Every morning, my breakfast consists of a smoothie. After a cup of warm water with lemon, my Vitamix awaits. I start with fruit, almond butter and coconut water, and then I add a range of superfoods — foods that are high in certain nutrients or antioxidants. While some are well-known (e.g., broccoli and pumpkin), many are new to the American diet.
Here are four of my delicious and nutritious favorites.
Superfood No. 1: Cacao
Pronounced “ka-kow,” this is the raw seed of the cacao tree. It’s the wonder of superfoods thanks to its high level of flavonoids (they help fight cardiovascular disease) and energy-boosting properties. Pure cacao, which is most often found in powder or nib form, is a world away from the heavily processed chocolate that we find in candy aisles. It’s bitter and it’s definitely an acquired taste, but once you learn to like it, it’s difficult to return to chocolate bars.
How to use cacao:
In addition to adding a heaping tablespoon of powdered cacao to my morning smoothie, my favorite way to use cacao is to dip a whole bean into raw honey. That cuts some of the bitterness, without affecting any of the flavor. You can also sprinkle the nibs on granola. Delicious!
Superfood No. 2: Maca
This energizing tuber has long been known in the Peruvian highlands: Large amounts of it were consumed by Inca warriors before heading into battle. Maca also keeps your endocrine system healthy and is a powerful libido stimulant.
How to use Maca:
Maca is available in many forms, though you’ll most likely find it as a powder in the raw food section of Whole Foods. It has a strong horseradish flavor, so you need to go easy on it if you don’t want it to dominate whatever you’re eating. (I use about 1/4 teaspoon in my smoothie.) Maca can also be found in some raw chocolate truffles, which is a tasty way to try it.
Superfood No. 3: Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are one of the world’s most easily absorbed protein sources. In fact, you can rest assured that if you are consuming enough hemp seeds, you’ll never lack protein. They’re also a great protein powder option because they don’t cause bloat like whey-based supplements do. Plus, hemp seeds are delicious.
How to use it:
Sprinkle on salads or granola, or throw a heaping tablespoon or two in your almond milk鈥揵ased smoothie.
Superfood No. 4: Yacon Syrup
The syrup derived from Yacon, a Peruvian root, is perhaps the best sweetener I’ve ever tasted. Yacon’s sweetness comes from low-calorie, low-carb FOS (fructooligosaccharides), which do not affect blood sugar levels. For this reason, yacon is a wonderful substitute for sugar, artificial sweeteners or even agave nectar. (Your body does not absorb the sugars, so it’s great for diabetics too.)
This powerful superfood also promotes vitamin absorption and helps regulate your metabolism.
How to use it:
Yacon is a wonderful addition to your morning smoothie. If you’re feeling a bit more decadent, you can try this favorite concoction of mine: one big scoop of frozen acai puree sprinkled with macadamia nuts, raw cacao nibs and shredded coconut, then topped with a squirt of Yacon syrup.