3 Under-the-Radar Superfoods, Plus an Easy Way to Add Micro-Nutrients to Your Diet
If you aim to pack the highest nutritional punch possible into your diet, try adding these lesser-known foods to your grocery cart. They’ll leave you, and your taste buds, feeling supercharged.
Image: Laura Jeha
Superfoods truly live up to their name. They are vibrant in colour, big in flavour and just so happen to be great for you. What takes superfoods, which are high in antioxidants and rich in vitamins and minerals, to the next level is when they are ingredients that are versatile enough to add into your daily meal plan (and weekly grocery list) and truly look forward to eating.
Here are three under-the-radar superfoods that offer major nutritional benefits and are worth seeking out.
(Related: 13 Best Summer Superfoods for Women)
The New All-Purpose Power Grain: Fonio
Fonio is an ancient grain from West Africa that is considered the continent’s oldest cultivated cereal. This edible grain is like a cross between couscous and quinoa in both appearance and texture, but it is actually a part of the millet family.
Fonio is an up-and-coming superpower grain for several reasons. Like quinoa, it is higher in protein than rice, wheat and barley, with as much as 12 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked fonio. Plus, it contains methionine and cysteine, essential amino acids that are scarce in other cereals. Methionine is a limiting amino acid, meaning it can be hard to find in plant sources, making fonio an important nutrient source for vegans and vegetarians. In some parts of West Africa, fonio is prized by pregnant women and nursing mothers because it’s a source of iron and folic acid—two nutrients that are important for proper growth and development—and is even thought to help stimulate breast milk production.
Because fonio is a whole grain and a low-glycemic carbohydrate source, it has less of an impact on blood sugar levels than refined grains like white rice and pasta. Its high fibre content, when coupled with some of its compounds, like antioxidants and flavonoids, has been shown to have an anti-diabetic effect, improving insulin response to keep blood sugar levels stable. Increasing your intake of these compounds also decreases the risk of colorectal and colon cancers, and boosts gut health.
This multi-purpose grain is gluten-free and makes a great alternative to couscous for those with dietary restrictions or intolerances. It can also be made into a hearty breakfast porridge or ground into flour for gluten-free baking projects. Compared to other whole grains, fonio is relatively quick-cooking, so you’re just a few minutes from an easy side dish or breakfast, making it an excellent addition to your pantry.
The New Plant-Based Protein Substitute: Shiitake Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been having a moment lately, and for good reason. These fungi are mysterious. Some are thought to be medicinal, hallucinogenic and/or psychoactive, or poisonous, while others are safe (and delicious!) to eat.
Mushrooms have a long history of use in East Asian countries for both food and medicinal purposes, and the rest of the globe is beginning to catch on. In the mushroom world, shiitakes are a star. These small capped mushrooms are dark brown and have firm, meaty flesh and a savoury, umami-rich taste. They’ve also been shown to be just as effective in raising and maintaining vitamin D levels in the body as supplements.
A compound isolated from shiitakes called lentinan has been shown to reduce tumour size in some cancers, and consumption of shiitakes has been reported to strengthen immune function. This is in part due to selenium, a mineral that helps protect against infection and oxidative damage.
Among shiitakes’ powers is their ability to be a sustainable food source. Mushrooms have a small environmental footprint in comparison to other plants, as they require relatively little water and land.
Mushrooms are inherently flexible, which is why you see them incorporated into cuisines around the world—Italian risottos and pizza, Chinese noodle soups and even eastern European pickles. Shiitakes’ firm texture makes them a particularly good meat stand-in in stir-fries, soups, pasta sauces and grain-based salads, where they lend their unique full-bodied taste. Remove their woody stems before cooking, but don’t throw them away! Shiitake stems make for an extra-flavourful vegetable stock.
Your New Leafy BFF: Microgreens
Microgreens are the definition of small but mighty. You may have seen these delicate greens sprinkled as an edible embellishment on top of avocado toast or soup , but it turns out they add a lot more than just an aesthetically pleasing touch.
Microgreens are the seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs like broccoli, arugula and basil. These tiny greens have a quick production cycle (two to three weeks) and take up little growing space in greenhouses, so they are quick and easy to produce. Microgreens differ from sprouts because they require both light and a growing medium to flourish and are safer to eat, as they don’t spoil as easily.
The power of microgreens is that they contain higher concentrations of beneficial compounds such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than their mature counterparts. For example, microgreens are two to three times more nutrient dense than fully grown spinach leaves cultivated under similar conditions. Look for microgreens that are grown in soil, as they may contain higher concentrations of vitamin C than those harvested hydroponically.
In fact, microgreens are also often a rich source of vitamins E and A, which have antioxidant properties that support immune function and wound healing. These are fat-soluble vitamins, so try drizzling microgreens with a little olive oil to boost their absorption. Microgreens are abundant in minerals and can be high in potassium, which is responsible for maintaining the precise fluid balance required for proper nerve transmission, muscle contraction and kidney function.
Use microgreens’ intense flavour, crisp texture and vivid colour to amp up any dish. from roast vegetables to sandwiches to soups and salads. They can even be blended into smoothies in place of spinach or kale for a quick nutritional boost. Each of the different varieties has its own unique taste, so try out a few!
Image: Activation Products
A Dropper a Day: The no-fuss way to add powerful micro-nutrients to your diet
Many fruits and veggies are nutrient-dense superfoods—but they have zero benefit to your health when they sit unused in your fridge. If you struggle to cook with superfoods, you might find a supplement like Oceans Alive® an easy way to enhance your diet.
Why Oceans Alive® Is Good for You
Made with two strains of marine phytoplankton, Oceans Alive® is full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and essential fatty and amino acids. Its micro-nutrient profile can support cellular regeneration, cardiovascular health, brain function and a healthy immune system.
Why It’s Good for the Ocean
Oceans Alive® features phytoplankton that’s sustainably grown in a photobioreactor, which recreates a perfect ocean-like environment that’s free of contaminants. Once the phytoplankton has been harvested, the water circulates back into the ocean and improves its ecosystem.
How to Take It
Easily work Oceans Alive® into your daily routine by adding a nutrient-packed dropper-full to water, a smoothie or even your morning yogurt.
Image: Laura Jeha
How to Cook with It
Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 3–4 servings as a main course
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 6 slices prosciutto or bacon
- 3 cobs of corn
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped (about 6 cups)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Green Goddess Dressing
- 1½ cups chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 3 droppers Activation Oceans Alive Raw Phytoplankton
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken for 5 minutes on each side, until a deep golden brown, then place skillet in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
- Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove cooked prosciutto from skillet, increase heat to medium-high and add cobs of corn. Cook, rotating cobs occasionally until nicely charred in spots and kernels are cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove corn from skillet and allow to cool before cutting kernels off cobs. Break cooled prosciutto into bite-size pieces.
- To make Green Goddess dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- To assemble salad, layer lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, prosciutto, corn and feta cheese, then top with sliced chicken. Drizzle with dressing just before serving.
Recipe Tip: Switch up the herbs in this dressing with whatever you have on hand. Dill, chives or tarragon also work well here—just keep the total amount of herbs in the recipe the same.
Visit Activation Products to learn more.