Superfood powders are at the height of fashion right now. Enter any health store and you will be met with a whole shelf of ‘miracle’ powders claiming various health benefits and results. But what are the best superfood powders? And do you really need any of these powders or can you get it all from your diet? There’s certainly both scientific and anecdotal evidence pro superfood powders so it’s worth exploring. This blog begins by addressing these questions and then spotlights some of the best superfood powders. Finally, we wrap up with some tips on how to choose the best powder for you.
Best Superfood Powders – Introduction
Consuming superfood powders as part of your diet is certainly a trend! According to Pinterest, searches for super powders have increased +144% in 2019. It’s certainly a big jump in popularity alongside the very popular trends of juices and smoothies. With so many celebrities, influencers and even nutrition gurus jumping on board it’s hard to resist, especially when all of these powders claim to have the most nutrient-dense natural ingredients, micronutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. This fits in line with so our society today; people want faster, quicker, better—more. How did we ever survive without them?
So what is superfood powder?
Essentially, it is a single or mix of ingredients in powdered form. These ingredients can be a simple mix of fruit and vegetables or a more exotic single food that might claim to have a more specific health benefit to offer. Prices also vary depending on the ingredients and processing method. Without being over-analytical, the basic rule of thumb is to find an organic powder.
The processing method is important to note as adding heat/light/air to a raw ingredient can kill nutrients. There is some nutrient loss during dehydration, usually among the vitamins. Minerals and polyphenols are fairly stable unless high heat is used.
Should you take superfood powder?
Using powder, just like juicing and smoothies, allows you to get a lot of nutrition in a very concentrated way. Now that we are realising just how much fruit and vegetables we need to consume daily, these powders can offer a useful fix to do just that. However, you should also note that none of the superfood powders contains nutrients that can’t be found in other, cheaper, everyday foods. So relying on it to cure all your woes isn’t a cost-effective solution either but it certainly helps.
So we’ve established that a good superfood powder can be a great way to add micronutrients to those who need an extra boost. But I guess the logical question is to ask who fits this criteria? Good nutrition is the fundamental building block of a healthy body. But of course, there are certain cases (for example our genetics, our lifestyle, our choices etc) where we need a bit more help to support our health. Take an athlete with a heavy training schedule that depletes their body of energy and nutrients, take someone with an autoimmune condition that can’t absorb certain nutrients, take someone under a lot of stress/lacking sleep, take a heavy smoker/drinker who is under a lot of oxidative stress, take an obese individual who is inflamed – all of these cases might call for a boost.
The benefits studied to date have certainly supported the above idea – One study saw that fruit & vegetable powder saw improvement in oxidative markers in heavy smokers. Another saw improvements in some pulmonary parameters, cardiovascular risk factors, and folate status.
A note on the word SuperFood
First to address the term ‘superfood’ – There is no official definition or criteria for a superfood but the general consensus is that these are primarily plant-based foods that are particularly dense in nutrients and therefore very beneficial to us. The term ‘superfood’ is in many ways marketing armour. However, there are certain foods that go above and beyond in terms of nutrient value. From our point of view, superfoods are foods with exceptional nutrient value, in their natural form and in their raw state that help to increase the total value of your daily nutrient intake.
Best SuperFood Powders
A simple ‘basic’ powder to look out for is a mix of powdered fruit and vegetables. For additional protein, spirulina is a fantastic addition too. Some other powders to try: maca, lucuma, baobab, chlorella, moringa, acai.
You might have seen it as a listed ingredient in juices, energy bars or sold as a supplement. Did you know spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in warm freshwater? It contains up to 65% protein and is an excellent source of vitamins A, K, B12, Manganese and chromium. It is also a rich source of phytonutrients. You can find a full profile here.
There is no doubt that spirulina has some super powers – it provides 2800% more beta-carotene than carrots, 3900% more iron than spinach, 600% more protein than tofu, 280% more antioxidants than blueberries! (source). And examine.com also agree, listing spirulina as one of the only four foods they stand over as being a little more ‘super’. They base their reasoning on the amount of research behind the food, and spirulina can certainly boast there. It is incredibly well researched with over 1500 articles on pubmed alone!
It’s absolutely critical to make sure that the quality and purity of the spirulina that you consume is of the highest standards. Like with anything that comes from the sea, take care to purchase algae free from contamination. Ask this question in-store or email the brand.
Lucuma yellow-fleshed South American fruit which provides an abundance of antioxidants, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Specifically, this Peruvian fruit contains beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. It is also low GI and can be a great natural sweetener to smoothies and juices with its maple-like flavour. Beloved by the Incas, this fruit is best known to support fertility and female hormone balance. Recent research shows that it may also be helpful for supporting skin health, blood sugar, and even cardiovascular health.
How to use it: Lucuma powder is a great addition to juices and smoothies with its maple-like sweetness. Additionally, you can sprinkle it on your morning porridge or add it to raw desserts (like us!).
Grown in high altitude regions of Peru, the maca root is truly a natural ‘superfood’. Nutritionally, maca is a great source of fibre and phytonutrients. In addition, maca contains over 20 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids (i.e. protein), fatty acids, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, selenium.
It is an adaptogen which is defined as a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress’. A stressor can be anything that causes the release of stress hormones, broadly categorised as physiological (or physical) stressors and psychological stressors. Taking maca can help reduce anxiety and depression and increase an overall sense of well-being, linked to its ability to restore proper hormone balance and elevate “feel good” endorphins. In addition, this root is linked to energy, stamina, memory and increased focus.
Aside from the above, maca is probably best known to help fertility in both men and women. In helping to balance hormones, maca contributes to improving the symptoms of PMS and menopause by controlling estrogen levels in the body. For males, it can improve sperm production, mobility, and volume.
At a minimum, maca is a rich source of antioxidants. Specifically, it increases glutathione levels in the body. This boosts the immune system but also can help balance proper levels of cholesterol in the body. Finally, it is also linked to supporting glucose tolerance and blood sugar balance.
How to use it: Maca isn’t overly sweet but has a nutty sweet flavour. Add a tbsp to smoothies, juices, porridge or chia pudding.
In short, matcha is a green tea powder. The tea leaves are first shaded from the sun right before harvest to maximise chlorophyll and then carefully ground into a powder form. Green tea powder has been used for centuries in Asian traditions, albeit it was reserved for the elite due to the expensive production process.
When buying matcha, it’s very important to note that not all matcha is created equal. Matcha quality is ranked by grades, with the top quality titled ‘ceremonial grade’. In the case of this superfood (as with any really), you want the best possible quality. One concern with matcha is lead. All green teas, even organically grown ones, contain trace amounts of lead and fluoride. While most research indicates a very low level, it’s still a good reason to buy the best quality and spend the extra €. In the case of tea, the leaves are removed during processing meaning that most of the lead is also removed. Because matcha powder is made from grinding the leaves, there is a higher concentration of lead. Ceremonial grade is made using the youngest leaves, from the top of the plant.
Benefits of Matcha include
- Energy & brain fuel: Think caffeine energy minus the jitters. This is because matcha has l-theanine, an amino acid that helps to balance this energy so you can channel it productively.
- Reduced anxiety and better sleep quality all thanks to l-theanine which is a calming amino acid that helps in the production of serotonin.
- Antioxidants: It’s well documented that green tea is a rich source of antioxidants but the powder packs even more! Specifically, matcha is rich in polyphenols which are linked to fighting cancer, viruses and heart disease.
- Weight loss: There are studies which have connected green tea with fat burning (it’s why it’s a common ingredient in fat burners by the way).
- Skin health: Antioxidants are fantastic free-radical fighters. This helps to reduce both inflammation and ageing.
- Heart health: The catechins in green tea have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and help to lower blood pressure
Berries of any sort are full of valuable anti-inflammatory nutrients. Acai, in particular, has become synonymous with skin and health. According to some research, acai berries contain more antioxidants than other berries like blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries. Just like consuming any berries, the antioxidant content helps fight free radical damage and inflammation. These berries also supply electrolytes, trace minerals, amino acids and even small amounts of essential fatty acids.
In terms of skin health, using antioxidant-rich foods and herbal treatments, including acai is nothing new. It’s been found to be effective both topically and internally to prevent skin degradation and keep skin looking bright and healthy.
As inflammation and oxidative stress is closely related to cognitive health, the rich nutrient content of acai has been found to support brain function.
Other benefits include acai include being beneficial for digestion and supporting weight management.
Turmeric and/or Curcumin is a well established anti-inflammatory superfood. It contains bioactive compounds with powerful and well studied medicinal properties. We’ve talked about it before as a great immune boost but there’s a list of benefits that span much further than just immune health. Use it in savoury and sweet dishes.
Baobab is a super fruit that comes from Africa. Rich in fibre and nutrients including vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and an assortment of antioxidants. This powder can contribute to a multitude of things including energy/blood sugar balance, immune support, digestive health, cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory and good skin. When shopping for this powder (as with all packages), be sure to choose a product that is certified organic and free from artificial additives.
Chlorella is freshwater algae rich with phytonutrients, including amino acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, potassium, phosphorous, biotin, magnesium and the B-complex vitamins. Studies have shown that chlorella benefits the entire body by supporting healthy hormonal function, promoting cardiovascular health, helping to negate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and aiding in the detoxification of our bodies (source).
You can purchase chlorella in powder, tablet or liquid form. So you can either consume it as a tablet or add it to your smoothies/juices. It has quite a strong taste so if consuming mixed with water you might like to add a bit of juice/ protein powder to soften the taste.
Another plant discovered and used for thousands of years but only making headlines recently is Moringa. To date, over 1,300 studies, articles and reports have focused on moringa benefits and this plant’s healing abilities that are important in parts of the world that are especially susceptible to disease outbreak and nutritional deficiencies (source). Overall, moringa is again rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Specifically, it’s an excellent source of protein (9 amino acids!!), vitamin A, potassium, calcium and vitamin C.
Benefits of moringa include (are you sensing a pattern yet?) supporting digestion, immune health, inflammation, blood sugar balance, brain health, mood and skin health. It’s normally sold as a tablet or powder. As a powder, it does have a strong savoury-esque taste. Sprinkle it into your curries, soups or salads as a boost.
Ingredients that should not be in your superfood powder
As a final note, tread with caution when buying a powder and check the label for the following unnecessary additions: artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours, fillers (added to bulk out powder and save money for the manufacturer) and in some cases gluten. Where possible, always buy organic and don’t be afraid to ask the shop or email the brand for clarity around the processing.
Finally, also take a bit of caution with what you see on the label; when a brand claims that one scoop is equal to 10 servings of veg, check the nutrition label. The fibre/minerals etc should reflect the same. Otherwise, the claim might be false.
So there you have it – 9 best superfood powders. In short, whole foods come first but powders can be a great addition to anyone’s diet to support wellbeing. You can keep it quite simple and you most certainly don’t need to spend a fortune. And if budget isn’t too much of a concern, there’s really no harm in consuming these powders past maybe a false sense of security.
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