Our Favorite Superfood Ingredients for Your Pantry

Summer is the perfect time to wear out your blender, drink right out of a coconut and sprinkle your food with edible flowers. To turbocharge your smoothie bowl efforts, I’ve made a list of my favorite superfood ingredients. While I can’t guarantee their miraculous health benefits, I can promise they’ll make your kitchen creations sound expensive as heck.

Spirulina

For whatever reason, I’ve been a reluctant convert to algae-derived green powders I see food bloggers raving about. Maybe it’s because mixing food colors the wrong way has ruined too many smoothies for me, or maybe it’s because things made out of algae sound gross. Beyond that, a packet of these powders can be astronomically expensive.

I finally found this ingredient in bulk at my local co-op, and decided to buy myself the tiniest packet. I went home, put it in a smoothie with a banana and some protein powder, and was sold. First of all, it doesn’t taste like swimming in a moldy pool. Instead, it has a fresh, intriguing flavor, like spinach but sweeter. It turns smoothies a very cool color that beats the sad green-brown that comes with throwing a bunch of kale in with the mix. I even tried to make a “unicorn smoothie bowl” with it, but I need more time to work on that.

Benefits of Spirulina

-Incredibly protein dense. 4g of protein per 1 tbsp.

-1 tbsp. provides 11% of your DV of iron

-A great source of vitamins A, K1, K2, B12, plus beta-carotene and antioxidants

Superfood Ingredients for Your Summer Pantry – Wit & Delight

Turmeric

I first heard of turmeric when I read Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Lifewhich is a fantastic guidebook to living and eating with your health in mind. Turmeric played a starring role in that book, thanks to its powerful antioxidant properties. (Hot tip: any super bright ingredient is probably full of antioxidants, unless it’s made with artificial colors.)

This bright yellow spice is a key part of Indian cuisine, so you’ve probably had it in curry before. I was jazzed on its superfood benefits, and eager to try it for myself. It’s easy to find many recipes for turmeric lattes out there, so give ’em a whirl if you like. My friend pointed out that they “taste like clay,” so you might want to look beyond milky drinks for this spice. I like blending turmeric with lemon, ice, ginger, cayenne pepper, and honey and taking it as a healthy shot. Just don’t forget to add a shake of black pepper every time you consume it. The pepper magnifies the absorption of turmeric by 2000%.

Benefits of Turmeric

-Its primary active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant

-According to many health articles, it can help prevent/treat many diseases. Take any promises of miracle cures with a grain of salt, and maybe a grain of turmeric? (Don’t forget the pepper.)

Bee Pollen

Last summer, I got in the habit of watching plant-based recipe* channels on YouTube. These home cooks had the most colorful, creative diets I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t stop watching their “What I Eat in a Day” videos. One thing I noticed was that bee pollen was a common component in their smoothie bowls. Inspired, I picked some up in the refrigerated section of the co-op and tried it.

It adds a lovely golden color to whatever you put it on and is loaded with protein and nutrients. If you like the taste, which can be rich and a bit tinny, it’s definitely worth a sprinkle now and again. If you’re allergic to or sensitive to bees and pollen, please do not eat this!

Benefits of Bee Pollen

-Approximately 40% protein

-Rich in B-complex vitamins

-Rich in folic acid

-Some people believe that ingesting local bee pollen will decrease your incidence of allergies. Apparently there is no proof that this works. Either way, you can probably find articles that back up whatever you already believe. Yay Internet!

-Again, do not eat bee pollen if you’re allergic to bees and bee products (you know that, I’m just covering my butt)

Superfood Ingredients for Your Summer Pantry – Wit & Delight

Apple Cider Vinegar

I like vinegar in general—the syrupy balsamic reduction kind, the splashy champagne kind, and the tangy rice wine kind. It turns out, there is a valid reason to desire vinegar in a recipe. Not only does it provide a delicious hint of acid to round out a dish, but a quality vinegar like apple cider vinegar (ACV) might be good for your gut and lower your blood glucose levels.

Before you start taking a daily “shot of vinegar,” save yourself from pain and dilute it with water. Your esophagus and teeth will thank you. You can also mix it with olive oil to create a basic salad dressing. As you put your ACV back in the fridge, admire its “mother,” a giant mass of enzymes, proteins, and bacteria, and know you are getting healthy in a way that disgusts your boyfriend. Mix it with sparkling water and lemon for what I like to call “poor woman’s kombucha.”

Benefits of ACV

-Contains polyphenols

Purportedly helps balance blood sugar and improves insulin resistance

-Kills off bad bacteria while promoting the growth of good bacteria

Matcha

Matcha powder is Japan’s answer to coffee. This delicious, mellow form of green tea has replaced coffee for people around the globe, thanks to its milder buzz and impressive antioxidant roster. When I went to Japan last year, I got to mainline matcha products daily, from soft-serve to waffles. Grab some matcha powder and get ready to brag about how much you love yourself and are on the path to living past 100. It’s delicious in many recipes, but use with caution to avoid making energy bites that look like nuggets of weed.

Benefits of Matcha

-Provides vitamins A, C, E, K, B-complex and minerals

-High in polyphenols, catechins, and chlorophyll

Superfood Ingredients for Your Summer Pantry – Wit & Delight

Açaí

I first heard of açaí when it was advertised as a so-called “superfruit” in energy drinks and juice. Skepticism pervaded. Then I went to Rio de Janeiro for vacation and realized that bottled drinks are selling us the wrong idea of this ingredient. In Brazil, açaí is not a jacked-up ingredient that only the bravest hipsters dare pronounce. There, it’s ice cream. I know this is an oversimplification, but I had at least three different kinds of frozen, sweetened açaí while I was there, and all of them were insanely delicious. One serving was in a tall glass, served by a very-proud restaurant owner on top of a statue of Jesus. One was mixed with guaraná syrup in a pre-packaged breakfast ice cream.

Be like an attractive Brazilian and grab some frozen açaí packets at your local co-op. Thanks to its dark purple color, you now know that it’s super high in antioxidants. It makes a great base for any smoothie and loves itself some banana.

Açaí Benefits

Strangely high in fat for a fruit (which is good now), and low in carbs

High in Vitamin A and fiber

High in antioxidants

Manuka Honey

This ingredient is so hot, it’s even one of Broad City’s lapel pins. As you may guess, it’s expensive. I found it for a fair price at Trader Joe’s and became quite fond of it. This New Zealand import is created by bees who pollinate the Manuka plant, which helps give their honey a higher ratio of methylglyoxal (MGO). This component supposedly makes it better at healing wounds than regular honey. Rub it on your skin at your own risk! I like to put mine in overnight oats.

Benefits of Manuka Honey

-Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial

May help heal wounds (Only the medical-grade kind)

Superfood Ingredients for Your Summer Pantry – Wit & Delight

Raw Cacao Powder

Sometimes science fucks with us and then comes back around and vindicates us. It says, “chocolate, coffee, and fat are all bad!” And then it comes back twenty years later and says, “Chocolate, coffee, and fat will make your dreams come true.” I can’t wait until this happens with cheese. What we land with after this dialogue is a bit of healthy nuance. Mainlining candy bars ≠ good for you. Processing the cacao plant and drowning it in sugar removes most of this ingredient’s “superfood” qualities. That said, it’s easy to get your hands on some raw cacao powder and start putting it in everything. I personally love adding it to frozen bananas to make “nice cream” and adding it to cookie dough to make double-chocolate cookies.

Benefits of Cacao Powder

-High in magnesium and iron

-High in flavonoids (antioxidants)

What are your favorite superfoods? What do you like to do with them?

Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

*Correction. Originally said “vegan.”


Becky Lang is a writer, creative director and occasional podcaster living in Minneapolis.She also likes to draw dogs and female protagonists.

 

  • I used raw cacao in my morning smoothies because it tastes so good and has no added sugar! As for Manuka honey, I only recently discovered it after I suffered a 2nd degree burn in the kitchen on my wrist. The medical grade kind comes in convenient strips and it kept the wound well protected and helped with pain. I was so worried I’d have one of those raised, red cooking scars, but I responded really well to the honey treatment and didn’t need any burn ointment otherwise.

    http://www.shessobright.com

    • veganism, like any other lifestyle, diet, or set of values, is not a blanket ideology (or at least, it shouldn’t be). some vegans choose not to consume animals/animal products because they are against factory farming, and those people may not believe that honey + bee pollen promote the factory farming industry.

      here’s an article arguing that oysters are vegan, even though they are classified as animals: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2010/04/consider_the_oyster.html

      veganism is a lifestyle based on a set of beliefs/values, and if you are able to consume honey and bee pollen in a way that doesn’t go against your beliefs and values, you can call yourself vegan. pretty much every pescatarian i’ve met has referred to themselves as vegetarian, and they still eat fish. are they vegetarian? not really, in my opinion. is it worth calling them out over? not really, as it’s unnecessarily hostile, their personal labels don’t hurt anyone, and being exclusionary prevents people from wanting to try veganism and veegetarianism.

      • Sure, no hostility at all — people who favor a plant-based diet can do anything they want! Wear leather, eat honey, whatever, it doesn’t make them bad people! But words have meanings. And ‘vegan’ means something. It means a person who does not eat or use animal products. And bee pollen is an animal product. There’s just no way around that! When we are loose with the definitions of words for our own edification, things can get messy…