Superfoods, perhaps the biggest term shaping the wellness realm, is just a fancy word for a downright amazing piece of food. Packed full of dense nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, superfoods are nature’s gift for optimal health. These powerful foods help improve overall health by boosting the immune system, increasing energy, supporting the body’s detoxifying processes, decreasing inflammation, and generally helping to balance the body.
Superfoods such as kale, acai berries, and pomegranates have been taking the spotlight for a while. However, there is another group of foods that are just as good, if not better, and highly underrated.
Here are 10 underrated superfoods that you should start implementing into your diet right now.
Small yet mighty, the hemp seed (when consumed raw) is a major source of protein. In fact, it’s one of the purest forms of protein–perfect for those who don’t eat meat. Also containing both omega 6 and 3 acids, the hemp seed is beneficial towards heart health.
How to Use: Add to smoothies, salads, and yogurt. Try Beet Ginger Carrot Protein Smoothie topped with hemp seeds.
2. Blue Green Algae
Blue green algae may sound scary, but it’s such a magical salt water plant, chock full of essential nutrients. Containing protein, B vitamins, and iron, this special variety of algae has been used to increase memory and energy in addition to treating various health ailments including depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
How to Use: Take as a supplement, whip into a salad dressing, add to smoothies, or enjoy in this Vegan Spirulina Cauliflower Side.
Lucuma is an antioxidant-rich plant native to South America. High in beta-carotene and vitamin B3, it contributes to a well-rounded vegan diet. Lucuma is naturally sweet and low-glycemic (i.e. low in natural sugars), so it’s a great sugar replacement (even for diabetics and those who are sugar-sensitive). To maintain its health-boosting properties, enjoy it raw. Most lucuma comes in powder form at the health food store.
How to Use: Add to smoothies, raw desserts, and scrumptious lucuma puddings.
4. Reishi Mushroom
This incredible fungus is deemed “the medicine of kings” due to its endless healing benefits. These shrooms are full on anti-aging properties Although all mushrooms have many health advantages, it’s the reishi that is used as a medicinal mushroom in Eastern medicine to help aid in a number of conditions including lung issues, high blood pressure, and neurodegenerative disorders.
How to Use: Best consumed in powder form and enjoyed as a tea.
Hailing from the mountains of Peru, maca is a root vegetable known for its great vitality power. This healing root has numerous health benefits such as increased energy, endurance, strength, libido, memory, and fertility. Although beneficial for all, maca is especially an enhancement and blessing to women’s health.
How to Use: Maca can be found in powder form and can be added to smoothies, coffee, sauces, or swallowed as a capsule. Try Mango Maca Skin-Smoothing Smoothie.
6. Camu Berry
Camu camu, a mysterious berry from the Amazon, is one of the healthiest fruits in the world–yet it’s unfamiliar the many. Camu berry contains beta-carotene, potassium, and best of all, is the highest vitamin C source on earth. If this fruit couldn’t get any better, it is said to be one of the most natural anti-depressants and energy enhancers.
How to Use: Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find the real deal at the supermarket; however, you can still get the same benefits in the powder form. Add to your morning smoothie or juice for an extra energy boost.
7. Sea Vegetables
Little did you know, that piece of seaweed you’ve been eating with your sushi has some serious health benefits. Sea vegetables– think nori, kelp, and wakame–are rich in many nutrients including calcium, vitamins A & C, and iodine. These vegetables help detoxify the body, help regulate the thyroid and hormones, and reduce the risk of cancer.
How to Use: You can make a variety of things with sea vegetables–miso soup, sushi, sandwiches, or even smoothies. Enjoy this Detoxifying Nori Salad.
This colorful plant is not only a beautiful addition to your garden but should a forerunner in your diet. Packed full of fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamin C & K, rhubarb is hiding some serious nutrients under its pretty stalk. This beauty helps promote bone growth, improves circulation, and is great for vision health.
How to Use: Both sweet and savory, rhubarb is the perfect dessert ingredient for a nutritious pie, cake, or cookie. However, do NOT eat the green leaves, as it is very poisonous. Indulge in this Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.
9. Aloe Vera
This versatile plant not only can soothe and heal your skin but can and should be eaten. Bursting with nutrients, aloe contains vitamin A, C, E, and multiple B-complex vitamins, including B12. B12 is critical for a healthy functioning body, sustained energy, and a balanced metabolism. Aloe vera is also a gentle detoxifier, aiding in digestion and calming the stomach.
How to Use: Enjoy as a refreshing juice or as a nourishing face mask.
The best has been left for last. Hailing as the food with the highest origin of antioxidants in addition to a number of complex vitamins, the delicious and decadent cacao is one of the most nutritious foods out there. Cacao is an all around happy food, boosting energy levels, mood, and libido. Furthermore, it helps improve heart health, regulates blood sugar, and is anti-aging. Being a chocoholic never sounded so good.
How to Use: To get optimal health benefits, cacao should be enjoyed raw. Raw cacao can be used in a multitude of ways including desserts, coffee, energy balls, or breakfast bowls. Try this Raw Maca Cacao Hot Cocoa.
Have you tried these underrated superfoods yet?
Also by Jess: Authentic Vegan Pad Thai
Related: 10 High-Protein Vegan Foods You Should Be Eating
Raw Vegan Superfood Smoothie Bowl
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Photos: Mary Hood Luttrell (beet smoothie, lucuma pudding, maca smoothie, cocoa), Jessica Riley-Norton (spirulina cauliflower), Tea Haven, Amazon, Peaceful Dumpling (nori salad), Bethany Cox (rhubarb compote), BRF Klätterträdet via Flickr