Superfoods are aptly named because they pack an extra punch to boost immune health, keep you feeling and looking young, make your skin glow, give you energy, and enhance wellness. We’ve all heard that the typical superfoods–wild salmon, kale, berries, avocado, coconut oil, and bone broth–are rich in nutrients that make us healthier. I encourage my clients to eat a wide spectrum of foods so your body gets a variety of beneficial nutrients from different sources. I like to research and recommend atypical superfoods, and I’ve written about not-so-normal superfoods before. Now I’ve compiled a list of another six unusual superfoods you need to start eating. These foods will prevent cancer and illness, prevent premature aging, enhance digestion, and make ya feel pretty darn awesome. How many have you tried?
Six Unusual Superfoods
- Medicinal mushrooms. No, I’m not talking about the magical medicinal mushrooms, tee hee. I’m talking about cordyceps, reishi, maitaike, enoki, and shiitake specifically. There are over 100 types that have been studied for health, but the aformentioned are the most common immune boosters. These mushrooms are so potent that they have been shown to be effective at fighting cancer (and preventing it). They stimulate the immune system to fight disease. Many are used as general tonics to promote longevity. You can easily incorporate these into stir-frys or meat dishes. They have a delicious umami flavor that is delicate enough to accompany fish or meaty enough to compliment a steak. Or, take them in a tincture therapeutically to ward off illness or boost immune health.
- Heart. Yes, you read that right. Offal (organ meats) are unfortunately typically discarded and have fallen out of favor, but traditional cultures knew that liver, brain, heart, and kidney are among the most nutrient dense parts of the animal. They are rich in fat soluble vitamins and healthy fats. Wisdom says that ingesting organ meats will have a positive effect on the corresponding organ (e.g. eating beef heart is good for your heart). Beef heart is a rich source of the much-needed enzyme CoQ10, B vitamins, and iron, and it’s flavorful and inexpensive. You can probably find it at Whole Foods, a local butcher, from a farm, or from US Wellness Meats. You can marinate and grill it, or saute it. Or try this easy recipe for beef heart muffins.
- Sea Vegetables. These little gems from the sea–wakame, kelp, nori, hijiki, kombu, dulse, to name a few–are most often associated with sushi, but there are many ways to include them in your diet. Sea veggies are some of the richest sources of trace minerals and iodine, necessary for healthy thyroid function. You’ll find them at the grocery store most often dried, and they can be crushed and sprinkled over salads, or you can rehydrate them and make your own cucumber-seaweed salad with sesame oil. I especially like adding kombu fronds to soups, stews, or broth to add minerals and flavor. I often recommend this easy nori roll-up recipe using toasted nori strips. I also love crunchy kelp fronds or sea snax right out of the bag!
- Rapini. Also known as broccoli raab/rabe, rapini is a green cruciferous vegetable with edible leaves, buds, and stems. The little buds look like broccoli. It’s a relative of the turnip family and is not baby broccoli, contrary to popular belief. It’s rich in potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and Vitamins A, C and K. The cruciferous veggies also support detox, something we all need in today’s toxic environment! Rapini is great for cancer prevention, anti-aging, and strong bones. I like it roasted with garlic or sauteed in sesame oil, Chinese style.
- Kumquat. I had never heard of a kumquat before I moved to California! They are native to China and look like little mini oranges, and you can eat them peel and all! They are both sweet and sour but are so delicious. These little gems offer an extra punch over other citrus because the peel has so many concentrated nutrients, antioxidants, and essential oils, like limonene, that is anti-aging an detoxifying. The fruit itself is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants that make it a potent disease fighter. You can eat them straight, or they are popular in marmalades.
- Coconut water kefir. Kefir is a fermented beverage typically made with cow or goat’s milk and kefir grains. It’s rich in gut healing and immune boosting probiotics and enzymes that support good digestion. Because I am sensitive to dairy (and work with many people who are), I am always looking for alternatives to traditional kefir. Enter water kefir: you can use kefir grains, sugar, and water to make dairy free kefir. But you can also take it one step farther and combine the benefits of coconut water (rich in electrolytes) with the probiotic kefir grains to pack a double punch! The resulting beverage is high in minerals, is detoxifying, will give you clear skin and flat abs and tons of enzymes, probiotics, and electrolytes. You can make it yourself or buy it online here.
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Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.