So, as an eco-foodie, I have a pet peeve about superfoods. They almost always seem to be exotic! (Goji, açai, avocados, kiwi, tumeric, etc.) Because exotic is luxury? Because the grass is always greener on the other side?
Whatever the reason, I’d like to point out some local superfoods where I live. I’m certain that wherever you live, there are also local superfoods. My list probably applies to northern climates like Canada, the nothern US, Ireland, UK and northern Europe, like Belgium, where I live.
Walnuts – Local Superfood (photo from flickr Creative Commons)
Of all nuts, walnuts have the most omega-3 fatty acid, which among other benefits, helps reduce inflammation in the body (an extremely common problem caused by Western/American diet). The Lipid Clinic at the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service in Barcelona, Spain has led studies that attribute the walnut to increase blood flow (related to heart disease) and lower cholesterol. Walnuts are also a good sourse of Vitamin E, flavanoids, and ellagic acid, an anti-cancer phytochemical.
“Walnuts have too much fat” is out-dated thinking. We now know that this kind of ‘healthy’ fat is good for your body, and especially the brain, in reasonable quantities.
Sources: Conquering Any Disease by Jeff Primack
Blackberries, local superfood photo by lastaii on flickr
“Marionberries, Boysenberries, Loganberries and other blackberries are high in gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, a known chemopreventative, with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. With their dark blue color, blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of fruits regularly tested (in the form of anthocyanins, fighting free radical damage in the body). Blackberries are also rich in Vitamin C and fiber, which have been shown to help reduce the risks of certain cancers. Blackberries are low in calories, carbohydrates and have no fat, which makes them popular in low carb and low calorie diets.”
Sources: Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission & http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/blackberry_facts.htm
3. Stinging nettles
Stinging Nettle (ortie en français)
Carri Thurman‘s post on Ruhlman.com states:
“Nettles are replacing kale as the superfood of the moment, boasting the highest levels of protein and plant-digestible iron of any other green and high in vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium, potassium, and manganese, according to Janice Schofield’s book Nettles.“
According to Susan Weed:
“Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a common weed throughout much of the world. The dried herb makes a nourishing herbal infusion that packs more energy per cup than any stimulant, and without the downside of caffeine or stimulating herbs like cayenne and ginger. Tired teenagers, sleep-deprived new moms, stressed executives, wakeful menopausal gals, and wise women of all ages depend on stinging nettle to restore mood, replenish energy, and guarantee sound sleep.
Nettle is amazingly rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, especially the critical trace minerals: anti-cancer selenium, immune-enhancing sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, diabetes-chasing chromium, and bone-building boron. A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.”
4. Cabbage (sauerkraut, kim chi)
Red cabbage slaw / salad
A known cancer fighter, cabbage has more Vitamin C than oranges! According to Dr Mercola,
“Cabbage has the highest amount of some of the most powerful antioxidants found in cruciferous vegetables – phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes. Research has shown these compounds to protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. They also help lower the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad cholesterol” levels in blood, which can build up in arteries and cause heart disease.
Rich in vitamin K, cabbage provides 85 percent of the body’s daily requirement. This is very important, not only for bone metabolism, but as a known Alzheimer’s disease preventative by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. The 54 percent daily value of vitamin C supplied to the body with one serving of cabbage is impressive, too – even more than oranges – which can help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals and protect against infection.
Cabbage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese, as well as healthy amounts of thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). It also provides iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium for strong bones, and potassium for regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.”
Fermented cabbage, as found in sauerkraut and kimchi, increases its superfoodness. The process of “lacto-fermentation” has nothing to do with milk. It’s that famous probiotic lactobacillus bacteria that makes yogurt so good for you that is also present in fermented veggies.
I’m a fan of lacto-fermentation because its an eco-friendly food preservation method (no heating/freezing/fossil fuels involved), and even more, its the only food preservation method that increases nutritional value! The sour taste takes a little time to get used to. I like to add just a spoonful to salads or other meals, to acquire the taste over time.
5. Kabocha, Red Kuri, Winter Squash or Pumpkin family
‘Potimarron’ or Red Kuri Squash (kabocha) from my garden
And last but not least, the Organic Authority says:
“Kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, owing to it’s bright orange flesh, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, good immunity and for vibrant eyes, skin and hair. A single serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day’s recommended requirement!”
A good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins, it also contains fiber.
Another cool thing about walnuts, blackberries and nettles is that they are free if you can find them in a friend’s yard or in nature. Just a friendly reminder, the walnuts at your local supermarket were probably not locally sourced. And the berries ‘grown in Belgium’ at my local supermarkets are often out of season, not organic, and most likely grown in heated greenhouses (or warehouses). This isn’t to say that its a sin to buy them at the store, I just like to be aware of what is really local and eco-friendly vs. convenient in my life.
Both cabbage and pumpkin can be grown in your garden. I’ve never tried to grow cabbage, but pumpkins are super easy if you can get past the ‘slugs eating the sprouts’ season!
The list doesn’t end here. 5 more local superfoods coming soon!