A couple of years ago the world went a bit superfood crazy. Suddenly these powders with funny names promising to fill you up on antioxidants and boost your health were everywhere. Even your local supermarket is stocking bags of dust you aren’t quite sure you can eat, let alone pronounce.
So, what are superfood powders good for? And how do you use them?
Read on to uncover the gist of some of the most common powders you’ll find at your local health food store or in smoothies, bowls, and raw cakes at trendy health cafés.
Açai went mainstream a couple of years ago and can now be found in many cafés and health food stores, most often in the form of “açai bowls”. Açai is an antioxidant, essential fatty acid, and vitamin rich fruit that (in its natural form) looks a little bit like a purple grape. The popular açai bowls are cool and refreshing smoothie bowls, often paired with a number of crunchy or sweet toppings such as coconut shavings, granola, or fresh fruit. Store bought açai usually comes in the form of powder, pods, or frozen purée and has a slightly tangy taste, a little bit like blueberries.
Aside from being a fun word to say, Baobab is rich in vitamin C and calcium, among a whole slew of other good-for-you minerals like zinc, potassium, and iron. The Baobab powder dehydrates inside the fruit of the Baobab tree. Because of this natural dehydration, the nutrients in the Baobab powder remain intact. Freeze dried, pasteurised, or heat extracted powders, on the other hand, may lose some of their nutrients from the processing.
Let’s talk essential amino acids. These are amino acids you need to get through your food because the body cannot produce them itself. Camu Camu happens to contain three of the nine essential amino acids our bodies need; Valine, Leucine, and Serine. It’s also supposedly the highest known source of natural vitamin C.
Chaga is Russian for mushroom, and that’s exactly what it is – a mushroom that grows on trees. Chaga is popular because of it’s high immune boosting vitamins and minerals that reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure, and boost your immune system. It’s most often used to make tea and tastes a little bit like pure vanilla, meaning it has a bit of a smoky taste to it (not like the artificial type of vanilla you might be used to). Chaga is also popularly used to make healthy hot chocolates or alternatives to coffee drinks.
The green color of this superfood powder hints at what it is. Chlorella is a type of algae with excellent detoxing properties. The molecular structure of this algae binds to any heavy metals, pesticides, and chemicals that are hanging out in your body, left over from the food you eat and the air you breathe (this is stuff you don’t want in your body!) The magical thing about chlorella is that it essentially filters out the bad stuff from your body, while letting the good stuff like calcium and magnesium (i.e. the vitamins and minerals that your body does need) stay put.
The most prominent benefits of consuming hemp powder, for example in the form of hemp protein powder, are its richness in the good and healthy essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, as well as its high percentage of protein. The combination of protein and good-for-you fats make it a great source of both muscle and immune boosting goodness. The flavour of hemp on its own is rather bitter and bland, so it’s best mixed into smoothies or paired with fresh or dried fruits that have some sweetness to them.
Lucuma is terrific for use in raw food baking or to sweeten smoothies or protein shakes. The flavour of it is slightly sweet and has a hint of maple or caramel to it. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals that’ll do you body good too, most notable are iron, calcium, protein, zinc, vitamin B3, and beta carotene.
Maca is another powder that works well in sweet raw bake goods like bliss balls or raw food cakes and bars. Maca is actually a root that stems from the radish family. It’s got a slightly sweet and malty flavour, which is why it works so well as a sweetener in raw food baking. The benefits of maca are mainly its high content of vitamins B, C, and E. It’s also said to relieve women’s menstrual issues, balance hormones, and increase energy levels.
Maqui packs a lot of the same rewards as açai. It’s got a richness in vitamin A and C, the minerals calcium, iron and potassium, as well as the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-9. Although açai contains a lot of antioxidants, maqui berries actually contain more – so much so they’ve got the highest antioxidant content of any known super berry. Because of its similarity to açai, maqui can be used comparably in smoothie bowls, raw food baking, or fresh drinks.
Matcha powder is a great alternative to coffee. The powder is made by grinding the green matcha tea leaves into a fine powder. It’s commonly consumed as a tea, or to make other hot drinks like matcha lattes. Dissolving the powder of the ground matcha leaves in hot water gives you the nutrients and vitamins of the entire leaf, as opposed to just steeping green tea leaves in hot water. That’s why matcha has an antioxidant content that is tenfold compared to a regular cup of steeped green tea.
Mesquite is a raw super food powder derived from the pods of the mesquite plant. It has a sweet and caramel-like flavour which makes it an outstanding ingredient in baking, in particular raw food baking. Mesquite is packed with good fiber, protein, and also has a low glycemic index (meaning eating mesquite won’t spike your blood sugar levels but rather keep them steady).
Moringa powder is derived from the Moringa Oleifera tree. The interesting thing about this particular superfood is that almost all parts of the tree can be eaten. It’s commonly sold in capsule or powder form and is good for you because it’s got a lot of iron, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and protein. As with many other super foods, it’s also got a lot of antioxidants and is said to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Moringa powder tastes about as green as it looks so you’ll probably want to mix it into smoothies or meals to mask the flavour. If you’ve got access to a Moringa tree you can eat the leaves fresh in for instance a salad.
Shilajit is a nutrient and mineral rich biomass that is known for its energy boosting powers. In Ayurveda it’s known as the most effective source of energy. An interesting study showed that consumption of 200mg of Shilajit a day for fifteen days provided the participants with same amount of available energy in their blood after strenuous exercise as before exercise. It’s commonly sold in capsule or powder form.
Don’t be alarmed by the color of Spirulina – it’s got a very dark green tone but is oh so good for you! Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is pretty fascinating as far as super food powders go. Dried Spirulina contains up to 71 percent protein including all the essential amino acids (remember, essential amino acids are ones your body cannot produce, so they need to be consumed – in other words, go Spirulina!) Aside from its impressive protein levels, Spirulina has also got anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, can lower bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol, and can reduce blood pressure (among many other superb qualities). Basically, it’s the super food of super foods – and you should be eating it in your smoothies or juices.
Wheatgrass is commonly sold as a powder, but another popular form of it is freshly juiced. You’ll often see this in health food cafés, health spas, and sometimes yoga studios or the like. Similar to Chlorella, it’s full of good enzymes and helps in detoxing the body and getting rid of all the nasties you don’t want in there. It’s also high in vitamins, contains 17 amino acids, as well as good minerals and nutrients.
So, is there a reason to eat super food powders? Definitely! With all the health benefits of the powders listed above there’s no doubt they’ll give you a boost. However, super food powders should be a compliment to your diet, not something you replace your regular meals with. Add them in smoothies, juices, baking, breakfast bowls, and bliss balls to give your body a little extra love.
And keep in mind that heating superfood powders like the ones mentioned above will cause them to lose a lot of their nutritional value. The heat essentially “kills” or “burns off” the nutrients. You’ll get the most benefit from them if you eat them in their raw and natural form.