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“Superfoods” are shrouded in mystery…and confusion. With claims from curing depression to healing cancers, superfoods are getting attention for their medicinal uses as well as their everyday nutritional perls. Research into these claims is adding to the confusion with some studies showing remarkable superfood benefits, while others are dismissing superfoods as hype. Last week, we talked about the green superfoods. These nutritional powerhouses are loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. If you can’t get enough into your diet, a quality greens powder can help.
What about the non-green super foods? There are many fruits, nuts, herbs, and animal foods that are considered “super”. Though the greens store a high concentration of nutrients and vitamins, the fruits and nuts are a lot easier to consume, especially for kids. I have a lot more luck getting my five year old to eat a handful of blueberries than a leaf of kale. Today, we’re talking about what makes a fruit a “superfood”. I’m excited to share a new resource with you that will take a lot of the guess work (and hype) out of detecting a superfood.
All fruits have a good amount of nutrition to offer, but how do you know if your fruit or nut is a “superfood”? Look up its ORAC value. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) Value tells you the antioxidant content of a food. The higher the number, the more antioxidants it contains, the more free radicals it will attack, and the more DNA protection it offers. Here are a few of the most potent, yet easily accessible, super fruits I found in my grocery store.
Grown in China, Goji berries have been consumed medicinally for centuries. They are rumored to be helpful for diabetes, high blood pressure, fever, and even cancer. These claims have not been scientifically analyzed, but we do know that goji berries are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and they contain 18 essential amino acids (amino acids your body cannot produce and must be consumed in the diet). I found dried goji berries at the store. They look a little bit like bright red (extra-chewy) raisins, and their flavor is similar but more sour than sweet. You can eat them whole, add them to granola, toss them in yogurt, or soften and puree them into your smoothie. Note: goji can have negative effects on people taking blood thinners and/or diabetic medication. ORAC Value = 3,290
These dark berries grow in the Amazon rainforest and contain more antioxidants than any any other fruit. Lots of antioxidants means supercharged cell protection. Scientists are putting acai to the test and coming out with some interesting results. One study showed that acai reduced leukemia development by up to 86% and triggered cell death, killing the leukemia. Acai berries are usually sold as a powder or a juice. ORAC Value = 102,700
Although it contains plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the health-boosting benefits of avocados are found in its unique fat profile. The fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated and high in heart-healthy oleic acid. In studies, regular avocado consumption resulted in lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher HDL (good) cholesterol. The fat in avocados has also been linked to treating osteoarthritis. Avocado tops the “Clean 15” list as containing the least amount of pesticide residues. Save some money and buy the conventional avocados! (FYI: National Guacamole Day is September 16th! Celebrate appropriately.) ORAC Value = 1,922
Others Fruits Worth Mention:
Raspberries – ORAC Value = 19,220
Blueberries – ORAC Value = 9,621
Golden Raisins – ORAC Value = 10,450
Prunes – ORAC Value = 8,05
Check out the ORAC value! Much like avocados, pecans are loaded with vitamins and nutrients but are considered a superfood thanks to their monounsaturated fats and oleic acid. Add some pecans to your morning cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or top a salad. They are delicious on their own, giving you a power-packed, portable snack. ORAC Value = 17,940
You’ve probably already heard that walnuts are great for you, but do you know why? Walnuts contain alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega-3 fatty acid, in addition to oodles of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Walnuts have become a popular focus of research after being credited with everything from relieving depression and anxiety to stopping the growth of breast cancer. Have a handful or two for a snack! ORAC Value = 13,541
Honorable Mention Nuts and Seeds
Hazelnuts – ORAC Value = 9,645
Almond – ORAC Value = 4,454
Cocoa (powdered, 100g) – ORAC Value = 55, 653
Pistachios – ORAC Value = 7,675
Here’s where we need to be vigilant consumers. The term “superfood” is not regulated by any authority. It can be slapped on to any product to lure you into a purchase. There are many products that offer very few (if any) health benefits and still proudly proclaim their “superfood” ingredients. I’ve seen superfood oatmeal, candies, cereal, yogurt…everything and anything can have a superfood added into it. My advice: read labels; know what you’re buying. A true superfood will be loaded with nutrition and antioxidants while remaining relatively low in sugars or calories. Stretch your dollars, skip the marketing hype, and add your own all-natural, pure superfoods to recipes and foods yourself.
Are there any superfood products that may be worth your consideration? I took a look around my local grocery store and found one interesting item.
Acai Powder – unless you’re reading this from the tropical regions of South America, you’ll have to buy your acai as a juice or a powder. Look for a product that is certified organic and harvested from acai’s native source, tropical regions of South America. With the highest ORAC Value amongst all the fruits, I knew I need to add some acai to my wellness routine. I picked up a bag of Navitas Acai Powder to try. It is 100% freeze-dried organic acai berry with a little bit of citric acid. You can use acai powder in smoothies, jams, or in any berry-friendly recipe. I’ve been enjoying mine as a tea. Have you tried acai? Any recipes to share? (Find 4 oz for $14.50 on Amazon)
Have you seen any other fruit or nut superfood products we might like? Tried something you really, really didn’t like? After last week’s post, did you try a greens powder? Share your favorite superfood shopping tips below!
Superfoods: There’s an App for That
If you like having the ORAC Values accessible while you’re out shopping, consider purchasing the Antioxidants app ($1.99) for iPhone. You can see the top 20 ORAC values or search for foods by name. Note: all ORAC values are measured from 100g samples. I bought the app (you know, for research), and I’m really pleased with it. It’s well-designed and has some good photography.
We’ll wrap up our Superfoods Series with a look at some popular herbal and animal superfoods. There’s a mean virus working its way around the school, maybe I’ll stumble upon a super-immune-boosting herb?
This is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain