Move over blueberries, kale and quinoa – there's a new crew of 'superfoods' in town. Sure, the former are still hugely beneficial to our bodies when consumed in their most natural state, but since their arrival on the superfood scene many other fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins have proven their worth in the health stakes.
Discover some of the more unusual foods (well, we'd never heard of a few of them!) that are worth hunting down for their natural healing properties, as well as some more common foods that are surprisingly good for us too.
Superfoods you may not have heard of...
Moringa Oleifera, most commonly known as Moringa, is a green and leafy plant originating from India, Pakistan, and Nepal. In those regions it's been used to prevent diabetes, liver and heart disease, as well as treat respiratory and digestive problems. Moringa leaves, which are most often dried, powdered and then drunk with hot water, are also an anti-inflammatory, can help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and even purify dirty water. The plant is an incredible source of vitamin A vitamin C and calcium. The plant contains more iron than spinach and even more potassium than a banana. So yes, Moringa is definitely something worth hunting down at your local health food shop.
Picked from the Japanese ume tree, umeboshi are pickled fruits that, despite their extreme acidity, have an alkalinizing effect on the body. This effect relieves fatigue, hangovers, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, and symptoms of the common cold. These salty but tangy pickled plums also stimulate digestion and help to remove toxins from the body. Known as the aspirin of the Far East, umeboshi acts as a reliable preventative for many other ailments too. Consume it chopped in stir fries, in curries or simply spread it on toast.
Pitaya (ok, dragon fruit)
Grown mostly in South America and South East Asia, dragon fruit (also known as pitaya) are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and health-boosting properties. What exactly? Dragon fruits contain vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3, and minerals including calcium, phosphorus and iron. The scary-looking fruit (hence the name) are high in fibre and help digestion, constipation and also help to control the body's blood sugar levels. A great source of monounsaturated fat, dragon fruit help lower bad cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy as a result. Along with all of that, the fruit is an anti-inflammatory and is a great way of reducing the redness of acne and sunburn when applied directly to the skin.
Oca, which is also known as oxalis tuberosa and New Zealand yam, is primarily grown in the South American countries Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Argentina. Like a potato, oca is a tuber (the part of a plant that stores nutrients) that grows from the ground. Though it's a great source of carbohydrate, like a potato also, oca offers a shed-load more health benefits. Rich in phosphorus, iron and amnio acids that improve the condition of hair, nails and skin, oca also contains pro-vitamin A, vitamin B6 and plenty of potassium. If you're wondering where New Zealand comes into it (see above), oca has been a firm favourite with the family at dinner times for years and is often simply referred to as a yam there.
And some common foods that you didn’t know were so super...
Though very popular back in Sixties and Seventies, liver is very low on the list of our favourite proteins these days. And now that other sources are now readily available, like salmon, tuna, chicken and steak, liver is often overlooked when walking down the fresh meat and poultry aisle. Along with vast quantities of vitamin A and B, liver contains minerals such as iron, copper, chromium, phosphorous and zinc – yes, the purplish slippery stuff contains more nutrients than most fruit or vegetables out there. That incredible combination of vitamins and minerals helps with fatigue and is ideal for boosting energy levels. So, that dinnertime staple from the past should really be something you put on your plate now.
Germany’s classic dish of pickled cabbage is decidedly more nutritious than it first appears. Thanks to the probiotic organisms created by the pickling process, the zingy Bratwurst accompaniment is highly beneficial to both the digestive and immune systems. A great source of fiber, sauerkraut also contains a variety of vitamins including vitamin A, C, K and many B vitamins. Mineral-wise, a medley of copper, calcium and iron, to name just a few, make the dish a fantastic source of protein too. Who would have thought it, huh?
The oh-so hot condiment most often served with Japanese food boasts many super powers. Firstly, the potent root, which is often found in paste form, contains antimicrobial agents, which kills off bacteria. This is why wasabi paste is most famously served with raw fish – any bacteria on the fish is eliminated when mixed with wasabi. Its anti-bacterial properties can aid the symptoms of the common cold, clear up sinusitis, relieve diarrhea and, more seriously, even stop clotting of the blood thus preventing strokes and heart attacks.