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Having always been sceptical towards superfoods, I usually found them too hyped and overpriced. Powders, made of exotic fruits logically seemed less nutritious due to their processing, compared to having fresh, locally grown berries. Some health trends even seemed bizzare, such as eating active charcoal, which doesn't really add any benefits unless you've ingested poison.
However, recently I have come across sea buckthorn, ashwagandha and maca, which actually made an improvement in my wellbeing in terms of less stress, more energy and better mood. They eased my opinion into the whole superfood topic.
After having tried them for a few months, I'd love to share the benefits of those three superfoods with you!
Being quite new to this area, I would also love to hear about your experience with superfoods, if you have tried some, as well as hear your opinion on the topic in general.
A little while ago, I started feeling really low on motivation and energy, feeling as though life didn't really have much to offer and not getting excited about things that would make me ecstatic otherwise.
The fact that it was a dark, cold and rainy outside all the time did not make it better at all.
Having a background in biomedicine, I knew that in many cases, physiological and psychological health are very closely connected.
My blood test results showed that I was just low on iron.
Iron and vitamin B12 deficiency can easily cause symptoms that are very similar to depression (1). That happens partly because it makes our energy levels go down and partly because iron seems to play important role in neurotransmitter signaling in our brain.
Aside from taking iron and B12 vitamin supplements, I also became very interested in natural remedies, as I was very motivated to get my motivation and energy back.
It actually started with my doctor recommending sea buckthorn, which is considered to be a superfruit.
What is Sea Buckthorn good for?
It's PACKED with C vitamin! One berry has approximately the same amount of vitamin C as five oranges!
Vitamin C helps our bodies to build cartilage and bone tissues (2), collagen in our skin, form certain neurotransmitters, and keeps our blood vessels healthy. It also plays an important role in making our immune system stronger and helps our bodies to absorb iron (3).
Aside from being super rich in vitamin C, sea buckthorn is also packed with:
Vitamin A, which is important for the proper function of our immune system, good vision, reproduction, and cell communication (4).
Vitamin E, an important antioxidant (5).
Vitamin K, important for blood clotting and healthy bones (6).
Flavonoids, that have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties (7).
Omega-3, -6, -7 and -9 fatty acids. We need the right balance of these in our bodies as they play important roles in our brain function, heart- and blood vessel health, immune- and hormonal systems, lungs and keep the right fluid balance. Omega-3 also has anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have shown that omega-9 can lower cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation (8).
Sea buckthorn's sour taste might not make it great to eat it on its own, but I would definitely recommend adding a few berries to a smoothie, or making a tea, with several crushed berries and honey. Just keep in mind that C vitamin is sensitive to heat, so the water can be warm, but not boiling when you make the tea.
You can also eat them whole really fast, like I often do. It's a bit like taking a cold shower. :)
I'm very happy that sea buckthorn berries are abundant in Sweden and you can buy them frozen in the majority of food stores. I do have some alternatives, though, if the sea buckthorn isn't available fresh in your country.
Although I haven't tried sea buckthorn powders, they seem to also contain some of the vitamins that the whole berries have. It might be nice to add it to smoothies, yoghurts, or anywhere else you'd like. Just make sure you buy them organic and tested for the vitamins that fresh sea buckthorn should contain, like the ones below:
I also came across dried organic sea buckthorn berries available on Amazon, for my American readers. I have tried drinking tea with dried sea buckthorn berries before, and it was delicious and healthy! It is especially nice to drink sea buckthorn tea when you have a cold to get a boost of all the great vitamins and then eat up the berries in the end.
Another superfood I've started having almost every day is Ashwagandha.
What is ashwagandha good for?
Ashwagandha belongs to the adaptogen family, which implies that it helps our bodies and mind deal with stress, by adapting to what our body needs.
Being also called the Indian Ginseng, ashwagandha has been used throughout the centuries as the ancient natural Ayurvedic medicine in India. It is also commonly found in many teas nowadays.
Although ashwagandha is still not fully examined, some of its benefits are shown to be (9):
Its most powerful ingredient is withanolides, which are found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Reduce blood sugar levels.
Reduce cortisol levels in our bodies, which is a stress hormone. Therefore it can help our bodies to deal with physical and psychological stress.
I usually consume ashwagandha in powder form, mixing approximately 1 teaspoon with hot water and adding plant-based milk, honey and cinnamon. Just like for sea buckthorn powder, make sure to get ashwagandha power organic and tested for the vitamins that it should contain, such as the one below:
I find the taste of ashwagandha quite strong, so just making it into a drink on its own, or with another superfood makes it easier to drink it up, than having it in a thick smoothie.
Having been quite stressed lately, I find that ashwagandha does reduce my calmer and helps me to be more productive.
I started noticing the difference about a one and a half - two weeks in, however, so just keep in mind that it takes a little while for the effects to show.
Maca is another superfood powder I like to add in my super-drink, together with ashwagandha.
Grown in high altitudes in the Peruvian Andes mountains, maca has very harsh conditions to grow and therefore becomes packed with nutrients, similarly to sea buckthorn.
It's a green vegetable, related to broccoli and kale.
What is maca good for?
Several studies have highlighted its main benefits to be:
Increased sports performance in athletes (10).
Increased sexual drive and fertility (10).
Improved mood as maca contains flavonoids, that several studies found can improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression (10).
It can reduce blood pressure. The same study as above showed that as little as 3.3g of Maca a day reduced blood pressure in Chinese postmenopausal women (11).
It can reduce damage to our skin caused by the sun. A study published in 2011 indicated these effects, however only on mice (11). I personally really hope this works as I get sunburn really easily :)
It may improve our memory and learning. A quite recent study showed some benefits of learning and memory, although also only on mice (12).
As mentioned above, I usually make a drink with a teaspoon maca powder, a teaspoon ashwagandha powder, hot water and then add honey and plant-based milk. I sometimes also add cinnamon to make the drink tastier.
You can get maca powder on Amazon, just make sure it is organic, like the one below:
In conclusion, I've been loving the effects of all three superfood I've been having!
My main advantages are that sea buckthorn's vitamin C helps with iron absorption and makes my hair and skin better as well as improves my immune system. Maca and ashwagandha drink improves my overall wellbeing, as I feel that my energy is higher, I am less stressed and my mood is better.
I'd love to learn about more kinds of superfoods and try them, after having found such interesting benefits of these three.
Please leave a comment below and tell me all about the superfoods you've tried and whether they've helped you. I'd love to get recommendations from you! :)
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I am very interested to hear your opinion and tips on what you'd like to read about in this blog, so you are more than welcome to leave a comment here, or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Laura | MSc in Medical Science, Creator of The Greater Mindfulness
1. John Beard, Iron Deficiency Alters Brain Development and Functioning, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 133, Issue 5, May 2003, Pages 1468S–1472S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.5.1468S
2. Livsmedelsverket. 2019. C Vitamin. Available at: https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/naringsamne/vitaminer-och-antioxidanter/c-vitamin/
3. National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. 2019. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
4. National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A. 2019. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
5. National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin E. 2019. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
6. National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin K. 2019. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminK-HealthProfessional/
7. Panche, A. N., Diwan, A. D., & Chandra, S. R. (2016). Flavonoids: an overview. Journal of nutritional science, 5, e47. doi:10.1017/jns.2016.41
8. Robertson, R. Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview. 2017. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-6-9-overview#section3
9. Spritzler, F. 12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha. 2019. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-proven-ashwagandha-benefits#1
10. Stone, Mark, Ibarra, A., Roller, M., Zangara, Andrea and Stevenson, Emma (2009) A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 126 (3). pp. 574-576. ISSN 0378-8741
11. Gonzales‐Castañeda, C., Rivera, V., Chirinos, A.L., Evelson, P. and Gonzales, G.F. (2011), Photoprotection against the UVB‐induced oxidative stress and epidermal damage in mice using leaves of three different varieties of Lepidium meyenii (maca). International Journal of Dermatology, 50: 928-938. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04793.x
12. Stojanovska, Lily & Law, C & Lai, B & Chung, Tony & Nelson, K & Day, S & Apostolopoulos, Vasso & Haines, C. (2014). Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society. 18. 1-26. 10.3109/13697137.2014.929649.