This term is used loosely and with many variants, so what exactly is a superfood? I define superfoods as ‘any edible substance with an exceptionally high nutrient content and also provides medicinal value’.
Many of these foods help you build a new and stronger immune system, regulate hormones and greatly improve digestive function overall.
What is it that makes these foods so good? What do they contain essentially?
These are nutrient dense foods, and I am referring specifically to amino acids, minerals, enzymes, polysaccharides, and healthy fats and oils.
Many of these exist in nature but for the purpose of this paper I am going to focus on my four favorites. These are;
- Goji berries
Cacao (Raw chocolate – the Mayan king of foods)
Processing raw cacao into chocolate is done by heating and adding milk and sugar, which completely destroys all health and medicinal value. It never fails to amuse me to inform patients that cacao is one of the best and most healthy foods you can put into your body! Surly not, isn’t it chocolate??? Chocolate is what you get when humans intervene and process a pure life giving food. Here a just a few health aspects of cacao;
Flavanols found in cacao have been strongly linked to increasing brain blood flow and improving general brain function, especially in older adults.
Contains the highest natural antioxidant percentage of any food on the planet. Cacao contains more antioxidant by weight that blueberries, goji berries, red wine and pomegranates combined.
High mineral content
Including magnesium for the heart, as a muscle relaxant and general alkalizing agent. Iron for red blood cells. Chromium for blood sugar regulation. Manganese as a trace element for oxygenation and blood cell formation. Zinc for skin health, the immune system and healthy sexual function in both men and women.
This class of chemical is produced by the body when we fall in love. Cacao naturally has this is high concentrations and it is also linked to helping increasing alertness and focus.
Anandamide is also known as the bliss chemical that is released after exercise, it is what makes you feel good after physical work and is found only in one plant which is of course cacao.
The taste of this incredible product is both bitter and sweet. It is thought to affect the Xin (Heart) , Shen (Kidneys) and Pi (Spleen). This also functions as both a blood and qi tonic. Like many superfoods the actions of this food are varied, it affects the earth energy via the spleen and can be used for weight reduction by being super nutrient dense, but also seems to increase the nutrient uptake from foods it is combined with.
Coconut (Mother’s milk and…coconut)
The origins of this nut seem unknown, but it is thought to have originated in the Philippines. Although the white mature hard meat called copra is high in saturated fat, it is not the same as saturated fat from animal sources which negatively affect health. Ironically the fat content is extremely high in coconut, but the total calories are few.
Coconut has many medicinal properties, with different uses between the milk and flesh. Coconut water (milk) is extremely high in electrolytes, and is so close to human blood plasma that it was often used in blood transfusions in the Second World War.
Young coconut flesh consists mostly pure saturated fats and can increase breast milk production, restore male sexual fluids, improve function of nervous tissue and rejuvenate age related oxidative tissue damage.
Some more amazing health benefits of this plant include;
- Improving cell structure and assisting immune function in general by inhibiting virus, bacteria and yeasts.
- Provide digestive aid and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (Vit A, D, E, K) and amino acids.
- Assist in blood sugar regulation and reduce hypoglycemia.
- Improve absorption of both magnesium and calcium.
- Contains high amounts of lauric acid (anti-viral).
- Assist in regulating and supporting the endocrine system (hormones).
- Containing almost no cholesterol and actually supporting cardiovascular health via the medium chain fatty acids.
The healthy fats found in coconut do not accumulate and cannot be stored as body fat. It is used up immediately by the body so actually helps in weight reduction by accelerating the fat burning metabolism we all naturally possess. These medium chain fats are also essential for the normal growth of the nervous system in children.
Although coconut contains no cholesterol, it does assist in the formation of high density lipoprotein (HDL) which is also known as ‘good cholesterol’ because excess amounts are deposited back into the liver so it does not cause any problems. Coconut has never been implemented in any forms of heart disease whatsoever.
Both coconut oil and cream contain medium chain fatty acids which assist the immune system. The four main ones found in coconut include;
- Caprylic acid (C8)
- Capric acid (C10)
- Lauric acid (C12)
- Myristic acid (C14)
All these acids possess antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lauric acid is thought to have the strongest antiviral effect, while Caprylic acid seems to be best for fighting off fungal infections.
Coconut products are highly stable and have strong antioxidant properties. They will also assist in blood sugar regulation and the increase of energy in the body overall. Adding coconut to a balanced diet will also convert cholesterol to pregnenolone, a natural steroid hormone which improves circulation to the skin, reduced bags under the eyes, and enhances memory while protecting nerves from stress and acts as an anti-anxiety agent.
Coconut is slightly cooling in nature, and affects the Shen (Kidney), Pi (Spleen) and Fei (Lung) organs and channels. It will assist reproductive fluids in men, and provide great benefits to nourish blood and help provide breast milk in women.
Like all powerful foods use coconut in moderation. Excessive amounts can lead to dampness in some people, as this is a substance high in oils. Small amounts eaten regularly are much better than taking large amounts all at once. People often think that if a small amount is good, a large amount is better. This is not the case so use this amazing food regularly in controlled amounts for best results.
Goji Berries (The secret to eternal youth!)
This is truly an amazing food. Varieties come from North America and China, this plant is thought to come from China originally. This plant and fruit has been used in Chinese herbalism for thousands of years, and possesses a huge range of medicinal benefits. This plant is able to thrive in all climates from harsh barren wastelands to freezing cold temperatures and even hot tropical climates, and this adaptive capacity is reflected in the vast therapeutic nature of this herb.
Ningxia province in China is where a vast amount of this fruit is grown and consumed, and the older population shows an unusual lack of disease and health issues, with more people living well over a hundred years still in robust health. Is this a likely coincidence??? I seriously doubt it. The Chinese have always believed this berry can significantly extend life, and now even western medicine studies and indicating this. Here are some reasons why;
This means goji has the capability to have many effects on the body, not just a single action. For example they can boost immune function and greatly assist both the kidneys and adrenal glands, enhance strength, stamina and sexual energy in both males and females while alkalizing the body, improving both vision and liver function. Like to know more? Read on…
Complete protein and extraordinary high mineral content
Protein is only found in meat right? Not so. Goji berries contain 19 different amino acids, all the essential amino acids needed to make every single type of body material including all the hormones and tissue regeneration. The mineral content is varied depending on the soil the plants are grown in, but lab analysis has consistently shown at least 20 different minerals present in goji berries (mainly selenium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, calcium and geranium as well as vitamin E, vitamins B1, B2 and B6) This mineral content is important for people living in Western Australia as the food grown in this part of the world is extremely deficient in minerals in general. Your body does not and cannot make minerals. If you do not get them from your diet, you do not get them at all…
It is also worth mentioning that goji are a poor source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) despite what most people believe.
Hormone health and longevity
Why do goji berries prolong life and how can they stop people aging? Human growth hormone (HGH) naturally declines as people age, and this hormone is needed to look young and feel vital. Goji berries contain an unusual compound called sesquiterpenoids. These are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands in the body to produce more HGH. A seventy year old produces only one-tenth of the amount of HGH produced by a twenty year old. Another compound called secretagogue is also found only in goji berries, which will directly stimulate human growth hormone production, as do the two amino acids glutamine and arginine, also found in this remarkable little berry.
Antioxidants and libido enhancement
Like all berries goji berries have an extremely high antioxidant concentration, but goji are special because they contain much higher levels than other berries. Healthy libido is promoted by antioxidant capacity, for both sexes but particularly for men.
Goji berries are the richest natural source of a particular antioxidant called carotenoids. Having such a strong antioxidant content will greatly assist with high levels of stress and low stamina, both of which will impact of sexual health in both males and females. Decline in libido is often a result of low testosterone. As previously mentioned goji will stimulate human growth levels which are needed to produce testosterone and sex drive.
Many studies show a relationship exists between levels of carotenoids and one’s age in all mammals. It seems clear that the more carotenoids a human has in their system, the longer and healthier they will live.
Beta carotene and carotenoids are also found in carrots, but in much lower concentrations than in goji berries. Goji also contains a couple of extremely important antioxidants for eye health called lutein and zeaxanthin. Both these compounds are needed for eye protection especially for macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.
The main compounds that strongly assist immune function are called polysaccharides, which is a diverse type of carbohydrate. They also contain the mineral geranium, and beta carotene which is a type of vitamin A which strengthens cell walls and protects against all pathogens, but repels viruses in particular. Geranium is one of the cancer fighting nutrients, with studies in Japan indicating the protective function against uterine, testicular, cervical, liver and lung cancer.
All the other things…
As if that was not enough, goji is also an excellent hydrating food from the high hydrogen content as well having a general alkalizing effect on the body. Goji helps the body produce choline, which assists the body to maintain neurological health and helps prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Goji will assist the body to produce superoxide dismutase, a powerful super-antioxidant which prevents cholesterol from oxidizing, so it will generally support the heart and cardiovascular health and a healthy arterial system. Goji berries are also a complete protein food. Most think protein comes only from meat sources, but goji contains 19 amino acids and all the essential amino acids needed to heal and support all body proteins, tissue and hormones.
Goji berries history is as long as Chinese herbal medicine. This incredible food/herb/medicine has always been an integral part of Chinese herbalism. It possesses a neutral temperature and sweet taste, and enters the Gan (Liver), Shen (Kidney) and Fei (Lung). It is a powerful Yin tonic assisting with fertility and a lack of energy. Goji has a positive effect on Jing (Essence) and has been known to brighten the eyes as previously mentioned, by nourishing Liver blood in particular as a branch of the Liver channel connects to the eyes. It is used in a huge variety of Chinese herbal formula.
Spirulina (The queen of protein)
Spirulina is a type of algae which grows in fresh water lakes across the earth. The nutritional value of this food/medicine borders on the ridiculous. Spirulina will survive even if the lake it is growing in dries up, and temperatures soar to 70 degrees Celsius. Spirulina thrives in warm alkaline lakes where harmful pathogens cannot survive. Spirulina was the primary protein source for the Aztecs and the people of Central America for literally thousands of years.
Africans also have an extensive history of consuming spirulina harvested mainly around Lake Chad. No other food source contains such a vast array of nutrients ranging from chlorophyll to major and trace mineral, vitamins, essential fats and carbohydrates and many antioxidants. For this reason it is believed that you could easily sustain your health on spirulina and nothing else for a considerable period of time. This is NOT recommended however.
Spirulina is the highest protein food on the planet bar none. The protein content is roughly 65-71%, higher than any animal meat. No other substance on the planet is more efficient in converting natural sunlight into protein. Human also absorb and metabolize a lot more of these amino acids than when animal meat is consumed, primarily because of its high water solubility. This is also a complete protein source, meaning it contains all amino acids needed for every function required by the body.
By comparison – a single gram of spirulina will yield 4 times the amino acids of a single gram of beef. From the farming perspective spirulina will yield two hundred times more protein per acre than an acre of beef, and uses only 2% of the water required by animals. It will beat any animal farmed in terms of environmental waste and energy consumed, often by a factor or 10 or more…
Neurological and brain health
The specific amino acid required for optimal nerve function is called tryptophan, which is the building block for a very important neurotransmitter called serotonin which also reduces depression. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, which is needed for healthy sleep cycle. Spirulina contains high levels of tryptophan so can benefit the brain, nervous system, depression and psycho-emotional disorders and sleep.
Spirulina contains the same amount of iron as in red meat, and chlorophyll which greatly assists red blood cell production and function. Spirulina contains an amazing polypeptide called phycocyanin which produces stem cells that become both red and white blood cells.
The evolution of spirulina on earth means it possesses remarkable protection from ultraviolet light which benefits people if it is ingested. Spirulina contains an enormous range of antioxidant compounds including;
- Beta-carotene for eyes and the immune system.
- Chlorophyll for the blood.
- Zeaxanthin specifically for eye health.
- Superoxide dismutase the powerful general antioxidant and enzyme enhancer.
- Phycocyanin for assistance in stem cell production.
All studies on animals and humans have consistently indicated spirulina has the capacity to improve the immune system when added to the diet. It will greatly increase antibody production through interferons and interleukins which assist in protecting the body against all microbes and viruses.
The bodies other cells are greatly enhanced including T and B cells, natural killer cells and macrophages which protect against viruses, bacteria, and cancer specifically. Regular consumption of this incredible medicine at even a low dose of 1 gram a day is enough to produce significant health benefits.
Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) & Allergies
Human breast milk contains the natural highest levels of GLA known. Spirulina is second highest. GLA has many functions in the body and is particularly important for bottle fed babies for optimal hormonal and mental development. GLA has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and is needed for healthy skin and hair. Evidence also exists for spirulina’s ability to reduce allergy sensitivity in children by reducing inflammation and regulating the immune system. It is also extremely beneficial for people suffering from arthritis.
Spirulina contains many other important nutrients like sulfur for the immune system but also for strength, flexibility, agility, complexion, speed of healing and general function of the liver and pancreas. Sulfur is a general tissue detoxifier. Spirulina also contains difficult to obtain Vitamin B 12 needed for red blood cells and neurological function. Many other trace minerals are present in this incredible food/medicine.
Spirulina is neutral in flavor and cooling, so it has the potential to clear heat always present in conditions like arthritis. It will enter the Gan (Liver), Pi (Spleen), Fei (Lung) and Xin (Heart) channels and organs. Excessive consumption is not advised for those with weak constitutions especially when presenting with diarrhoea or loose stools. Like all foods mentioned in this paper spirulina is a powerful medicine and should be treated with respect, small amounts consumed regularly is the best medicine.
If you have read all this valuable information you will be aware that a common theme runs through all these foods/medicines. They all help the immune, endocrine, digestive and nervous systems as well as others to a greater or lesser extent. So which is right for you? It is likely several could give you real benefits so come and see me to learn more about formulating a specific diet to suit your individual constitution.
I also need to mention one of my great teachers, a superfood guru called David Wolfe who inspired me to write this, and who’s teachings provided a great amount of inspiration and knowledge written in this paper.
‘Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine your food’