Five Plant Based Superfood Trends for Functional Nutrition

We’ve been watching what’s coming out and coming up in the way of plant based superfoods.  Here are products we like the look of.

Coconut is everywhere and remains the biggest trend in the health food world. It’s the best tool we have to avoid dairy when we want indulgences such as ice cream and has certainly earned its place. The long chain saturated fatty acids may help avoid weight gain (when consumed as a whole fruit, additive free milk or yoghurt, or as an oil or butter – sorry folks this one doesn’t necessarily apply to the ice cream!) and, whilst there is not yet enough scientific evidence to state categorically, anecdotal evidence has been acquired for its benefits for brain-, heart- and hormonal- health.

Turmeric is getting a lot of buzz lately with the promise to “reduce inflammation”.  Research is certainly highlighting its preventive and curative effects for many major diseases but it can also be helpful in the management of pain or after a particularly strenuous workout. Turmeric needs to be combined with fat, heat and black pepper to make its active constituent – curcumin – bioavailable and therapeutic doses are also upwards of a tablespoon of the powdered root a day. So if you want to use turmeric it may be easier to try a holistic supplement such as Pukka Wholistic Turmeric or Nutri Advanced Curcumin.

Sacha Inchi is a newly popularised super seed that is fast gaining popularity in the US as, like hemp, it is a complete vegan protein and a source of omega 3. Where hemp has the benefit of possibly being UK grown, Sacha Inchi is starting to be grown as part of reforestation projects in the Amazon. The crop is a hardy perennial that can be harvested every two weeks, providing a sustainable and consistent income to farmers who might otherwise be seduced by rainforest clearance for cash crops or cattle ranching.

Yacon syrup has appeared in the discussion about low-sugar diets as a low GI sweetener of choice. Made from a vegetable rather than a fruit, it doesn’t spike blood sugar  and the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides which it contains act as a prebiotic and feed our gut bacteria.

Adaptogens come from all parts of the plant kingdom: from roots to leaves to flowers and are an easy way to incorporate herbal and traditional medicine/wisdom into your life.  They have the ability to help the body adjust to stress and restore balance and vitality if taken in small amounts over a long period of time. Adaptogens include:

  • Cordyceps mushroom have been used by Russian athletes having been studied by Soviet scientists to deliver improvements in athletic performance.
  • Chaga mushroom is currently being researched as a possible anti-cancer treatment and herbal wisdom has long used it as an anti-inflammatory,  antioxidant and anti-bacterial nourishing tea.
  • Maca, Shatavari and Dong Quai have been used in South America, India and China respectively for regulating menstruation and associated cyclic issues in women and generally  the proper hormonal functioning of men and women.
  • Pine pollen is useful for both men and women as it is an androgen and can therefore raise testosterone levels, which can help balance our oestrogen levels.
  • He Shou Wu  is a traditional longevity herb from China whose name translates to “Mr Ho’s Hair is Black” that is believed to prevent aging.
  • Ashitaba is a Japanese leaf given for “blood building” and is a vegan source of B12  which can be used for an extra boost (although we recommend anyone following a vegan diet to supplement with B12).

This article is an accumulation of received wisdom, but not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please do your own research or consult your doctor or qualified naturopathic practitioner if you are interested in working with these products therapeutically.

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Hannah-Phoebe Bowen

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