No single food will ever outweigh the quality of your overall diet, but if you're already eating fairly well, then adding in these seven superfoods can take your health to the next level.
Barley grass powder
Barley grass has 30 times more vitamin B1 and 11 times the amount of calcium than that found in cow's milk; more than six times as much carotene and nearly five times the iron content of spinach; close to seven times the vitamin C in oranges; four times the vitamin B1 in whole-wheat flour; and 80 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 100 grams of dried barley plant juice.
What that means to you is that it packs a serious nutrient punch. With just 1 tablespoon added to your morning water or smoothie, you get the benefits of a handful of veggies.
Barley grass also has one of the highest natural levels of enzyme SOD (superoxide dismutase), which is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells against toxic free radicals, thought to be a primary culprit in aging.
Need I say more?
Algaes, like spirulina, are the original source of omega-3 fatty acids and hundreds of trace minerals our body so desperately craves. Algaes form the base of the aquatic food chain, so consuming spirulina gives you direct access to true fundamental nutrition.
Spirulina is the richest source of protein on the planet, with a whopping 60 percent of protein per serving, while providing all 22 amino acids our body requires. About 1 to 2 tablespoons delivers impressive amounts of vitamin B12 & B complex, iron, essential trace minerals, beta carotene and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
It's dark green color is a reflection of its rich source of chlorophyll – a well-known plant pigment that cleanses and purifies our blood.
[Read: Plant-Based Diets: A Primer.]
Hemp seeds are a terrific source of protein, providing about 5 grams of protein per tablespoon. Sixty-five percent of hemp's protein is edistin, which is used in your body to make antibodies and enzymes.
Since much of hemp's protein resembles that found in human blood, hemp protein is very easily digested and assimilated. In addition, another one-third of hemp's protein is albumin, another high-quality globulin protein also found in egg whites.
Hemp seeds are also recognized by the World Health Organization as having what is considered to be an optimal 3-to-1 balance of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. It is this ratio that is believed to be ideal in promoting long-term well-being by decreasing the likelihood of developing inflammatory diseases like heart disease, diabetes and depression.
[Read: Best Heart-Healthy Diets.]
Roughly 25 percent of chia seed's composition by weight is omega-3 fatty acids. About 20 to 23 percent of a chia seed is protein. On the Oxygen Radical Absorbancy Capacity (ORAC) scale, which measures antioxidant levels, it ranks around 825, which is equivalent to the antioxidant content of broccoli, oranges and grapes.
Chia is also one the best sources of fiber. Its ability to soak up close to 12 times its weight in fluid is one of the reasons why it's so helpful at binding to bile, toxins, cholesterol and other compounds eliminated by the body.
[Read: Empower Your Diet With Antioxidants.]
Vitamin C from acerola cherry
Acerola cherries have shown significantly high levels of antioxidants similar to other Amazonian fruits such as the acai berry.
Acerola possesses the highest content of vitamin C of any plant-derived fruits or berries. One hundred grams of fresh berry provides an astounding 1677.6 milligrams of vitamin C, about 1,864 percent of daily recommended intake.
Vitamin C from acerola cherries is most commonly found in whole-food supplements and powders.
Bee pollen contains all 22 amino acids that our body requires. It's also loaded with all the B complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and carotenoids. It is also 35 percent protein and contains rutin (vitamin P), which strengthens capillaries and blood-cell walls.
This is a powdered supplement that originates from the Peruvian maca root. It contains amino acids, complex carbohydrates, vitamins B, C, and E and many important minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium and iron.
Its many benefits include the balancing of hormones, building muscle, enhancing stamina and increasing fertility. Most notably is its ability as an adaptogen – a metabolic regulator that increases the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors – to support the adrenal glands and alleviate stress on the body.
There you have it – seven amazing superfoods that are guaranteed to upgrade your health (assuming the rest of your diet is clean as well). To finish, here's a simple smoothie recipe that incorporates some of these nutrient powerhouses.
• 2 cups of your favorite berries
• 2 tablespoons almond butter
• 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
• 1 tablespoon flax oil
• 1 tablespoon maca
• 250 milliliters almond milk
Add ingredients to blender, blend, and enjoy.
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Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN is a registered holistic nutritionist, fitness expert and highly sought-after high-performance health coach. He's also a former professional soccer player and served as the head strength and conditioning and nutrition coach for men's soccer at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more than 13 years, he's empowered more than 86,000 people to greater health with his no-nonsense approach to health, fitness, and nutrition. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. Get Yuri's FREE "Y-Factor" at www.yurielkaim.com.