Superfoods come and superfoods go, as short-lived fads of health freaks around the world. But there are some that have been around for ages, and are here to stay. Behnaz Sanjana finds out more.
We are wonder-women in our homes, offices and businesses; charging into action the minute our feet touch the ground each morning, only exhaling when we hit the sack at night. But hey! Even superwomen need a daily shot of power to stay well. Our experts put the facts before you. Pick your favourites.
Hala Al Khaldi, nutritionist and MD of Diet Delight, tells us the bright green blades of wheatgrass are an effective healer because they contain all minerals known to man, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. Wheatgrass is extremely rich in protein and contains 17 amino acids – the building blocks of protein.
Wheatgrass contains up to 70 per cent chlorophyll, which works pure magic in the human body. This ‘liquid sunshine’ is antibacterial and can be used both internally and externally as a natural healer.
According to Hala, factors like the quality, convenience of use and cost should be considered before choosing between fresh and powdered wheatgrass. “Fresh wheatgrass is unprocessed so it will always be more nutritious than wheatgrass powder, no matter how much care is taken in drying or grinding to form the powder,” says Hala.
She also cautions against mistaking wheatgrass juice with frozen wheatgrass juice or juice in bottles with added preservative. “The processing of wheatgrass to make it last for weeks defeats the very purpose of taking wheatgrass as a raw food supplement,” she says.
Powdered wheatgrass shines bright for its fibre content, which wheatgrass juice is devoid of. Fibre is an aid for digestion, preventing heart disease, diabetes and weight gain. But your powder must come from organically grown wheatgrass made by a trusted brand.
Wheatgrass has been said to not only reduce the frequency of common colds and increase the speed of recovery from colds, but also prevent and fight cancer, by way of boosting the immune system. “Additionally, the molecular structure of chlorophyll in wheatgrass is similar to that of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin (in blood) transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Wheatgrass will help build and renew blood cells in the body and increase the oxygen available to fight cancer cells,” says Hala.
The Sunshine Spice
Turmeric, with its hard-to-miss deep yellow colour, is found in homes around the world, including the Middle East, as a spice cabinet staple. Du’a Al-Khalily, clinical nutritionist at the Home Nutrition Treatment Centre says: “Turmeric, with its unique smell and flavour, contains many essential nutrients such as protein, dietary fibre, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and many minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Thus, it is often used to treat many health problems and diseases.”
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, especially good for arthritis because it contains a large group of antioxidant and anti-viral properties. It is also a natural antiseptic and anti-bacterial, useful in cleansing wounds and burns and to accelerate their healing, she informs us.
Turmeric is beneficial to liver health and helps in the removal of toxins from the body. It also helps to reduce weight and burn fat. How? “The elements present in turmeric help stimulate the gall bladder to increase the flow and secretion of bile in the body, which has the biggest role in one’s metabolism. This in turn improves the digestion process and reduces the symptoms of bloating and gas,” answers Du’a.
Many studies have shown that antioxidants in turmeric effectively help to reduce insulin resistance which is associated with diabetes and also reduce the level of cholesterol in
Turmeric is known to be great for skin health, due to its vitamin E content. Research has shown that ‘curcumin’, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, can stimulate body cells to carry out the process that causes the self-destruction of cancer cells and prevents more from growing. Remember to flavour your Indian curries and Arabic kebabs with turmeric; your body will thank you for it.
Enjoyed by the South Americans for centuries, chia seeds have recently made headlines for their fantastic nutritional profile – providing a healthy form of energy, fibre, omega 3, amino acids and many essential vitamins and minerals. Chia may help to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, says clinical dietician Rheam Nasr from the Gulf Diabetes Specialist Centre.
These fun- to- eat seeds are loaded with soluble fibre (about 11g per ounce!) which is great for digestion and blood sugar levels. “Adding fibre to your diet should be done gradually. Chia seeds soak up lots of fluid so be sure you are drinking enough water to avoid any discomfort,” Rheam advises.
Chia seeds are also known to provide essential minerals for bone health, muscle function and tissue repair, most notably calcium, manganese and phosphorus.
Jazz up your salads, smoothies, yogurt or morning cereal by simply sprinkling some Chia seeds over. The kids won’t even notice the taste, making them easy to add to pretty much anything.
No time to spare? Just soak chia seeds in any dairy or non-dairy milk, watch them swell and form a gel-like texture and enjoy as a snack or a dessert.
They are also an excellent source of important omega 3 fatty acids, which have been attributed to lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, not produced by the body. “We need omega 3 fats for regulation of blood pressure, controlling blood clotting and maintaining the health of the brain, eyes and heart. Omega 3 is especially important for women during pregnancy, as it is essential for the development of the unborn baby’s brain and vision,” says Rheam.