Superfoods and Trends for Healthy Living
Posted on July 20, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Isn’t it ironic that our nation’s food was entirely organic only 100 years ago? Our consumer society and its demand for convenient, packaged and preserved food, combined with the industry delivering longer shelf life, convenience, higher crop yields, and prettier product, changed our food system in a short period of time. Now we have to repair what has been done and get back to basics.
The trends in the natural product industry support public demand that our food production move in a healthier and more natural direction. “Organic” used to be a word you heard only in health food stores and the like. Now, however, mainstream and conventional grocery chains have become big players in the organic food and products market. I recently attended trade shows for the largest two natural product distributors in the country. Grocery buyers are now natural product enthusiasts and many large grocery chains in the U.S. attend these natural product trade shows. Safeway, Raley’s, CVS, Rite Aid, Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, and Costco, to name a few, were all were in attendance and ready to buy organic product and prominently feature it in their stores.
Current natural food industry trends:
Organic and NON-GMO certification and labeling is becoming a necessity for popular brands.
- Preserved meat products containing no preservatives or Sodium Nitrate (a leading migraine trigger). Varieties of jerky sticks and meat protein bars are trending big time!
- Alternative forms of protein besides meat and soy, like the super hot-trend, cricket-based protein bars (yes, insects!) and peanut butter powder for smoothies.
- “Grab and Go” snacks and ready to eat foods. The protein and snack bar category is growing at a very fast rate, along with single-pack snacks, trail mixes, and potato chip alternatives. (While it’s great to see so many healthy and convenient foods now available, it’s disturbing to see the degree of excess packaging involved.)
- Superfoods and supplements added as ingredients in prepared foods and snacks.
- Treats and candies with no artificial food dyes, and gelatin-free fruit gummy snacks.
- Paleo – Lots of Paleo snacks are emerging and I was surprised to see a new “certification” for Paleo appearing on packaging (you will see it appearing soon!). Basically, the Paleo premise is that if “cave-dwellers” couldn’t make and eat it, we shouldn’t either. That eliminates any processed food and basically limits diet to veggies, fruit, meat, fish, some grains and, arguably, legumes.
Common questions and answers about natural and organic products
Being in the natural product industry, I hear some very interesting questions and am often surprised by what people ask.
Does buying organic really matter?
Yes, buying organic is really important for many reasons. If certified organic, it was grown in organic soil, third-party tested for any pesticide residue (often this same testing also results in the discovery of other molds and funk), and guarantees it was not grown from GMO seed.
Most pesticides on the market are carcinogenic. They are used at every stage of development of the plant and there are often high levels in the soil. As noted in many studies, when tested, the urine of most Americans show high levels of pesticides but much lower levels of pesticides are detected in the urine of strict organic eaters. The rates of cancer and birth defects in communities of Ag pickers are outrageously higher than the national norm. We import many fruits and vegetables from countries that use toxic and carcinogenic pesticides banned for use in the United States, such as grapes grown in Chile.
Should I care about GMOs, and why?
Yes you should care, in my opinion. Really, this question merits an entire article of its own, but in a nutshell:
- GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. That means at the seed level they are spliced and diced with pesticides like Roundup and other ingredients to ensure attractive and pest free product.
- GMO seeds kill bees (which the planet needs by the way) and possibly adds other risks to lifeforms during their cycles of growth. In addition, it appears they can permanently damage the soil and affect future crop plantings.
- If you buy certified organic you are guaranteed no GMOs have been used in the making of the product. You would be surprised to find out how many ingredients in packaged food are derived from GMO corn and soy; in fact, most of the non-organic varieties of packaged snacks are produced from GMO seeded crops.
We really have no idea how far the effects of laboratory tampering with these seeds can reach. I personally choose not to be a guinea pig for the sake of corporate profit.
What is RAW food?
In the natural product industry, raw means uncooked, or that the food was never subjected to heat above 120 degrees Fat any stage of the product’s processing. Advocates argue that raw or living foods have natural properties which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating these foods destroys the natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. I do not eat a raw-only diet, but as fresh as I can get is always a goal.
What are Superfoods, and should I eat them?
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that can be beneficial to our health for one or more reasons. Often these foods are rich in minerals or compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids). Sometimes these foods are concentrated to have even more impact and are used in or as supplements. Most of the worlds greatest Superfoods are found in regions such as the Himalayas, Peru, Ecuador, high in the Andes, China, Indonesia, Africa, and India. Here are my six favorite Superfoods:
- Cacao Powder: One of the worlds best Antioxidants! In addition to that health benefit, one serving contains five grams of plant-based protein and a variety of minerals. Cacao is believed to support mood, energy, brain function, and metabolism. In its raw form, Cacao powder can be added to smoothies, as a desert topping and in hot and cold cereals. It has the flavor of chocolate but in its raw form is bitter, so you might want something sweet to balance it out. One of my favorite smoothies with no sugar added uses a half a banana with the cacao, a perfect balance.
- Maca Powder: Maca is a root traditionally grown in Peru at high altitudes. It has been used in that region of the world as a daily supplement for their elderly for brain support and improved energy. It is an adaptogen which supports the endocrine system with hormone balance and energy. Its nutritional profile includes a variety of minerals and even a decent amount of protein. Often used by body builders/athletes for stamina and endurance, it has now become a popular ingredient in most natural aphrodisiacs. It can also be supportive to women during menopause to help regulate hormones and improve stamina. Anyone can benefit from Maca, but from my experience, if you are adding maca powder to your smoothie or cereal, do it in the morning! I like to add it to my vanilla yogurt. While you will not feel it like a jolt of coffee, it can affect your stamina and keep you up at night if taken too late in the day.
- Goji Berries: As one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods, you are probably seeing goji berries everywhere. Their claim to fame is real; these little, chewy red berries are amazing! One handful of Goji berries contains 4 grams of protein, all your essential amino acids, and is a great source of Iron. They are rich in beta-carotene and polysaccharides and boast great antioxidant properties. You can literally fast with only Gojis and water and survive. Goji berries are traditionally grown in China and have been used there for a multitude of reasons for centuries. Add them to anything — smoothies, trail mix, yogurt, and salads — and try them in your hot tea.
- Chlorella: Chlorella is a green strain of microalgae boasting a high amount of cleansing chlorophyll, the highest of any known plant on earth. Chlorella is often referenced for what is called its Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). A great deal of research suggests that CGF can increase many metabolic processes, while other properties of Chlorella help deliver nutrients and detoxify the body while also flushing away heavy metals, such as mercury. The best Chlorella on the market is sourced from a safe closed system in Taiwan. With very little flavor or odor, you can use it in salad dressing or on salads, in smoothies, on yogurt or cereal, and as an ingredient in soups.
- Spirulina: Spirulina has been found to be one of the most potent whole-food nutraceuticals known. It contains more bio-chelated organic iron than any other whole-food, meaning iron will more easily be assimilated into the body. It is rich in beta-carotene and phycocyanin for free radical protection. Spirulina has Over 60 percent protein with a complete spectrum of amino acids. It is often harvested in India. You can mix powder into smoothies, yogurt, or other juice drinks, or mix it into homemade powder bars and soup.
- Hemp seeds: Hemp deserves an article of its own! Hemp seeds have a very unique sweet and nutty flavor that makes them delicious with almost anything. For those of you that are reluctant to try these little powerhouses it’s important to know there is no THC in them. One of the best plant-based sources for Omegas, containing 6 immune boosting fatty acids and up to 33 peercent protein (3 tbsp. = 11 g of protein!). Hemp is an easily digestible protein which is why you see so many protein powders on the market now with hemp as an ingredient. It is also high in fiber and vitamins A and E. Try making power bars, smoothies, salads, cereals and more with these nutrient dense goodies!
By Zoe Sinha | Special to The Sun
Zoe Sinha is the Health Educator & National Account Director at Ultimate Superfoods