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Superfoods; a blast of nutrition

Tuesday August 15, 2017

Supermarket shelves and restaurant menus are filled with superfood messages, and ‘superfood’ is rapidly becoming an over-used term. How can you separate the real superfoods, from those that have been thrown on the bandwagon by over-enthusiastic marketers? From algae to berries, bacteria to seaweeds and vegetables to herbs and spices, a rainbow of superfoods can be found in your local specialist health food store. 


Experts at Viridian Nutrition have picked a few of their favourites, and explain why in these cases, ‘superfood’ really does apply…


Viridian Nutrition’s superfood picks:


ORGANIC ALGAE
Algae can be viewed as the start of the food chain, and as expected research revealed the nutritional values of Spirulina and Chlorella have proven to be densely packed with nutrients, protein, enzymes, chlorophyll and species-specific bio actives.  


Human evidence suggests that spirulina can improve cholesterol levels and fat metabolism[1] [2], while also exerting an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects [Serban1].  Further evidence supporting its superfood status reported a reduction in liver fat whilst exerting liver protection[3] and reduced blood pressure in hypertensive individuals.[4] [5]  Whilst the sporting community are reported to experience improved endurance[6], power[7] and efficient energy production[8].  Spirulina’s primary bio active; phycocyanobilin, makes up about 1% of spirulina and is structurally similar to the body’s bilirubin compound.  Its activity inhibits a deleterious enzyme complex (NADPH oxidase)[9] to provide potent anti-oxidative[10] [11] and anti-inflammatory effects suggested to reduce the effects of ageing.


It is important when choosing a Chlorella product that you purchase broken cell wall Chlorella.  This being that the cell walls are indigestible and so the body cannot release and absorb the nutrients.  Evidence shows that Chlorella can absorb surrounding compounds[12] and when raised in fresh water mineral dense waters the nutritional value is influenced.  Furthermore, this ability adds to its benefits in detoxification, such as binding heavy metals and toxins and eliminating them from the body.[13] [14] [15]  Further human evidence reports Chlorella to be beneficial in increasing red blood cell iron content and improving anaemia, improved blood pressure values in hypertensive patients,[16] reduced pain in a small fibromyalgia group[17] and a protective effect on the kidneys of pregnant women[18] and lungs of smokers.[19]

ORGANIC KELP
Organic, wild harvested Kelp is known to be mineral rich, in fact, minerals account for 36% of the dry weight.  Kelp possesses bio actives such as fucose rich polysaccharides, alginic acid and carotenoids.  As a result of such nutrient density, evidence shows that kelp has numerous health benefits; namely improved thyroid activity, reduction in cholesterol values, anti-coagulant and anti-thrombotic[20] effects that contribute to improved heart health and potent anti-oxidant benefits [21] [22].  Further research has suggested anti-obesogenic effects via reduced food intake and blood sugar modulation[23].

 

 

Photo caption: Maca is also known as 'Peruvian Ginseng.' 

 

ORGANIC MACA
Traditionally used in its native home country as a tonic, for endurance and reputed for libido, maca is often referred to as ‘Peruvian Ginseng’.  Yet even though it resembles a turnip or parsnip it belongs to the Brassicaceae family and can be found as yellow, red or black maca.[24]  Maca become of interest in the western cultures as research revealed benefits to wellbeing, energy and libido[25] [26] (for both sexes)[27].  Further female health benefits include improved fertility[28], menopausal symptom relief[29] [30] and post-menopausal osteoporosis support[31].  These health benefits are attributed to its constituents especially the mineral density and broad spectrum of polysaccharides.  Additionally, maca releases it phytonutrients in the presence of hot water[32] making it a perfect ingredient for baking, porridge, soups and stews.  If supplementing with maca, an organic extract may be best to deliver a potency that is the equivalent of 3-5 grams thus conforming to that used in research.

 


 

Photo caption: Planting tumeric in India.

 

ORGANIC TURMERIC
Probably the most famous spice due to its deep-rooted history of Ayurvedic medicine that soon revealed a myriad of health benefits.   Its use in India and Ayurveda addressed inflammatory conditions, however modern research has reported anti-oxidant, reduced pain[33] and reduced pain perception[34] with findings contributing to exceptional results in patients with chronic conditions.[35] [36] [37]  These benefits are often attributed to the primary group of bio actives; curcuminoids but emerging evidence shows benefits from curcumin-free turmeric that may mean that lesser recognised compounds within turmeric too are responsible.[38]  Therefore, culinary turmeric is encouraged and if supplementing; organic extracts that also contain broad spectrum (whole) turmeric.



Organic superfoods can be a nutritious addition to the diet when western monoculture agricultural practices may leave soils depleted of nutrients[39] if a remineralisation programme is not undertaken.  Additionally, crop exposed to pesticides are likely to harvest contaminated produce.  In terms of health, an increase in chronic disease has been reported since the industrialisation and the increased use of processed foods[40] [41] [42], hence the use of superfoods within a wholefood based diet besides a lifestyle shift may offer a decreased chance of developing chronic diseases.

 

Author: Jenny Hall is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science.


References:

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[2] Lee EH, Park JE, Choi YJ, Huh KB, Kim WY. A randomized study to establish the effects of spirulina in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Nutr Res Pract. 2008 Winter;2(4):295-300.

[3] Ferreira-Hermosillo A, Torres-Duran PV, Juarez-Oropeza MA. Hepatoprotective effects of Spirulina maxima in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a case series. J Med Case Rep. 2010 Apr 7;4:103.

[4] Juárez-Oropeza MA, Mascher D, Torres-Durán PV, Farias JM, Paredes-Carbajal MC.  Effects of dietary Spirulina on vascular reactivity. J Med Food. 2009 Feb;12(1):15-20.

[5] Torres-Duran PV, Ferreira-Hermosillo A, Juarez-Oropeza MA. Antihyperlipemic and antihypertensive effects of Spirulina maxima in an open sample of Mexican population: a preliminary report. Lipids Health Dis. 2007 Nov 26;6:33.

[6] Lu HK, Hsieh CC, Hsu JJ, Yang YK, Chou HN. Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Sep;98(2):220-6.

[7] Sandhu, J., & Shenoy, S. (2009). Efficacy of Spirulina Supplementation on Isometric Strength and Isometric Endurance of Quadriceps in Trained and Untrained Individuals – a comparative study. Ibnosina Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, 2(2), 79-86.

[8] Kalafati M, Jamurtas AZ, Nikolaidis MG, Paschalis V, Theodorou AA, Sakellariou GK, Koutedakis Y, Kouretas D. Ergogenic and antioxidant effects of spirulina supplementation in humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jan;42(1):142-51

[9] McCarty MF, Barroso-Aranda J, Contreras F. NADPH oxidase mediates glucolipotoxicity-induced beta cell dysfunction--clinical implications. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Mar;74(3):596-600.

[10] Lissi EA, Pizarro M, Aspee A, Romay C. Kinetics of phycocyanine bilin groups destruction by peroxyl radicals. Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Apr 1;28(7):1051-5.

[11] Piñero Estrada JE, Bermejo Bescós P, Villar del Fresno AM. Antioxidant activity of different fractions of Spirulina platensis protean extract. Farmaco. 2001 May-Jul;56(5-7):497-500.

[12] Sun X, Zhong Y, Huang Z, Yang Y. Selenium accumulation in unicellular green alga Chlorella vulgaris and its effects on antioxidant enzymes and content of photosynthetic pigments. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 6;9(11):e112270.

[13] Wu Y, Wang WX. Accumulation, subcellular distribution and toxicity of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in marine phytoplankton. Environ Pollut. 2011 Oct;159(10):3097-105.

[14] Karadjova IB, Slaveykova VI, Tsalev DL. The biouptake and toxicity of arsenic species on the green microalga Chlorella salina in seawater. Aquat Toxicol. 2008 May 30;87(4):264-71.

[15] Rai UN, Singh NK, Upadhyay AK, Verma S. Chromate tolerance and accumulation in Chlorella vulgaris L.: role of antioxidant enzymes and biochemical changes in detoxification of metals. Bioresour Technol. 2013 May;136:604-9.

[16] Shimada M, Hasegawa T, Nishimura C, Kan H, Kanno T, Nakamura T, Matsubayashi T. Anti-hypertensive effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-rich Chlorella on high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in placebo-controlled double blind study. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2009 Jun;31(4):342-54.

[17] Merchant RE, Carmack CA, Wise CM. Nutritional supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: a pilot study. Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):167-73.

[18] Nakano S, Takekoshi H, Nakano M. Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Mar;65(1):25-30.

[19] Lee SH, Kang HJ, Lee HJ, Kang MH, Park YK. Six-week supplementation with Chlorella has favorable impact on antioxidant status in Korean male smokers. Nutrition. 2010 Feb;26(2):175-83.

[20] Cumashi A, Ushakova NA, Preobrazhenskaya ME, D'Incecco A, Piccoli A, Totani L, Tinari N, Morozevich GE, Berman AE, Bilan MI, Usov AI, Ustyuzhanina NE, Grachev AA, Sanderson CJ, Kelly M, Rabinovich GA, Iacobelli S, Nifantiev NE; Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per la Bio-Oncologia, Italy. A comparative study of the anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antiangiogenic, and antiadhesive activities of nine different fucoidans from brown seaweeds. Glycobiology. 2007 May;17(5):541-52.

[21] A.M. O’Sullivan, Y.C. O’Callaghan, M.N. O’Grady, B. Queguineur, D. Hanniffy, D.J. Troy, J.P. Kerry, N.M. O’Brien,  and cellular antioxidant activities of seaweed extracts prepared from five brown seaweeds harvested in spring from the west coast of Ireland, Food Chemistry, Volume 126, Issue 3, 2011, Pages 1064-1070.

[22] Dutot M, Fagon R, Hemon M, Rat P. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-senescence activities of a phlorotannin-rich natural extract from brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2012 Aug;167(8):2234-40.

[23] Paxman, J. R., Richardson, J. C., Dettmar, P. W., & Corfe, B. M. (2008). Daily ingestion of alginate reduces energy intake in free living subjects. Appetite, 51, 713e719.

[24] Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:193496. doi: 10.1155/2012/193496.

[25] Mark Stone, Alvin Ibarra, Marc Roller, Andrea Zangara, Emma Stevenson.  A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen.  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126 (2009) 574–576.

[26] Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002 Dec;34(6):367-72.

[27] Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall;14(3):182-91.

[28] Fumiaki Uchiyama, Tamaki Jikyo, Ryosuke Takeda, Misato Ogata.  Lepidium meyenii (Maca) enhances the serum levels of luteinising hormone in female rats.  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 151 (2014) 897–902.

[29] Myeong Soo Leea,d,*, Byung-Cheul Shinb, Eun Jin Yanga, Hyun-Ja Limc, Edzard Ernst.  Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review.  Maturitas 70 (2011) 227–233.

[30] Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62.

[31] Hao Liu, Wenwen Jin, Chunhua Fu, Penfei Dai, Yuantao Yu, Qin Huo, Longjiang Yu.  Discovering anti-osteoporosis constituents of maca (Lepidium meyenii) by combined virtual screening and activity verification.  Food Research International 77 (2015) 215–220.

[32] Jing Li, Qingrui Sunb, Qingran Meng, Lei Wang, Wentao Xiong, Lianfu Zhang.  Anti-fatigue activity of polysaccharide fractions from Lepidium meyenii Walp. (maca)  International Journal of Biological Macromolecules 95 (2017) 1305–1311.

[33] Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, Buntragulpoontawee M, Lukkanapichonchut P, Chootip C, Saengsuwan J, Tantayakom K, Laongpech S. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with
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[34] Suruchi Verma, Deepak Mundkinajeddu, Amit Agarwal, Shyam Sunder Chatterjee, Vikas Kumar, Effects of turmeric curcuminoids and metformin against central sensitivity to pain in mice, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 2, April 2017, Pages 145-151

[35] Shatadal Ghosh, Sharmistha Banerjee, Parames C. Sil The beneficial role of curcumin on inflammation, diabetes and
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[36] Dargi Sony et al Chapter 61Turmeric and its Principle Compound Curcumin are Effective in the Prevention and
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[37] Aggarwal BA Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 41 (2009) 40–59  

[38] Aggarwal BB, et al. Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Sep;57(9):1529-42.  

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