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Just what makes a food ‘super’ and how can you incorporate them into your diet?

“Many people are looking for the magic bullet – the ‘superfood’ that will cure all ills and miraculously change your life,” says Rob Whinnett of Blasta Wholefoods, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. “In reality there is no such thing, but there are foods that are particularly useful to eat as part of a balanced diet because they have, for example, a particularly dense concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes or healthy fats.”

“To me a superfood is one ingredient, eg. spinach or walnuts, unprocessed,” says Yvonne Deegan of Von’s Health Store in Limerick. “It is a food that hasn’t been processed and is high in vitamins and minerals. It might come in a blend like supergreens. There are also ordinary foods that are actually superfoods such as sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple.”

“Superfoods are vitamin- and mineral-rich as well as providing antioxidants to protect us from cell damage and disease,” says Elaine Joyce of Ylang Ylang Healthstore, Westport, Co Mayo. “They are packed with essential nutrients which enhance and nourish our overall health and wellbeing. We sell wheatgrass, barley grass, turmeric, goji berries, chia seeds, maca, hemp seeds, cocoa powder, seaweed, quinoa, to name but a few.”

“I’m a coeliac, so it can be difficult to get enough dietary fibre, which many people get from eating grains,” says Rob Whinnett. “So my superfood list includes foods like chia seeds and linseeds which are a great source of fibre, as well as giving me omega oils and calcium, magnesium and iron. One of my other every day superfoods is tahini (sesame seed paste). This gives me B vitamins, calcium and protein and is really versatile.”

“I stock a large variety of superfoods, from nuts and seeds to wholegrains,” says Yvonne Deegan. “I also stock powdered superfoods such as powergreens, supergreens, cacao, maca and camu camu powders. I include superfoods in my diet such as mixed berries, peppers, avocado, and olive oil or coconut oil.”

“In my family we eat legumes, lots of fresh vegetables, quinoa and we take wheatgrass and barley grass in smoothies,” says Elaine Joyce. “We make protein and oat snacks with chia seeds, nut butters, goji berries, coconut oil etc.”

Your local health store is the best place to stock up on superfood snacks such as dried fruit, goji and acai berries, nuts, oat cakes, raw protein bars containing only nuts and fruit and cartons of milk alternatives such as coconut milk or water.

10 of the best super foods

1 Bee pollen – a super and most nourishing food with 40% protein and everything the human body needs. Sprinkle over cereal.

2 Camu camu – a bush with green or purple berries and white pulp that grows in rainforest in Peru and Brazil. Camu camu powder is good on porridge or in juice. Packed with vitamin C. Sprinkle camu camu powder on your porridge or cereal or add to a juice.

3 Chia seeds – a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Chia seeds soak up liquid to make a delicious jelly-like dessert, or sprinkle over cereal.

4 Chlorella – a green algae sold in powder form ideal for adding to smoothies. Good for immunity and detoxing.

5 Coconut oil – good for brain function and has antiviral properties. You can fry food with it, eat it with a spoon or add to numerous recipes.

6 Goji berries – resembling dried red raisins, goji berries grow in the Himalayas, China and Mongolia. Eat as a snack or add to salads and smoothies. Good for eye health in the over 55s because they contain beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Thought to boost immune function. Add to salads, smoothies or a mixture of other dried fruit, nuts and seeds.

7 Maca – from a root grown in the high Andes of Peru. Add powder to smoothies, or take in capsule form. Good for fertility and menopause support. A powerful rejuvenating tonic for a stressed system. Add the powder to a smoothie.

8 Medicinal mushrooms – include chaga, reishi, cordyceps, shiitake and maitake. Have antibacterial and antiviral properties, are good for hormone balancing, increasing immunity and can help with lowering blood sugar. High in vitamin D and antioxidants. Take as a liquid or powdered supplement or drink mushroom tea.

9 Seaweed – there are over 500 different types of seaweed growing around the shores of Ireland. The most common are dillisk/dulse, kelp, sea spaghetti, alaria, carraigin and bladderwrack. Good for detoxing plus full of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and calcium. Most Irish seaweed is sold in dried form. It can be soaked in water and added to pies, soups, salads and stir fries, or baked in breads and muffins.

10 Spirulina – a blue-green algae that grows in lakes in subtropical climates. Packed with protein and amino acids. Anti-inflammatory. Sprinkle over cereal and into smoothies.

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