Sophie Jaffe knows. The Los Angeles-based certified raw food chef and founder of superfood blend brand Philosophie has had her finger on the pulse of nutrient-packed ingredients for more than a decade. You could call her a superfood savant.
In her early twenties, when Jaffe worked as a juice barista, she started experimenting and “noticed how [different components] affected my body,” she recalls. When a medical condition disappeared two weeks after she started taking maca, Jaffe devoted herself to the superfood lifestyle.
While she’d never ditch her acai or goji berries, the nutrition guru is just as enthralled by items like camu camu, mesquite, and ho shu wu (no, that’s not a typo). Keep reading to learn about the eight under-the-radar superfoods you should try—with Jaffe’s insights on what you can expect from each…
(Photo: Katie Shuler)
The berries of the camu camu, a shrub of the Amazonian rainforests, are packed with vitamin C—a teaspoon of the powder alone contains 1180 percent of your RDA, Jaffe says. The little berry also provides amino acids, like leucine, good for bones, and valine, good for muscles.
Want to try it? Camu camu has a tart flavor due to its super high levels of vitamin C; you can blend up the powder with frozen banana, fresh berries, dark leafy greens, nut milk, and coconut butter for a heavenly sunrise smoothie!
This medicinal mushroom has been hailed by Asian cultures for thousands of years for its incredible wellness properties. The fungi’s polysaccharides are said to do everything from bolstering immune system function to promoting healthy cells and your longevity.
Want to try it? Reishi, which has a bitter taste, has traditionally been taken in teas and extracts, but you can benefit from the mushroom by adding Philosophie Cacao Magic Superfood + Protein Blend (which, in addition to the mushroom, includes cacao, the superfood behind all things chocolate) to cookies, brownies, and oatmeal for a wholesome treat.
Desert-dwelling nations in South America and the Southwest have been using this superfood for centuries. When you grind up the pods of the mesquite (or algorroba) plant, you get a nutty, molasses-like flavor. Mesquite powder is said to be an excellent source of protein, soluble fiber (which doesn’t spike your sugar levels), magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins.
Want to try it? Add it to raw protein balls or a smoothie with nut milk, banana, cacao, chia seeds, and dates.
This powerful root has been a culinary staple in Peru for over two thousand years. Maca, a natural energizer and aphrodisiac, contains the nine essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own, making it a complete protein. A great source of fiber, magnesium, and B, C, and E vitamins, maca power is also an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to and respond to stress in a healthy way.
Want to try it? Maca has a malty flavor, so mix it up with almond milk, cacao powder, coconut oil, cinnamon, and honey for a superfood-laden hot chocolate.
Spirulina is an ancient, single-cell, blue-green algae and one of nature’s most potent superfoods. It receives its beautiful bluish tint from phycocyanin, a water soluble antioxidant that helps protect our cells against radiation and provides the blood with more oxygen.
Packed with fatty acids, polysaccharides, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and chromium, detoxifying spirulina supports healthy brain function, bolsters the immune system, and promotes strong vision and beautiful skin. And at 50 to 70 percent protein, it ranks as the highest source of protein in the plant kingdom.
Want to try it? With a slightly nutty, cheesy flavor, spirulina can bring your kale chips to a whole new superfood level—mix it up with nutritional yeast, sea salt, and a dash of cayenne, and then sprinkle the blend on top of your green chips before sliding them into the oven.
For an energy boost from Mother Nature, try bee-gathered pollens (only if you’re not allergic to bees). These pollen pellets pack in the protein, containing more amino acids than any animal source. The pellets, which each hold over two million pollen grains from flowers, contain a ton of vitamins, including B, C, D, and E, along with healthy metabolism-friendly fatty acids.
Want to try it? To get glowing skin, an immune system boost, and support for your digestive system, add a teaspoon to your yogurt or sprinkle it on top of your smoothies and acai bowls.
Chinese empresses have tapped into the anti-aging and skin beautifying benefits of pearl for thousands of years. These organic gems contain signal proteins, which serve as messengers and stimulate skin and bone cell regeneration for youthful skin and strong bones.
Pearl is pure magic when it comes to healing skin, says Jaffe. It activates SOD antioxidants that can minimize dark spots, reduce wrinkling, and treat pimples. It’s also an incredible source for amino acids and trace minerals, as well as highly bioavailable calcium, which supports healthy teeth and can aid with stomach ailments.
Want to try it? As the powder has a slightly fishy taste, try taking it in capsule form or adding the powder to savory sauces or hide it in a berry date smoothie.
In Chinese, the name for this gentle, tonic herb directly translates to “Mr. He’s Black Hair.” The rejuvenating plant has been historically used to restore hair color, strengthen nails, and increase blood health. In addition to helping reduce hypertension and blood cholesterol, ho shou wu is also said boost blood circulation and treat dizzy spells, blurred vision, and backaches.
Want to try it? Add the herb, which has a sweet, bitter taste, to a warm cup of tea to help ramp up your immune system and lift your energy levels.
Can’t get enough of your superfoods? Us neither—and we’ve got you covered here…
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