Statistically, physical and mental health awareness has increased in the last decade for us living in the United States. We are now a society becoming more conscience about certain foods such as meat, that are actually causing harm to our bodies (ie. joint pain, inflammation). Hence the meat analogue phenomenon,  a meat alternative, faux meat, imitation meat, etc. Today however, we will be diving into a world of less mainstream superfoods. Uncommon foods that are packed with high levels of vitamins and minerals that are used to positively affect your health.

Some common superfoods include blueberries, ginger, and of course garlic. Blueberries have high levels of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. The high density of antioxidants found in berries help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other inflammatory diseases. Ginger, a root that originated out of southern china is commonly used around the world for culinary and medicinal purposes for both the body and the brain. Ginger is used to help fight off the symptoms of the fl, the common cold, digestion, nausea, and also contains powerful contents that help decrease blood sugar levels. Raw ginger also contains a high level of 6-Gingerol, which studies have shown to be an alternative treatment to various cancers. Like ginger, garlic has been known worldwide for medicinal and cooking purposes. The use of garlic in Egypt dates back a few thousand years! Health benefits from consuming garlic include lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, fighting infections, removing dangerous plaque, and preventing the hardening of the arteries. Interestingly, most of us do not know the power nor the benefits of these common day to day superfoods!

Grown in the amazons of South America, here is an exotic superfood you’ve most likely never heard of, Camu Camu. Camu Camu is a shrub that bears small cherry-like fruits. Both the leaves and fruit of this distinct bush are used worldwide for their medicinal purposes. The fruit contains high levels of vitamin c, which we know helps build and maintain the immune system. On average per 100g of fruit, Camu Camu contains 1882-2280 mg of vitamin C, which is significantly more than our typical oranges. Camu Camu has also been scientifically proven to help people with conditions pertaining to cataracts. Studies also have shown that the extract from the seeds contain a great quantity of anti-inflammatory compounds that suppress inflammation. Lastly, animal studies suggest that Camu Camu contains elements with antibacterial properties that could help reduce blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar levels. However, more research is needed to support these findings.

Spirulina! Lets travel across the world to an African country for our next superfood. Spirulina, historically used in Chad, is a single-celled microbe/cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). Yes! You read that right, bacteria. Spirulina was once classified as a plant because of its plant pigments and its ability of photosynthesis, but later categorized as a bacteria due to its physical properties and rich levels of nutrients and antioxidants. One tablespoon is packed with 4 grams of protein. It contains 11% vitamin B1, 15% vitamin B2, 4% of vitamin B3, 21% of copper, 11% iron, and minimal amounts of almost every nutrient that benefit the human body not to mention the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids also found in this alga. Lastly, the main ingredient found in Spirulina is phycocyanin which contains excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Spirulina can be cultivated in both salt and fresh water, and is used worldwide as a supplement.

For our last exotic superfood we will visit the desserts of Mexico! For hundreds of years, Mexican natives have eaten Nopal Cactus also known as prickly pear cactus. This cactus is meant to be eaten while the cactus pads are young, which provides for the most concentrated amount of valuable protein. Nopal can be cooked with eggs, made into juices/tea, made in to jam, or cooked as a side sauteed with tomatoes and onions. Nopal contains a high level of antioxidants. Consuming the plant reduces oxidative stress and protects cells from damage. Other studies suggest that this plant can boost your immune system, can be used as a pain reliever, and has shown to significantly lower blood sugar levels. Research has also found that it has anti-viral components that help to fight against herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and HIV. Consuming this plant before consuming alcohol can also reduce and even sometimes eliminate symptoms of a hangover. Historically, Nopal stem pulp was used as a coagulant on open wounds.

Consuming foods that are high in protein, minerals, and vitamins are crucial to achieving good upstanding health. Intaking a variety of foods that supplement the necessary daily intake of nutrients is important.  Knowing what nutrients and the amount per serving plays an important role in your health. When shopping for healthy foods,  it is pivotal to carefully read the nutritional labels as many companies intentionally mislead consumers to drive sales. Make sure you are getting what you are paying for. What better way to boost your health than to find superfoods that contain high levels of nutrients or a single superfood (spirulina) that contains almost all the nutrients that benefit our bodies.

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