The rise of superfoods across the globe from maca root powder in Peru to renowned fruit of longevity, also known as goji berries, in China, has left us, at Style HQ, wondering if we have some “undiscovered” superfoods here in Nigeria and across the continent.
Superfoods are nutritionally dense foods that provide sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, micronutrients, essential fatty acids and amino acids, and in some cases high levels of non animal protein and as a result are especially beneficial to one’s health and wellbeing.
There are about 10-15 known super foods around the world, such as: bee pollen, chlorella, cacao powder, acai berry, hempseeds, chia seeds and more. This is a list that is bound to grow as more and more foods with traditionally longstanding benefits are discovered by the West or by growing communities interested in their health and wellness.
Here are our own superfoods:
Moringa: If China has their own fruit of life, welcome to Africa’s own Miracle Tree, so called, because it has an abundance of beneficial properties. Moringa, scientific name Moringa oleifera is actually native to South Asia but is found across the continent and some places in Central/South America. Moringa is a source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium and magnesium. In fact, Moringa has 10 x the amount of vitamin A of carrots and 25x the amount iron of spinach. Moringa can help to boost energy levels, lower blood sugar, reduce inflammation, which can in the long term lead to chronic illnesses, and maintain healthy cholesterol. And, also, according to Aduna, the brand, which has made this superfood, popular Moringa helps to promote beauty from within as it’s packed with antioxidants 6x more so than Goji Berries, and has vitamins A and E which help to promote radiant skin and reduce the rate of at which one’s skin ages.
Kola Nut: Kola nuts are the fruit of the Kola tree, which are native to Africa. Kola nuts have a long history in West African cultures, particularly in Niger and Nigeria, where it is used in a number of ceremonies, divination, and in social settings. Kola nut has a bitter taste and contains caffeine and theobromine, which lends to its ability to increase alertness and sharpen the mind. Kola nut is thought to be chewed before eating to aid digestion. Research has also shown that Kola nut possesses antibacterial and anti cancer properties and is traditionally known for aiding chest colds. Kola nut can also reduce one’s appetite and increase ones metabolism.
Fluted Pumpkin Leaf. Locally known as ugwu, this leaf is traditionally known as a blood tonic. Ugwu leaf and its juice can have amazing benefits. Not only does ugwu cleanse our system, it can also help with lowering cholesterol, boosting blood quality, fertility, lactating for nursing mothers and with stomach/cramp issues during menstruation. This mighty green leaf is both antimicrobial and protective against cancer. It contains vitamins A and C as well as calcium and iron. Traditionally, ugwu is used to make vegetable dishes such as efo, but it can also be blended and strained to make a tonic or added to smoothies for a little green kick.
Tiger Nut. Tiger nuts are edible tubers from the sedge family of plants that can be found across the world. They are so ancient that there is a recording of them being consumed as early as 4000BC in ancient Egypt. It has a sweet nutty flavour and can be made into milk, flour and oil (tigernut oil has the same lipid profile as olive oil). Tiger nuts are used to make nourishing drinks across the world, horchata in Spain and kunnuaya in northern Nigeria. They are high in fibre, magnesium, potassium and non-animal protein. These nuts are also known to boost the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, strengthen bone and muscles, detoxify the liver, aid in digestion, balance moods, relieve stress, help to maintain a healthy body weight and boost fertility.
Hibiscus. This pretty pink flower is famous in Nigeria because of Zobo. A local drink that is essentially ice tea made with hibiscus. Hibiscus tea can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, protect the heart and liver, restore hormone balance, protect against cancer, help improve diabetic conditions, aid in digestion and help with weight loss. Not only can this beautiful flower do all of that it’s also packed full of antioxidants to help protect your cells from oxidative stress and slow down the rate at which you age. Hibiscus flowers aren’t only great for making herbal teas, they can be used to make jams and jellies and oil.
Black Velvet Tamarind. Black velvet tamarind is a fruit that is slightly sweet, sour and powdery all at the same time. It is found in West Africa under different names Anwin (Yoruba), Icheku (Igbo) Tsamiyar Kurm (Hausa) in Nigeria alone. This fruit is high in fibre, has a high level of tartaric acid which is an antioxidant and is rich in vitamins, micronutrients and phtyochemicals such as: magnesium, sodium, iron, potassium and beta-carotene. This fruit can also help treat diarrhea, fever and bacterial infections.
Turmeric. Turmeric, known as the healing spice, is an ancient spice that has been used for thousands of years because of its medicinal properties. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory food that can treat multiple conditions and ailments. Turmeric has so many medicinal properties that there are over 6000 peer-reviewed articles published on its benefits, including evidence that it can protect anticancer. Turmeric is high in iron, vitamin c, vitamin b6 and magnesium. Turmeric is also high in anti-oxidants, which protectd our cells and skin against free radicals, which damage our skin, making us look older. Turmeric is great for your skin, digestion, preventing chronic illnesses caused by inflammation, for helping with coughs and colds, detoxing the liver and purifying the blood.
Baobab. Baobab is the common name given to 9 species of fruit most of which are native to Africa. Baobab trees can reach heights of 30m and their trunks can store up to 1000 litres of water. Baobab is high in iron, magnesium, fibre, and it also has prebiotic qualities, which means it helps with the production of good bacteria in your gut. Baobab is good for your skin, for boosting immunity, for reducing oxidative stress, for boosting energy and maintaining alkaline balance.
So next time someone mentions superfoods, let them know we might just have a few of our own.