood) smoothie, or with some frozen bananas you’ll be able to re-create a delicious smoothie shake just in time for summer. You can easily substitute carob in recipes where you’d use cacao, just be aware you might have to play around with levels as it does have a sweeter taste to it.
Superfoods are all around us, and though some of the “trendy” superfoods are still great, it’s no reason to ignore the great benefits we can find around us, sometimes even in our own backyard. Will you be trying any of these superfoods soon?
Alison Klektau is currently a student at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver where she is studying to earn her certification as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. It is her passion to educate others on the power of eating a plant-based whole foods diet while incorporating regular exercise, as she believes in a mind-body approach. Previous to that, Alison earned her BFA in Theatre and Film Studies from the University of Victoria.