Here’s the rundown on some of the most popular superfoods right now.
Juice bars are popping up right and left all over the country. In some cities, it’s impossible to walk two blocks without running into one. But while aloe vera, wheat grass and algae might sound like they can provide a healthy boost, are they really must-have superfoods? While you should always check with your doctor before ingesting any of these ingredients (especially if you have allergies), here’s the run down on some of the most popular trending ingredients right now.
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1. Aloe Vera
Because it’s good for your skin and face — especially after a sunburn — you’d think it’s healthy to drink, too, right? Aloe vera, even more specifically aloe water is becoming a common product in gyms and on grocery store shelves. While it can help your body absorb more nutrients, too much of it can backfire. “The liquid contains latex, which is a juice produced from the green part of the plant, and can cause cramping and have a laxative effect,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, RDN, director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. She suggests looking for the gel, not the juice, which can have fewer reported side effects. Also keep in mind that store-bought aloe water can contain a significant amount of added sugars, so always be sure to read the label first.
2. Sea Buckthorn
Grown throughout the Himalayas, this ingredient has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of asthma, acid reflux and to support a healthy immune system, says Bonci. It’s also a great source of vitamins A, B, C, and E, which is why this herb is popping up on the ingredient list of a variety of beauty products and supplements. Add it into your smoothie order, or buy it as a berry, pill or oil to add a extra dose of antioxidants into your body.
3. Blue Green Algae
While the word algae may remind you of weeds in the ocean, this ingredient is making its way onto health-conscious plates. “It helps to boost your metabolism and mood as it contains the amino acid, tyrosine, which is used to synthesize the thyroid hormone, and dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter,” says James. It is also high in protein, B vitamins and iron, and can help strengthen the immune system. Blue green algae comes in powder form and can be added to a smoothie for a very green drink — literally.
4. Wheat Grass
Take a shot! Not of alcohol, but of this ingredient, wheat grass. Ask at any juice bar, and it’s probably one of the common shots ordered. Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN, founder and director of Food Coach NYC says this ingredient is rich in chlorophyll, and vitamin C, which enables the body to produce the white blood cells that attack viruses. Health benefits aside, it’s an acquired taste. “One ounce of wheat grass has the vitamins and minerals in one ounce of vegetables,” she says. “But it is pricey and not everyone likes the taste.” Buy it fresh to avoid any contamination due to bacteria or mold. Or grow it yourself!
You know turmeric if you’ve ever smelled curry before. This spice helps give the authentic Indian dish its recognizable smell. But, this antioxidant can be very beneficial to your health as well. Its active ingredient curcumin has been said to reduce swelling and inflammation, and some preliminary lab tests have shown that it may slow the spread of cancer. (Note: Always talk to a doctor before taking this ingredient and do not substitute it for prescribed medicine.) If the plan is to add it into a drink recipe, only add a little, suggests Bonci, as it can create a strong, savory flavor.
When cold season rolls around, you’ll often hear this ingredient come up. But there’s some debate about its benefits. “Echinacea is supposed to support a healthy immune system, but studies have been mixed on the efficacy of it,” says Bonci. Echinacea is actually a flowering plant, and its leaves, flower and root are typically used for treating illnesses, such as boosting the immune system to shorten the length of a sore throat or the common cold. You can purchase it in pill form or extract.
7. Sacha Inchi
This plant is grown in Peru and its seeds can be found packaged on the shelves of many health food stores. Sacha inchi contains tons of healthy omega fatty acids including 3, 6 and 9, Bonci says. The seeds can be eaten whole, or you can purchase the oil to add to a post-workout smoothie. The ingredient is also in many supplements, promoting the reduction of high cholesterol levels and excess weight gain. Plus, it’s gluten-free and filled with fiber, so you can enjoy some guilt-free snacking.