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11 Superfood Powders to Support Your Health

Much of the world remains in lockdown as we continue to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many people are understandably feeling anxious and worrying about the impact this is having on their health and livelihood and that of their family and friends. However, rather than feeling helpless and worrying, why not start learning what steps you can take, big or small, to help you and those around you deal with this crisis?

Many doctors and healthcare practitioners are referring to COVID-19 as a ‘lifestyle’ disease as more and more statistics worldwide indicate that it is the unhealthiest who are the most vulnerable. When we take action, we move from worrying about the problem to becoming part of the solution. It is never too late to focus on being healthier. It is also not necessarily about making huge fundamental changes to your diet and lifestyle but about the right tweaks that will make all the difference to help support your immune system. A good place to start is to look at what you can add to your diet that will increase your nutrition.

‘Superfoods’ are an excellent addition to our daily diet due to the fact that each one contains essential nutrients that supercharge our health and nutrition naturally. Adding one or more of the superfoods listed below to your morning porridge, a smoothie, yoghurt, freshly made juice or a salad is an easy way of increasing your overall nutrient intake to help support your immune system against viruses and other health issues you may be dealing with.

1. Acai Berry

The acai berry is related to the blackberry. It is higher in antioxidants than other berries, which help to neutralise harmful free-radicals. It contains the flavanoid anthocyanin, which may help lower inflammation and keep the immune system healthy and strong. Anthocyanin importantly provides many anti-viral benefits helping the body defend against illnesses. Eldeberry fruit has been shown to inhibit coronavirus activity in cells due to its content of anthocyanin flavanoids. However, boosting your immune system is best before infection occurs and not during infection. This is due to the fact that lung damage from advanced coronavirus pneumonia has been found, in some patients, to be caused by an overactive immune response. Acai berry, like eldeberry, is thus best taken to support immune health prior to infection, or at the early stage of infection, but not for more severe illness. Acai has a sweet, sharp taste, similar to a raspberry. The best powder forms are those that have been freeze-dried as this preserves the antioxidants.

Make a nutty smoothie adding ½ tsp to unsweetened almond milk, with 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, and 2 tbsp each of tahini and cocoa powder.

2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an example of an adaptogen. Adaptogens have been shown in many studies to increase resistance to stress, while decreasing sensitivity to stressors. Ashwagandha can boost brain function, lower the stress hormone cortisol, help fight anxiety and depression and lower blood sugar. When we are stressed, enormous amounts of energy are mobilised in preparation for coping with a perceived danger (in this case COVID-19). There is only a finite amount of energy in the body and if there isn't enough left for growth and repair, we become more susceptible to external threats. When we respond to situations with fear, aggression and frustration, our immune system becomes compromised. Research shows that fear and stress hormones actually suppress the immune system. During times like these, adding ashwagandha to your daily regime will help calm you down, moving you more into a state of balance and improving your immune system's ability to combat foreign agents in our environment.

Try making a delicious smoothie by adding ½ tsp of ashwagandha to unsweetened almond milk (or your favourite non-dairy alternative), 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 2 tbsp tahini and 2 tbsp of cocoa powder.

3. Baobab

Baobab is one of the sweeter foods on this list. It comes from the fruit of the baobab tree and has a tangy, sherbet taste. Baobab is high in vitamin C, potassium and fibre. Maintaining high levels of vitamin C is recommended by many doctors and healthcare practitioners as it is an essential pillar of the immune defense. Potassium is an electrolyte, important for overall health. Several doctors on the frontline, dealing with COVID-19 patients, have observed that many are excreting potassium in their urine. Including foods with high levels of potassium is important at this time. Baobab can also help to support your digestive system, while assisting in blood-sugar balance. Some research even suggests that baobab powder has anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great option for helping to support a strong immune system. Baobab is ideal in smoothies where its natural sweetness can counteract the bitter flavour of other powders, such as spirulina.

4. Cacao

Cacao comes from the beans of the cacao tree and is the active ingredient in chocolate. It is also what gives dark chocolate its well-documented health benefits, including high levels of antioxidants, magnesium, iron, calcium and fibre. Cacao is well known for its wide range of health benefits. Recent research even suggests it can provide protection against influenza virus due to biologically active ingredients that have broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. Cacao is also recognised as one of the highest sources of polyphenols. Cacao can be bought as powder or nibs and complements many other foods, including smoothies, hot chocolate, baking and many desserts. Be sure not to confuse 'cacao' with 'cocoa', which is the roasted form of the cacao bean and does not contain the same density of nutrients.

5. Chlorella

Chlorella comes from the far east and is derived from algae. It contains several antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, chlorophyll, lycopene and lutein which can help fight many chronic diseases. Chlorella is also able to help the body detox by binding to and removing heavy metals. The more toxic our bodies are, the more compromised our immune system becomes, making it more difficult to defend us when confronted by a virus such as COVID19. Chlorella has a slightly bitter, seaweedy taste and so many people like to combine it with sweeter flavours such as baobab to balance the tartness.

6. Moringa

Moringa is made from the crushed leaves of the moringa tree. The powder has high levels of antioxidants and carotenoids. Moringa is thought to help support healthy blood sugar levels as well as offering protections for the liver, kidneys and the heart. As with ashwagandha, moringa is an adaptogen, which, like other adaptogen herbs and plants, is known to protect the body from the toxic effects of stress. Studies indicate that adaptogens not only help the body to cope with stress, but can enhance general health and performance. Moringa has a distinctly nutty and peppery flavour and goes well in any smoothie, or stirred into porridge.

7. Spirulina

Spirulina is one of the classic superfoods, having been used for centuries in many parts of the world and derived from blue-green algae. It is particularly dense in protein, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and iron. Some research also indicates that spirulina can help to support liver health, lower cholesterol and stabilise blood pressure. The results of a detailed study published in Scientific Reports in 2016 into the anti-viral properties of a Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) demonstrated that "Spirulina extract is capable of inhibiting viral replication ..." Spirulina has quite an intense taste so use this powder sparingly; just a teaspoon in your smoothie is more than enough. Because it is so concentrated, it is guaranteed to make everything you add it to go a sludgy green, regardless of the other ingredients. But the colour is worth it for all the goodness that is packed into this wonderful superfood.

8. Maca

Maca is a malty tasting root vegetable that is native to the Andes, where the indigenous people have used the plant for its health benefits for millenia. Maca is rich in potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamins B6 and B3, copper, iron, and protein. There is also some evidence that maca can help with symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.

One teaspoon (5g) of maca powder contains about 20% of copper RDA for adults. Copper is needed to help trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin which carries oxygen around the body, as well as being involved in the production of both red and white blood cells. In addition, copper is well known for its antiviral properties. It is also a natural inhibitor of the enzyme furin which alters the viral spike proteins of COVID-19, enabling the virus to lock onto certain cell receptors. While high dose zinc has been advocated for its antiviral effects, high dose zinc supplementation will produce copper deficiency if you ignore copper.

As with all these powders, maca goes well in smoothies but is also often used in baking or as a pancake topping, due to its distinct, malty flavour.

9. Matcha

Do not confuse this superfood with the similarly named ‘maca’; matcha actually comes from the same plant that gives us green tea, the camellia sinensis. Matcha is essentially green tea in powder form and has a similar taste, however it has a much higher concentration of antioxidants (137 times more) and is also high in L-theanine which has been found to help with focus, alertness and energy.

You can use matcha to make your own intense green tea, but it is good in smoothies or in healthy matcha brownies, which can be a great snack when out and about.

10. Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is one of my favourite superfoods, in fact I have an e-Book that is all about its many benefits and uses, which you can download for free on my Freebies page.

A wide range of health benefits have been attributed to wheatgrass. Wheatgrass comes in either frozen grass form, or as a powder. I tend to use the powder as it is more simple to work with. Wheatgrass is rich in vitamin A, C and E, as well as iron, calcium, magnesium and various antioxidants. It is thought to help lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response. When the immune system is fighting battles on one or more fronts, it is not strong and united to fight off a big threat, such as COVID-19 poses. Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements help put out the fires in other places in the body so the immune system can become stronger.

Anyone who is gluten intolerant will also be pleased to know that, despite the name, wheatgrass does not contain gluten!

11. Turmeric

Tumeric is a spice commonly used in Asian cooking, especially in India. It contains curcumin, which is a naturally-occuring chemical compound, known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and antioxidant effects and is the compound behind turmeric's bold yellow colour. The actions of curcumin are synergistic with the effects of the active ingredient thymoquinone which has been found to have antiviral effects against influenza, naturally found in black cumin seed.

You can make a tumeric latte for two with 350ml unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp maple syrup and a sprinkle of black pepper (to make the turmeric more easily absorbed in the body. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk over a gentle heat or use a milk frother. Once hot pour into mugs and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon to taste.

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