Need some extra energy, a shot of immunity, change of mood or a gut overhaul? Open wide for a healthy well-being mouthful, says Lynn Cardy…
Want extra energy and a flat tum? Choose nutrient-packed grasses
Wheatgrass has been tagged as a superfood for years. “Virtually all sprouted seeds and grains fall into the ‘superfood’ category, as they’re jam-packed with nutrients and some great benefits,” says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson.
If you’re prone to bloating and other problems such as constipation or diarrhoea, go for wheatgrass. A real well-being all-rounder, “it has lots of health benefits, from helping to lower blood pressure, to detoxifying the liver,” explains Shona. “It also stimulates the thyroid, thereby helping to correct obesity and indigestion.”
How often? “As and when you need it,” says Shona, “or regularly, if your digestive system is unhappy.”
When you always seem to be tired, try barley grass, which contains an entire meadow of plus points. “It’s said to have 30 times more vitamin B1 and 11 times the amount of calcium in cow’s milk, nearly five times the iron of spinach and close to seven times the vitamin C in oranges,” says Shona. “Due to its high iron and vitamin B content, barley grass is great for those who suffer from a lack of energy,” advises Shona. “Take it when you’re feeling run-down.”
How often? Aim to have a serving of barley grass every day.
Just how do we take this sought-after green stuff? Forget the old grass shots we used to down – powders are easier to take and are just as good for you. Add the powder to juice or berry smoothies for a double well-being whammy.
Ease moods and lose weight: Get into super seeds!
Wellness experts rate seeds for their healthy clout. “I love all the seeds – they’re so nutrient-dense,” says naturopath Sarah Bowles-Flannery. “I use them as snacks, in smoothies, soups, homemade bread and healthy desserts.”
So what are her top three?
For weight loss, try chia seeds – tiny, for sure, but incredibly powerful. “They’re high in protein and essential fatty acids (EFAs), and loaded with minerals,” explains Sarah. “Chia helps with weight loss, as it makes you feel satisfied; helps mood, thanks to tryptophan and omega-3s; and helps bone density via calcium,” she says.
When and how? “Just one or two tablespoons a day – they swell up quite a bit,” advises Sarah. “They are so nutrient-rich, even a few seeds have benefit.”
To detox, head for flaxseed (linseed). Naturopaths love it. “Rich in omega-3 and -6, and gluten free, it naturally and gently cleanses the bowel and keeps you regular,” explains Sarah. Flaxseed satisfies appetite, so it’s good for helping with weight loss. It’s great for a sluggish digestion, too.
How much, how often? About a tablespoon every day, as an ongoing omega-3 and -6 supplement. Ground flaxseed is best sprinkled over porridge, in soup, smoothies and yoghurt. Or soak whole seeds overnight in water and drink in the morning.
If you struggle with PMS, dry skin and fatigue, try hemp. “We need a balance of all the essential fats for healthy cells (great hair, skin and nails), to balance hormones and moods, boost energy and control inflammation,” says Sarah. “Unusually, hemp contains omega-9 as well as -3 and -6.”
How much, how often? Sarah suggests one to three tablespoons a day.
Look for Health Connection Flaxseed Powder (Linseed Powder), R39 for 500g, Faithful to Nature; Superfoods Organic Hemp Seeds, R29,95 for 40g, Wellness Warehouse; and Chia Seeds, R62,99 for 250g, Woolworths.
Improve skin, immunity and sleep… with dynamic berries
When it comes to antioxidants, acai and goji berries take some beating. Acai can help protect you from free radicals, and goji are great for your vision, thanks to zeaxanthin and lutein. Here are two more berries with benefits:
If you can’t sleep, try Incan berries – you’ll know them in their fresh form as Cape gooseberries, also called physalis. “They provide plenty of cell-supporting bioflavonoids and minerals, and vitamins – especially A, C and several of the Bs,” says nutritional therapist Nina Omotoso. “They’re also high in fibre and contain small amounts of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. The combination of B vitamins, melatonin and protein makes Incan berries ideal if stress is one of the factors,” says Nina. “If you’re run-down and catch every bug, bioflavonoids and vitamin C give your immune system a boost, and as they are fibre-rich, the berries will definitely keep you regular if you’re constipated.”
How much, how often? Five to 10 berries now and again is more than enough. If you tend to get constipated, try eating a handful, followed by a large glass of water.
When you’re feeling run-down and lethargic, try some mulberries. “They’re little powerhouses of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals,” says natural-health practitioner Susan Curtis. “They give the body a boost of vitality,” she says. “They’re also beneficial for supporting eye and capillary health, and will help to protect your skin from free-radical damage.”
How much, how often? Aim for 2 to 3g daily. Intensely sweet, they make a great snack. Use as a sweetener in herbal tea or add to granola, cereal or yoghurt.
Look for Cape Gooseberries, fresh in supermarkets, or Superfoods Organic White Mulberries, R122 for 200g, takealot.com.
For weight loss and less stress… go for bright and zingy greens
Yes, they are an odd colour, with a bit of a pond-like flavour, but algaes such as spirulina and chlorella are surprisingly rich in protein, plus the kind of nutrients we’re often short of in winter – but which to go for?
If you’re feeling super stressed, try chlorella – a bit of a wonder kid. “Research from Japan suggests that this green algae – packed with protein, vitamins and minerals – could be effective in fighting lifestyle diseases,” says Shona. “Chlorella has been shown to reduce body fat and blood-glucose levels, boost energy and fight depression. It’s a great way of increasing magnesium, known as nature’s antidepressant,” she adds.
When you want to lose weight, try spirulina. “This algae boasts a better protein level than red meat,” explains Shona. “And it’s one of the best-known sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – an important fatty acid for the heart and joints. Spirulina is good for anyone who is looking to lose weight healthily, due to its high protein level, which can help them feel fuller for longer,” explains Shona.
How much, how often? There are no hard and fast rules, but experts advise you to have some every day. Stir into water, juice or a smoothie.
For great hair & skin, and to lose a few kilos, shake things up with protein powders
“Protein powders are fabulous for weight loss, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and helping to build lean muscle, which burns fat and gets you toned,” says nutritionist Rick Hay. “They also help build immunity and healthy hair, skin and nails.”
How much, how often? “Usually one or two servings of 15 to 20g a day,” advises Rick. Just stir the powder into juice or a smoothie. If you’d like to lose weight, try replacing two meals a day with a protein drink for two weeks.
Which protein? Rick prefers plant-based powders. “I’m not such a fan of whey protein, as it’s dairy and can cause bloating and gas; or soya proteins, as there can be hormonal interference.”
Powders he likes are:
Pea protein – High in amino acids and beneficial to gut function.
Hemp protein – Big in EFAs to help skin, hair and nails, hemp improves your mood, too.
Ready to go!
Plant proteins, fibre, vitamins and nutrients are also accessible in plant-based superfood blends like Super Scoop from South African wellness and fitness influencer Lisa Raleigh (available online). Try this delicious smoothie recipe…
Purple Rain Smoothie
Makes 2 smoothies
- 1 scoop Very Berry Super Scoop
- ½ cup blueberries, frozen
- ½ cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
- 1tbsp goji berries
- 1tsp chia seeds
- ¼ – ½ avocado, depending on size
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup ice
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour into glasses and drink immediately.
By Health Writer, Belinda dos Santos