Food has a purpose, and it's not just feeding our hunger and delivering taste. Other important purposes of food include delivering enough nutrition, and preventing and healing maladies.
All foods have something going for them, but some foods do this good deed more efficiently than others, and these are called functional superfoods.
Four such foods that we must incorporate in our net are mentioned below.
Alfalfa is a legume of the pea family that Ayurveda has been using as a medicinal herb for centuries. Its seeds are mostly eaten as sprouts.
They are tasty, inexpensive, brimming with nutrients, easy to grow, and easy to eat and digest. What’s more is that they have curative properties too.
Alfalfa sprouts are a good source of saponins, which help lower bad cholesterol and fat, but not good HDL fats.
The chlorophyll they have acts as both- a liver tonic and a liver cleanser.
It is a good source of vitamin K, which is necessary for the production of prombin, that is vital for blood clotting, proper kidney functioning, and also for preventing decalcification of bones.
They deliver 'good fats' that contain essential fatty acids and are important for cognitive functioning.
They deliver amygdalin (also called vitamin B17), a plant substance that is bitter in taste but is a big cancer slayer.
Plus they are loaded with phytoestrogens—known to have preventive effects for cancer, heart diseases, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis etc.
They have even more calcium than milk, and so are great for our bones and for osteoporosis prevention.
Good to know: Sprouts are almost like predigested food and so are digested rather easily in the body. They give our body a much needed rest- invigorating us, while requiring no help from our body to process them.
Zen monks live long, unstressed lives. One of their secrets is drinking matcha green tea.
Matcha is a deeply flavourful tea that has a grassy (Spinach like) taste and is a much more potent source of nutrients than green tea.
Matcha contains no sugar, sodium, or fat and has three calories per serving.
It contains lots of phytonutrients and flavonoids, and has 7 times more antioxidants as compared to dark chocolate that help neutralize free radicals and provide protection against heart diseases, hypertension and cancer. They also prevent ageing.
EGCG, a polyphenol in matcha helps boost metabolism which translates into better weight management. Regular matcha drinkers are found to have higher metabolic rates.
It contains five times more l-theanine as compared to regular green tea; this compound induces relaxation without drowsiness.
It contains a lot of easily-absorbable dietary fiber that can help stabilise blood sugar.
Good to know: Mix a teaspoon of matcha powder with about one-third cup of hot water (heated to less than a boil) and whisk until it froths.
Matcha can also be infused into mocktails, whipped into lattes, dusted atop savoury dishes, and mixed into sweets like macarons, cakes and doughnuts.
Bee pollen is a natural mixture of flower pollen, nectar, bee secretions, enzymes, honey, and wax, and is supremely healthy.
It is approximately 40 percent protein, has all essential amino acids, and is highly assimilable and usable by the body.
It contains nearly all nutrients required by humans and is considered as the richest source of the vitamins found in nature.
It is a rich source of multiple essentials for our body enzymes and good fats.
This powerful super food contains a vast array of phytonutrients, many of which are yet to be identified.
Bee pollen is helpful for losing weight because it naturally balances hormones and chemicals in the body; plus it improves the metabolism and helps reduce cravings for food.
It is very effective in lowering cholesterol levels, boosting fertility, relieving PMS, and boosting libido.
It is also a powerful detoxifier and a potent immunity booster.
Good to know: The golden coloured granules of bee pollen can be eaten plain like a handful of sunflower seeds, put in smoothies, or sprinkled over yogurt.
A small percentage of the population is severely allergic to bee pollen. So begin with very small amounts and slowly build up to a tablespoon per day.
The drumstick tree, also called miracle tree, has been a part of the traditional Indian diet since ages now; thanks to the insane amount of nutrition it delivers.
Leaves are where most of the nutrients are concentrated and Moringa is made from these.
Moringa is full of vitamins and minerals, significant amounts of vitamin A, B, (folic acid, pyridoxine and riboflavin), C, E, calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. The high content of vitamins E and C in it is great news for our brain as these help prevent cognitive decline.
It is loaded with protein. In fact, it is a rare plant food that delivers all eight essential amino acids our body needs, making it a perfect protein source for vegetarians looking to score complete protein.
It helps prevent multiple diseases as it is loaded with flavonoids, polyphenols, and ascorbic acid - all potent antioxidants and free radical terminators.
It also delivers a compound quercetin that helps cut inflammation in the body.
It also has chlorogenic acid that has been shown to slow cells' absorption of sugar and thus help lower blood sugar levels. This makes moringa an effective anti - diabetic food.
Good to know: You need very little - about 3 grams - of powder or about 1/4th cup of fresh leaves per day to score the benefits.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa), and Fix it with foods.)