In our search for nature’s miracles, Crave finds out what makes some foods super.
Text by Tiffany Chan, photos by Samantha Sin
Special thanks to city’super, Green Vitamin Ltd and Just Green
It’s easy to confuse cacao and cocoa. Raw cacao refers to the unprocessed bean of the Theobroma cacao tree from which cocoa is derived. When cacao is processed to yield cocoa, 80 to 90 per cent of its nutrients are destroyed. Raw cacao is said to have one of the highest levels of iron of any plant, as well as high levels of magnesium and calcium. It is used as a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant.
Growing concerns about toxins in salmon have seen a rise in popularity of anchovies, which are lower down the food chain and have less environmental contaminants such as mercury and pesticides. Anchovies are high in protein, calcium, omega-3s and vitamin A, but also sodium, so consume in moderation.
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Low in calories, packed with fibre and an excellent source of antioxidants, this Asian fruit has high levels of beta-carotene and is said to boost the immune system and promote healthy skin, although this has no scientific backing.
Despite a water content of almost 92 per cent, the watermelon is low in sugar and high in nutrients, including vitamins A and C, and lycopene, a carotenoid shown to help protect the body from ultraviolet rays, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Eat the flesh close to the rind, or the rind itself, to maximise nutritional benefits.
A blue-green micro-algae that grows in subtropical oceans and salty lakes, spirulina contains significant levels of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron, although it would take an extraordinary amount to achieve the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. It has been promoted as a treatment for weight loss, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Wheatgrass has received a lot of attention for claims it has higher nutritional content than any other vegetable and can ward off diseases. It grows in temperate regions in the US and Europe, and can be grown at home by putting wheat seeds in water and then harvesting the leaves. While it contains vitamins A, C and E, iron, calcium and magnesium, it should be combined with a varied diet.
Garlic is a familiar ingredient that has been used for centuries as a natural medicine. It is a great source of antioxidants, which play an important role in health. With its strong flavour, it reduces the need for salt, which has been linked to high blood pressure.
As a rule of thumb, the darker the food the more nutritious it is. Black rice is high in antioxidants with similar levels to blueberries and six times as many anthocyanins as brown and white rice. It is also high in protein and iron.
Once a Thanksgiving staple, sweet potato now takes centre stage on dinner plates everywhere. Containing impressive levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and potassium, and high in fibre, the sweet potato is a lower-calorie alternative to the white-fleshed potato.
Edamame originates from two Japanese words, eda meaning branch and mame meaning beans, and is the Japanese name for immature soybeans. Bite-sized, crunchy and chewy, the steamed beans are an excellent source of fibre and protein, low in calories and quite filling, which makes them a perfect snack.
Like dark-green leafy vegetables, cabbage and celery, beetroot and beetroot juice may help to reduce blood pressure owing to their nitrate content, which makes them useful as part of a balanced diet. Beetroot is also a good source of iron and folate.
The reddish, purple fruit of the acai palm is native to Central and South America. It comes from the same family as blueberries, cranberries and other dark purple fruits, and is high in antioxidants. It has been used to promote weight loss, but studies are yet to prove its health benefits.