Discover some of the best “superfoods” you can add to your daily regimen
The term "superfood" is reserved for foods that are more nutrient- and enzyme-dense than the vast majority of foods we eat every day. Currently the word is being applied to everything from green tea to Brussels sprouts—and while those foods are certainly good for you in their own particular ways, they don’t make the true "superfood" grade.
As an example of the benefits of superfoods, consider carrots. Carrots provide a wide range of carotenes, but superfoods contain carotenes plus high levels of other essential complexes such as flavonoids, tocopherols, amino acids, and enzymes—all of which enhance the effects of the carotenes. And superfoods contain these compounds in a highly concentrated form, so that small amounts confer significant benefits.
What are some examples of superfoods?
If I could take only one supplement or nutrient daily, my choice would be spirulina. This primitive plant belongs to the group of blue-green algae, and it grows naturally in certain lakes in northern Africa, Peru, and Mexico. Spirulina was a dietary staple as far back as the Aztec civilization, but it has been extensively researched only in the past 35 years. It could be one of the best survival foods we have, and warrants inclusion in everyone’s daily diet. Here’s why:
- Spirulina contains all eight essential amino acids. (An "essential" amino acid cannot be manufactured by the body, but can be used by the body to manufacture other amino acids.)
- Spirulina is lower in fat and provides more usable protein (the kind properly digested and assimilated by the body) than virtually all other protein sources, including meats, milk, eggs, and tofu.
- Spirulina contains the highest known levels of vitamin B12 and is particularly beneficial for mental function and alleviating depression.
One brand I've come to trust is Earthrise, which can be found in health food stores. For a maintenance dosage, take 750–1,000 mg per day. For serious health problems, dosages range up to about 20–30 grams per day.
Royal jelly is the "food" that turns an ordinary worker bee into a queen bee. Because of this royal diet, queen bees reach full maturity in about two-thirds of the time it takes a normal worker bee to mature, and will be 40 percent larger and 60 percent heavier than their counterparts. And while a worker bee will only live for a period of seven or eight weeks, queen bees will live from five to seven years!
Research on royal jelly has shown:
- Oral ingestion of royal jelly changes the blood’s lipid/protein consistency, which lessens the chance of clogged arteries and varicose veins.
- Cases of insomnia, depression, senility, and menstrual problems have all improved with royal jelly. This is likely due in part to its high content of B vitamins, especially pantothenic acid (B5), which is effective at reducing stress levels.
- Royal jelly boosts the immune system by increasing gamma globulin levels.
For a maintenance dosage, I recommend a minimum of 50 mg royal jelly that has been freeze-dried within 24 hours of collection, as this is the only way to preserve its nutrients. One reliable source I use is C.C. Pollen.
Bee pollen is the male seed of flowering plants. It contains all known vitamins, from A to K, 22 amino acids, including eight essential ones, 27 minerals, vitamins, unique and beneficial pigments (like the phycocyanin in spirulina), and several hormone-like compounds. As such, it has a variety of health uses.
- One of the most common uses is as an oral desensitization process to alleviate hay fever, allergies, and pollen-induced asthma.
- Bee pollen stimulates the production of hemoglobin in the blood, increasing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity and improving energy levels, overall stamina, and endurance.
- Bee pollen is one of the few rich sources of rutin, a bioflavonoid that helps strengthen capillary walls, improve heart function and respiration, and control hypertension.
- Bee pollen contains powerful antibiotic mixtures that have a protective effect against E. coli, Salmonella, and several other strains of bacteria.
You only need a small amount of bee pollen on a daily basis if you’re taking it for prevention—100 mg a day. There are many ways to add bee pollen to your diet. If you like the taste, which is somewhat flowery, sprinkle it on foods or eat it straight. A company called Beehive Botanicals sells both tablets and pollen granules.
Another category that I believe truly qualifies as "superfoods" is the adaptogens. These plants modulate all sorts of body functions, including the immune system and energy production. The old "spring tonics" often had adaptogens as their main ingredient (other than alcohol, of course). These plants generally work by regulating stress hormones and neurotransmitters, and have the unique ability to boost a system that's underperforming and suppress that system when it's overstimulated.
One of the most well-known adaptogens is Asian ginseng, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance energy levels and regulate the adrenal glands. Another useful adaptogen is ashwagandha, sometimes called Indian ginseng. It has a long history of traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine for supporting mental function, your mood, and your stress response.