Brought to you by Bupa Global
In an increasingly connected world, we can all agree that greater access to food from around the world is a good thing. Expand your culinary horizons! While superfoods are not a novel notion and have found a regular place in our diets, we found out which ones are trending today and spoke to Bupa Global dietitian Gemma Cosgriff about the newest discoveries leading the global food revolution.
A greener way to start your day
Japan. While this health sensation is popular in Asia, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US, its popularity in its birthplace remains unrivalled.
Matcha green tea powder is unique because the trees are shaded for the month leading up to harvesting, to increase chlorophyll levels in the leaves. These leaves are then partly dried before being stone-ground to create a fine powder.
Like all green teas, matcha contains high levels of antioxidants, which can reduce the chances of tumour development. Other potential benefits include improved concentration due to its natural caffeine, and relaxation from the amino acid L-thiamine. There are also (as yet unverified) claims that matcha can reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Matcha is traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It can be served as a hot or cold drink, and is also used widely in cakes, confectionery, and ice cream.
Drinking black or green tea can definitely be part of a healthy, balanced diet. With matcha, you are consuming whole leaves, which is unlike traditional green tea. This boosts antioxidant content, one of the great benefits of this tea. Brewing methods, brewing time, and the quality of the tea itself can all influence antioxidant levels.
Be aware, however, that matcha’s caffeine content can be at a level that’s similar to a cup of coffee. Also, some varieties are sold with added sugar, so have the look at the labels.
The sweet smell of health
Australia. While still consumed most widely down under, this wonder plant is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the US.
The lemon myrtle shrub, native to Australia’s east coast, boasts leaves that are high in fragrant citral and citronella.
The essential oils harvested from its leaves are a seeming panacea for the human condition. It has analgesic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, and expectorant properties.
This fragrant remedy is typically available as a tea, an essential oil, or a dried leaf. Brewed as a tea, it has a light citrus flavour, making it a great accompaniment to white meat and fish. Lemon myrtle can also be used to flavour ice creams or sorbets with a citrus tang.
Using leaves from this delicious plant is a great way to add flavour without loading on unnecessary calories. While typically used in tea, as a flavouring for baked goods, or as a dried spice, you can also use it in place of lemongrass. Lemon myrtle also contains calcium, folate, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E, so this simple flavouring has impressive nutritional benefits!
A superfood from the watery depths
China. Having been popular in Asia and some northern European countries for centuries, love for this green source of goodness is rapidly spreading around the world.
There is a wide variety of seaweed types, including arami, dulse, kelp, nori, spirulina and wakame. They each offer different textures (from thin, dried sheets to long, noodle-like strands) and flavours, but all are rich in umami.
Seaweed is rich in nutrients including calcium, copper, iodine, iron, and other minerals, as well as being high in fibre, protein, and vitamins. It’s also blessedly low in calories and fat and could help reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.
Apart from being used as the wrapping on the all-time favourite California roll sushi, seaweed is also found in soups, salads, and even baked goods. Some varieties can be eaten as a snack or even used as a salt substitute.
Not all seaweed can be consumed, but of the edible varieties, it’s a low-calorie food that offers unique flavours, protein, fibre, and texture to meals or snacks. Seaweed also contains iodine, which is important for thyroid function and associated hormones.
Embrace the goodness of fermentation
The US. While it’s known by a German name and thought to have been invented in China, it’s actually Americans who consume the most. It’s even been eaten in space!
Cabbage fermented in lactic acid bacteria may not sound like a culinary delight, but that’s just how this superfood is made. The Korean variant, kimchi, is a little more complex, with cabbage cut into larger pieces and mixed with cabbage, garlic, chilli, and other spices.
Fermented vegetables contain high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as lactobacilli bacteria. This means they’re rich in antioxidants, can stimulate the immune system, and provide probiotic effects.
Typically served as a side dish, it’s also enjoyed as a healthy garnish to slightly naughtier things such as Reuben sandwiches or hotdogs. For a healthy snack, simply slice an avocado into quarters and de-stone, before topping with sauerkraut.
Cabbage is a naturally high-fibre and nutritious vegetable, containing compounds that have cancer-fighting properties. To gain the full probiotic benefit from this food, it’s best to choose unpasteurised sauerkraut. Some recent studies have even found that kimchi may offer cholesterol- and blood glucose-controlling benefits.
If you don’t usually like the taste of cabbage, it’s worth giving sauerkraut or kimchi a go. Just be wary of consuming too much of the less nutritious options that it usually accompanies (like sausages and hot dogs!).
Try supplementing your healthy diet with some of the above superfoods and see how they improve your mood and wellness. You’ll be glad you did—after all, they’re some of the healthiest super options the culinary world has to offer!