We’ve all heard of ‘superfoods’, those foods that boast of being far more powerful than your average fruit and veg. Packed with heightened levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the health claims surrounding superfoods abound – from increasing energy levels and enhancing the appearance of skin and hair to even helping to prevent chronic illnesses.
Now, not all of these claims are proven so we have to say that it’s unlikely that superfoods are going to radically change your life. But eating them regularly as part of a well-balanced diet could help boost your health – something most of us are keen to do!
In light of all this hype, it’s no surprise that superfoods have become super popular over the past few years. Research has shown a global 200% rise in new product development involving these supposedly superior ingredients. From exotic berries and ancient grains to leafy greens like kale, all kinds of superfoods are being added to a variety of products!
The consumer appeal is clear: in a recent study, it was found that 61% of people purchased food or drinks just because they were labelled as containing or being a superfood. Thinking about creating products containing superfoods could therefore be a very successful and smart move – it certainly looks like the superfoods trend isn’t going anywhere for the time being!
So. whether you fancy a snack that’s on the healthier side or are on a mission to discover exciting ingredients for new products, here’s a rundown of our favourite superfood ingredients…
1. Cocoa Beans
Raw cocoa beans contain lots of nutritional benefits, including iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, as well as certain antioxidants that are praised for their disease-fighting abilities. Eating small amounts of chocolate is thought to help regulate and reduce stress levels, and early studies have found that consuming cocoa may have some promising benefits in relation to cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, the processing and sweetening that most cocoa undergoes to become the chocolate bars negates these superfood benefits. The amounts of fat and sugar are too high, and most antioxidants are destroyed when heated while others become inactive when they bind with milk protein.
Dark chocolate fans may have cause to celebrate, though, as dark chocolate is typically lower in sugar and fat. Apparently, a bite-sized portion of dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher could do the trick. But raw cocoa might be the best choice if you’re aiming to be particularly health-conscious. Have a look at raw cacao bars or cocoa nibs – they might not taste quite like the chocolate you’re used to but their superfood status might convince you to stick with them!
Blueberries are a great choice as one of your five a day thanks to their solid superfood status. In fact, according to research, blueberries grown in the wild are particularly powerful, with studies showing that wild blueberries contain the most active antioxidants of any fresh fruit!
A portion of blueberries can provide up to 36% of your daily vitamin K, an important vitamin needed for blood clotting and keeping bones healthy. They also have good levels of vitamin C, which has several important functions, including helping to protect cells and keep them healthy. Blueberries are also high in manganese, which can help with digestion.
Eat them fresh sprinkled over yoghurt, blended into a smoothie or of course, enjoy them in a delicious blueberry muffin…!
Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and in Asian cuisine, there are numerous claims about the health benefits of turmeric. It’s become a trendy ingredient of late, with turmeric lattes and ‘golden milk’ being touted as the favourite drinks of anyone who’s anyone in the wellness crowd.
It’s actually not turmeric in itself that’s being studied for its superfood credentials, but a component of turmeric called curcumin, which is what makes turmeric so golden in colour. Curcumin is a phytochemical that’s supposed to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As inflammation causes or contributes to almost all major diseases, this could be an important ingredient in terms of health.
Popular in supplements, tea, or in cooking, it’s a great ingredient to incorporate into your overall diet to optimise your intake of minerals.
4. Manuka Honey
Like turmeric, honey has been used both in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. Long before the discovery of modern antibiotics, honey was often used as a wound dressing to promote healing, something that recent research has proved to be effective thanks to honey’s natural antimicrobial properties. Not all honey, however, is of the same standard – so which should you choose?
Step in Manuka honey. Produced in New Zealand, this honey’s antibacterial activity is so potent and so unique that it’s sometimes referred to as ‘medicinal honey’. It’s been successfully used to treat all kinds of wounds and burns and is also thought to inhibit bacteria that causes other ailments including coughs and colds, sore throats and mouth ulcers, as well as providing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and prebiotic properties that may boost energy and improve the skin.
The evidence behind Manuka honey is actually pretty strong, with more research being done all the time. With all this in mind, it seems like a good thing to incorporate into your diet. You can use Manuka honey just like normal honey – drizzled on top of breakfast bowls, stirred into tea, added to smoothies or used to replace refined sugars in baking.
5. Chia seeds
Chia seeds don’t look like much, but they’re full of protein, omega 3 and antioxidants. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds can contain more calcium than a cup of milk and a portion of chia seeds can contain more omega 3s than salmon! They also contain all 9 essential amino acids. All of these nutritional benefits make chia seeds one of the best raw vegan superfoods for protein.
Not just vegan-fare, however, chia seeds are also reportedly popular with athletes, due to their protein credentials and amazing apparent ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, which the body then breaks down over time for steady, prolonged hydration.
Often used to make a pudding, chia seeds are a very versatile ingredient and can be incorporated into all kinds of dishes, from smoothies and flapjacks to jazzing up your overnight oats!
Find Out More About Superfoods!
There’s lots of information out there on superfoods – but a quick google search can be a little overwhelming! We recommend starting with the websites below to learn more about nutrition and superfoods…
Want to Create Your Own Superfood Snack?
If you’ve got a great idea for a superfood product, we can help you to develop it. With over thirty years of NPD experience, a specialist NPD team and a flexible, scalable handmade manufacture process, we’re the perfect partner to help you realise your new product. Our team can’t wait to chat with you about your ideas and see how we can help. Get in touch with us on 01530 830180 or use our contact form to have us call you.