Superfoods Part 2: Go Loco For Coco (and Other Such Delights!)

In an earlier blog post from August, we looked at three superfoods that are fairly well publicised, owing to their proposed health benefits; you can read this post here.  This is the follow-up article, detailing three other superfoods you might want to include in your diet. As with the first list, there’s a good level of research backing the theory that these may offer health-giving properties.

So, without further ado (and sticking with the alphabetic theme), here goes:

A, B, C!

Almonds

Almonds are packed with nutrients, and have a mild, slightly sweet flavour. They’re rich in riboflavin (vitamin B2), biotin, vitamin E and magnesium, as well as useful amounts of non-haem iron (great for vegetarians and vegans), calcium and copper. They also deliver a good fatty acid profile, to include the monounsaturated sort, which is thought to help protect the heart.

Almonds also contain protein and dietary fibre, as well as being naturally low in carbs. Thus they’re great to nibble on, and help to keep you fuller for longer. They’re incredibly versatile; sprinkle over your cereal and porridge, or enjoy with Greek/coconut yogurt and berries (see below!). Almond flour makes a great, low-carb alternative to wheat flour in desserts and bakes; you can add almonds to stir-fries and salads. Of course, almond butter is divine! This you can use in both sweet and savoury recipes to boost their nutritional value.

Blueberries

All berries are pretty magnificent; they tend to be lower in sugar compared with some fruits, but deliver a mighty measure of nutrients. Blueberries are particularly special, owing to the collection of compounds they contain. Of these, a substance known as pterostilbene is probably the most notable; this has been shown to contribute to various aspects of health, including function of the metabolism; cardiovascular and nervous systems. It’s also thought to help regulate blood glucose levels, and help to reduce inflammation.

Berries have a really pleasant taste, fragrance, and gorgeous colour, so they work well in smoothies, desserts, pancakes... and even salads (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – honest!). They’re also great for adding sweetness to breakfast cereal, porridge or granola – sprinkle generously on top!

Coconut Oil

I think coconut oil is used for just about anything these days. If you’re looking for an all-round, healthy cooking product, then coconut oil it is. Do you want to boost your metabolism? Coconut oil. Are you looking to improve the condition of your hair? Coconut oil. Do you have dry or problem skin; a burn, cut or graze? Coconut oil. Mouth ulcers? Coconut oil. Noisy neighbours? Coconut oil (I was joking on the last one, but you get the point!). This miracle oil has so many uses – both nutritionally and topically.

So, what exactly has caused everyone to go loco for coco? Well, coconut contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are metabolised uniquely by the body. They are transported directly to the liver, bypassing the lymphatic and digestive systems, and providing an immediate energy source. They are partially converted to ketone bodies, which supply energy, minus the fluctuations in blood glucose levels that can ensue from eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Perfect if you’re following a ketogentic or low-carb plan! Because of this mechanism, MCTs are believed to boost fat loss, AND promote muscle gain (through an intake of ‘clean’ calories), simultaneously. This makes coconut oil an absolute gem – whatever your goals.

Nearly half of the MCT content found in coconuts is comprised of lauric acid, which has been shown to exhibit antimicrobial properties; this makes coconut oil ideal for topical skin application (as a reputed treatment for a range of ailments), well as having a versatile use in food preparation.

Coconuts deliver a host of other goodies, in the form of polyphenols – accountable for the taste and smell of coconuts, and their reported antioxidant effects. Useful quantities of vitamin E and iron also feature, as well as amino acids, and many other nutrients.

Organic, cold-pressed varieties are best, as these don’t tend to have a coconut flavour or strong odour, and so can be used for just about any purpose. Personally, I love the smell of coconut, as in my imagination, I’m whisked away to a tropical beach somewhere... but each to their own!

Coconuts are probably one of the most sustainable foods sources in existence, since pretty much every part of them can be used – including the fibrous bit of material from the husk (coir). Absolutely nothing gets wasted; they’re truly, one of Mother Nature’s greatest creations!

If you enjoy learning about superfoods, there’s more to come. :)

Stay SUPER!

Zoe

About the Author

Zoë is a qualified nutritionist; she holds a BSc in Human Nutrition (Hons), and is currently working towards her certification in sports nutrition, awarded by the ISSN. What you eat can greatly impact your health, well-being and exercise performance. Therefore, Zoë is here to support you in reaching your goals by helping you to make informed dietary and supplement choices.
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