If you look up the word “superfood” on any search engine, you will come up with as many as 10 million results for an equal number of websites dedicated to the topic: despite having entered our vocabulary quite recently, this term has encountered an immediate and unexpected success. But what does it mean exactly?
An authoritative source such as the Oxford Dictionary, which introduced this word as early as the end of the last century, provides the following definition: “nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing”. Hence the reason for attributing the term “super” to any ingredient whose density of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fibres and above all antioxidants is greater than any other; this is why goji berries are considered to be a superfood whilst peaches and apricots are not.
Antioxidants, which are to be found in a countless quantity of fresh foods, directly combat free radicals, the main factors responsible for the ageing of the human organism, whose process is accelerated by a stressful lifestyle, the consumption of alcohol and tobacco or an unhealthy diet. So, in order to slow down this natural process, we make recourse to integrators or a diet rich in superfoods, together with a healthy lifestyle.
The berries of Goji and Maqui (a wild blueberry from South America) are certainly among the better known superfoods: they confer tone and energy, they have excellent anti- inflammatory properties like turmeric, they protect the immune system and maqui is even believed to facilitate weight loss in low-calorie diets, so much so that it has been ranked one of the top 5 most effective “fat burners”.
Chia seeds, which are excellent when used raw in vegan cuisine as a thickener to prepare sweet fruit puddings, contain 35% essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, eight times more than salmon; moreover they can reduce triglyceride levels with a consequent beneficial effect on cholesterol. The roots of the Siberian Rhodiola Rosea succulent plant, which used to be chewed by Vikings after the great physical toil of battle, acts as a tonic to help increase physical and intellectual endurance, stimulates the immune system, helps counteract depression and anxiety and, by stimulating serotonin, acts as an excellent sleep regulator.
These are just a few examples of what are believed to be superfoods even though there are others that are easier to come by: blueberries, kale, broccoli, oats and green tea; moreover, gourmets will be pleased to know that the superfood category also includes antioxidant-rich red wine and cocoa, an instant antidepressant if ever there was one, with its high content of serotonin otherwise known as the “happy hormone”. Of course, to obtain the maximum benefit from these nutrients, it is advisable not to process them through cooking which would drastically reduce their nutritional effects, and this also applies to superfood integrators, that is, the powders obtained from plant seeds and roots: to get the most out of these substances, it is advisable to buy those which have been dehydrated at a temperature of under 42°C, as contemplated in a raw food diet.
Discover Fine Dining Lovers' exclusive Why Waste? video series, featuring Massimo Bottura and his team of chefs, as they teach us how to repurpose leftovers and trimmings in delicious and imaginative ways, from vegetables to dairy. Take a look