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Superfoods That Really Are Super

February 24, 2018

There are countless "superfoods" and "super supplements" that make headlines, sell magazines, and get people running to Whole Foods. Here are a few that are worth the hype...

 

1. DHA & Chlorophyll: Spirulina or Chlorella

Spirulina and chlorella are both great options for supplementing chlorophyll and DHA. I like to rotate between the two every couple months. Both are rich in iron, beta-carotene, and a myriad of trace minerals, but their main attractions are DHA and chlorophyll. Seaweeds are the only source of plant-based DHA. DHA is a fatty acid that comprises approximately 7% of a health brain mass and supplementation has  been shown to improve cognitive development and general mood stability. We convert alpha-linoleic acid (in plants and seeds) to DHA at an efficiency of only 8-20% (depending on one's genetic make-up and general health). Sea vegetables are the only direct source of DHA outside of fatty fish and eggs. Additionally, spirulina and chlorella are both rich in chlorophyll. The main attractions of chlorophyll are magnesium and its antioxidant activity. Magnesium is at the center of every chlorophyll molecule- that's part of why greens in general are so good for you! As an anti-oxidant, chlorophyll fights oxidative stress by initiating apoptosis (controlled cell death) of senile, maladaptive cells. The easiest way to use these green powders is to sprinkle into smoothies. A little goes a long way and most people will benefit from only 1tsp per day. 

 

2. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant: Turmeric

Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory supplement that works by blocking NF-kB- a molecule that triggers inflammatory stress response to things like cytokines, oxidative stress, and infection. Turmeric can be used in cooking or capsule form. Turmeric is the spice in the more well-known "curry blend" as the main constituent that gives it the yellow color, so if you like Indian cuisine, you probably like turmeric. Bioavailability of turmeric is increased seven to eight-fold when paired with black pepper, so be sure to mix the two when you're cooking. 

 

3. Adaptogens: Maca, Ashwagandha, or Tulsi

Adaptogens support the adrenal glands to regulate the stress response and balance energy production. They are known as adaptogens because they help us adapt to the stressors we face by reducing the activity of JNK- an enzyme activated by stress that causes oxidative damage and decreases ATP output. Ashwagandha and tulsi root are usually consumed as teas but can also be purchased in capsule form. Maca root comes in powder form and is a nice addition to smoothies as it resembles a somewhat bitter vanilla flavor. 

 

4. Fermented Cod Liver oil

Cod liver oil is best known as a great source of DHA and bioavailable vitamin A. I've already discussed the value of DHA, so I won't go into any more detail there. Vitamin A is bioavailable in its retinoid form (sources: cod liver oil, grass-fed beef liver, yolks of pasture-raised eggs, full-fat grass-fed dairy products). Caretinoids (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens) are precursors to the useable form of vitamin A (retinoids) which means we have to go through a metabolic conversion process that varies in efficiency depending on general health, stress levels, etc. Vitamin A is important for a wide variety of things including eye health, fertility, kidney function, and respiratory wellness. 

 

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