The term ‘superfood’ is defined as a nutrient-dense food that also provides medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Packed with vital vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals, these foods can also help ward off chronic disease while supporting overall physical and mental wellbeing.
When superfoods are rendered into a powdered extract, they become incredibly easy to incorporate into your daily food and drink.
We’ve rounded up the best and brightest of superfood powders that hail from all over the globe. Read on to learn more about the benefits of each and how to use them:
1. Moringa Leaf
Moringa oleifera, commonly called the drumstick tree, is a fast growing plant native to northern India. While the moringa tree bears fruits that resemble enormous green beans, the bright green oval shaped leaves are equally prized for their incredible nutrient content. Dried and crushed into a fine powder, moringa leaf is rife with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and phytochemicals.
Although the scientific literature on the health benefits of moringa leaf are still in its infancy, studies have found that it possesses anti-inflammatory properties, may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and provides gastroprotective benefits against ulcer formation.
Slightly bittersweet in taste, you can supplement with moringa powder by adding one teaspoon to smoothies, juices, and yogurt. For cooked fare, sprinkle moringa into soups, stews, and teas just before serving to keep all of its excellent benefits intact.
Like white tea, green tea, and oolong, matcha is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. It provides a unique set of nutrients because it is grown and processed differently than other tea varieties. The trick with matcha is to shade the plant three weeks before harvest; this step causes the plant to produce higher levels of caffeine and amino acids, particularly theanine. The stems and veins are removed before the leaves are stone ground into a fine powder.
Matcha is a rich source of antioxidants. Compared with green tea, matcha contains 137 times more epigallocatechin gallate – a type of catechin that may help prevent cancer. Drinking teas high in catechins has also been shown to reduce body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and subcutaneous fat. Consuming matcha may even help boost cognitive performance in the areas of attention, reaction time, and memory.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate matcha into your diet. The traditional way to consume it is to mix it into hot water to make a tea, but it can be blended into milk and energy drinks as well as baked goods like muffins, cakes, and protein bars.
3. Maca Root
Residing at 13,000 feet above sea level in the Andean Mountains of Peru, maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an herbaceous biennial plant that resembles a cross between a turnip and a carrot. A part of the crucifer family, maca is a root vegetable that varies in color from yellow, red, and black.
Maca root is highly nutritious, containing plenty of protein, vitamin C and B6, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, iron, copper, calcium, and manganese.
Maca has been used medicinally for more than 2,000 years to increase libido and boost fertility. Its traditional uses have been backed by science; consuming maca root increased sex drive and boosted fertility in men by increasing sperm count and sperm mobility.
Commonly called blue-green algae, spirulina is technically a cyanobacteria that can be found in high alkaline, brackish, and saline waters of tropical and subtropical regions. Two species of spirulina have been identified, Arthrospira plaetensis and Athrospira maxima.
Used as a food source by the Aztecs until the 16th century, spirulina is assuredly a superfood. It is high in protein, B vitamins, copper, and iron with good amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Spirulina is so nutrient-dense that it very well might be the most nutritious food the world over, gram for gram.
Spirulina contains the protein complex C-phycocyanin which has been shown to suppress pro-inflammatory enzymes, exhibit antioxidant activity, and possesses neuroprotective properties. Supplementing with spirulina is incredibly heart healthy too: it can help lower blood pressure and decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Spirulina has also been shown to enhance endurance, prevent oral cancers from forming, and is capable of removing heavy metals, like arsenic, from the body.
Collagen is a major structural protein that helps increase muscle mass, promotes skin elasticity, and supports tendons, cartilage, and bones. Although our bodies naturally make collagen, as we age the amount of collagen produced is less and less. Wrinkles, sagging skin, and decreased cartilage between joints are some of the signs that your body isn’t generating enough collagen.
You can boost your collagen intake by drinking bone broth, or by supplementing your diet with collagen peptides and beef gelatin. Collagen is very versatile and easy to add in to many recipes without affecting flavor or texture. Make anything from broth burgers to homemade gummy bears to panna cotta with our roundup of 20 collagen packed recipes.
6. Camu Camu
Native to the Amazonian rainforest, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a stout bushy tree that bears reddish purple cherry-like fruits. What makes camu camu berries so special are its extraordinary assortment of nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Camu camu fruits are especially concentrated with vitamin C – per 100 grams of camu camu provides 3,575% of the daily value. But that’s not all, camu camu also provides a substantial sum of calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper. It is a good source of amino acids, fatty acids, and other valuable bioactive compounds like flavonoids, tannins, lignans, and phenolic acids.
The combination of high vitamin C content along with phytonutrients means that camu camu fruit has the capacity to prevent genetic mutations, showed several anti-obesity effects, and significantly healed liver injury in several animal studies. In human trials, camu camu displayed antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatory effects.
In its natural state, camu camu is extremely tart. To ease the acidity, camu camu can be purchased as a powder to add to juices, smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt.
A majestic tree native to Africa, Arabia, and Australia, the Baobab tree (Adansonia spp.) can grow up to 50 feet in height with an enormous trunk spanning a circumference of 150 feet. It produces a woody fruit that resembles a coconut, filled with pulp that, when dried, hardens and becomes crumbly.
Processed into a powder, baobab fruit pulp is an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium while providing a good amount of protein, iron, and dietary fiber. In an analysis of its mineral content, baobab pulp is also high in potassium, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Compared with kiwis, oranges, apples, strawberries, and peaches, baobab fruit was far superior in terms of antioxidant activity. Studies on baobab have found that it possesses anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, anti-diarrhea, and fever-relieving properties.
The Brazilian super fruit, açaí berries are small purple drupes harvested from Euterpe oleracea palm trees. Although açaí is a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and potassium, it is especially prized for its antioxidant capacity. Rich in anthocyanins, açaí berries provide vastly more free radical scavenging activity than blueberries, cranberries, and grapes. One study pegged its antioxidant capacity at around 88%.
The easiest way to get your fix is to purchase freeze dried açaí powder. One popular way to consume açaí powder is to whip up an açaí bowl. Otherwise, sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons into yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal.
9. Bee Pollen
Although it is more of a granule than a powder, bee pollen provides such an amazing variety of nutritional and medicinal benefits that we couldn’t resist adding it to our list.
Made by honeybees, bee pollen is a mix of flower pollen, nectar or honey, and saliva. Collected when bees land on a flower, the little balls are transported back to the hive on their legs where they are left to ferment into “bee bread” that feeds the entire colony.
The chemical composition of bee pollen spans 200 bioactive substances – proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and phenolic compounds. It is rich in antioxidants, containing flavonoids, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol, and chlorogenic acid. It is a good source of provitamin A and vitamins E, D, C, B1, B2, and B6. It provides a range of bioelements like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and manganese.
Studies on animals have shown the powerful effects of consuming bee pollen. In addition to its antioxidant capacity, bee pollen also possesses anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antimutagenic properties. Bee pollen is beneficial for good heart health, capable of reducing cholesterol, countering high levels of lipids in blood, and preventing plaque from building up in arterial walls. Among bee pollen’s many benefits, it increases energy, boosts the immune system, improves brain function, may help prevent allergies, provides anti-depressant effects, and more.
Just as versatile as our other superfood powders, bee pollen can be blended into smoothies, salad dressings, yogurt, and baked goods.
10. Turmeric Root
The tuberous roots of the Curcuma longa plant has long been used as both spice and medicine. The yellowish orange powder is aromatic with a warming and spicy flavor. Turmeric’s most important compound is curcumin, a phytochemical responsible for its rich orangey hue.
Studies on curcumin have revealed it is a robust anti-inflammatory, suppressing pro-inflammatory enzymes on a molecular level. It boosts the body’s ability to fight free radical damage, making it an excellent tonic for the skin. It improves brain function and memory, possesses anti-cancer properties, may help fight depression, and even slow down the aging process.
Turmeric root powder is already a widely used spice and so there are plenty of delicious recipes available to peruse. You can also blend it into iced tea and milk, or try these two-ingredient turmeric bombs.