Superfoods at Alba Therapies, with your favourite receptionist – Elly!

Recently, after finding an awesome supplier, Alba Therapies has begun to stock an ever widening range of health care products, mineral and vitamin supplements, female products, baby items, organic products and last but not least; ‘Super Foods’. Super foods (functional foods, superfoods, superberries) are defined as foods that either contain high phyto-nutrient content or contain more health-benefitting substances then simple nutrients given by ‘normal’ foods. They are generally associated with having benefit to health and wellbeing, prolonged life, containing high levels of antioxidants, being anti-cancer, and more. In many cases, they contain the right levels of nutrients, vitamins and amino acids to be complete- that is, they do not need to be used with another food item to give you your entire recommended intake. Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) for example, is known as a ‘complete protein’ and classed as a superfood due to the very high protein content, as well as containing a perfectly balanced set of amino acids fit for humans.

Among our newest products we find an assortment of (drool) chocolate. We are stocking pure cacao powder (also known as cocoa, cacao implies Mayan produce- thought to be the original and most ‘pure’) which is fair trade. Our chocolate bars are (delicious) dark chocolate with the addition of either nibs (crushed cocoa bean), Quinoa (mentioned earlier) or Almonds. These are organic, free trade and carbon offset. How good can you get?! Apart from being full of flavour, I was surprised today to learn just how good Chocolate can be for you. Now, let me clarify; the addition of fats, sugar and milk generally negates the health benefits – this is NOT about milk or white chocolate. Hot cocoa/chocolate can be no good if you add milk (even skim); but I have sacrificed myself for you all and found that a teaspoon or two of the powder with a teaspoon of sugar or honey is simply delicious. You don’t miss the milk with chocolate or cocoa this good. For those of you who like dark chocolate, you wouldn’t need the sweetener at all.

I always knew that cocoa contained high levels of antioxidants; even more so when raw (as the powder is) but I was unaware of the cardiovascular and circulatory boost. Studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate two to three times a week in patients after a heart attack can reduce the risk of death by up to three times that of patients who did not consume dark chocolate. The only major point I have to bring up here is that any food will add to the risk of weight gain/obesity if the energy is not burned off. So eating a few pieces of dark chocolate in the morning before starting your day (or a hot chocolate with breakfast) is a perfect way to start.

Although controversial, studies are also being conducted into the use of a form of cocoa being used to halter brain decline in aging people. Antioxidants have been known for a long time to improve longevity, but specific research is being conducted into the use of cocoa and degenerative brain disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Another much argued point is that of muscle recovery; it has been said that eating dark chocolate in the two hour period after exercise can help to regenerate muscle tissue. If you want to know more about other health benefits or see the cited studies, search Wikipedia.org for “health benefits of chocolate”.

Another addition to our Superfoods is Chia Seeds. This is a name that has been popping up more and more recently, and I thought it was a bit of a fad thing – until I opened the glorious box of wonder the other day and found these marvellous seeds. Tiny, black and white speckles not unlike sesame seeds, but smaller, Chia are the perfect vegan food and a must have supplement with everyone’s diet. They don’t really taste of much so can be added to pretty much any meal. “So why would I use them?” you might ask: ‘Cause these little guys are SUPER. They contain a huge helping of vitamin C (7 times that of an orange) which is not only beneficial to the immune system but is also needed in the use of absorbing iron (I found that out recently! You can eat as much steak as you want and still be anaemic if you don’t have a high enough Vitamin C intake) They contain 3 times the amount of iron as spinach, twice the potassium as bananas, 6 times more fibre than oat bran (both soluble and insoluble fibre – fantastic!) a whopping five times more calcium than milk, and 4 times higher ORAC* value than blueberries (which are known as a superberry for having such a high ORAC value)

I know sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the suggested additions to your meals, but I think Chia seeds are one you can keep around and know you’re getting a pretty good helping of some great nutrients. Chia are the highest known plant source of Omega 3, being 8 times higher than Salmon. They also contain Vitamins A and B12, which is why they are perfect for vegans. Chia seeds are a complete protein, just like Quinoa, and can be ground to a meal and hidden in food for little ones with no one the wiser. If you soak Chia in water they become almost a gel, not dissimilar from frog’s eggs, which I am told can be used on tired eyes to soothe them or for conjunctivitis.

If you’ve been living under a rock on the world’s smallest island in the middle of the ocean then you still wouldn’t be forgiven for not having heard about Goji Berries and the associated health benefits. These are most well known for their antioxidant properties, and for improving the length and quality of life of the Chinese and Mongolian people for centuries. Although blueberries were once hailed as the highest antioxidant berry amongst the western world, Goji berries have since taken their place and even far exceeded the ORAC values of these. Goji berries carry high levels of Vitamin C, as well as Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and a host of amino acids, other vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides and dietary minerals, amongst many others. They also contain Iron, zinc, selenium, potassium and calcium. Goji berries also contain what is thought to be the highest plant found source of Zeaxanthin; a chemical found in the eye. Links have been made with consumption of Zeaxanthin lowering the severity and chance of onset of age related macular degeneration and age related eye disease. Another very handy thing to keep in the cupboard or fridge, and dried can be stored for long periods of time. Teas can be made out of the delicious berry which tastes like a cross between a raisin and a cherry, or you can sprinkle them on your breakfast cereal, porridge, or add to trail mix. If you like a sweet treat in the afternoon, you could keep a stash at your work desk and nibble them in the afternoon with a handful of nuts.

In order to prevent this article becoming a book I’ll cut it short there. But please, if you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to ask me, or if they are more in depth questions your practitioner should be able to help you.

* Oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a scalar value derived in the laboratory for comparing the antioxidant content of different foods or nutritional supplements