Super acai berries

A bit about acai

Acai berries, previously considered an exotic fruit, have now become a virtual staple in almost every supermarket’s collection of health foods and supplements.

No longer the sole preserve of health stores and delis, these nutrient-dense berries have become increasingly popular in the form of dietary supplements, food powders, shakes and juice boosters. But why?

This growth in use and popularity is in no small part due to the significant media attention they have received, since being more widely recognised in the West as a “superfruit”. In other words, a fruit with an exceptionally high nutrient-to-calorie ratio compared to other fruits of a similar kind. For example, in terms of antioxidant, essential fatty acid, vitamin or mineral content.

Although having only just relatively recently entered the wider public consciousness, South Americans native to the Amazon have been enjoying the health benefits of these tasty berries for many years. In fact, they are considered to be an essential food source for three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, because they make up a major component of their diet – up to 42% of their total food intake by weight! A fact which reflects their incredibly high nutrient content.

Found only in swampy areas of the Amazon rainforest (Central and South America), acai berries are pretty rare – which explains why they hadn’t popped up on supermarket shelves before. They are small and round (approximately 25mm in size) and grow on large palm trees called açaí palms, which can reach over 80 feet in height. The berries grow in bunches (similar to bananas) and an average açaí palm tree can yield between 3 to 8 bunches of berries.

Once ripe, acai berries bear a strong resemblance to grapes and blueberries, except that they are not quite as pulpy. They contain a large, inedible seed, which constitutes as much as 90% of the entire fruit – yet another reason they weren’t more widely cultivated as a culinary fruit.

Acai nutrition

As mentioned above, although hard to find in their natural whole food form, everyone can now fortunately access the nutritional benefits of these berries on a daily basis through the convenience of health supplements. Food-based powders and food form supplement capsules now often incorporate both acai berry powder and concentrated extract. But why might you want to incorporate acai berry nutrients into your daily diet?

Immune system support:
A big clue to their high nutrient content is given away by the deep blue / purple colour of acai berries. Like most other brightly coloured foods found in nature, they contain natural pigments, which support immunity, health and vitality. For example, flavonoids and potent antioxidants (such as anthocyanins). They are also a rich source of Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids (healthy fats).

Heart health support:
As well as containing high levels of anthocyanins, research has also shown that acai berries are rich in phytosterols, which may provide cardio-protective support for our cells.

Energy support:
Relatively speaking, acai berries contain high levels of plant protein. Combined with their high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients, they can offer ideal support for high energy levels, stamina and general vitality.

Weight management support:
When trying to shape up, you are obviously looking to decrease your intake of high-calorie unhealthy foods, in favour of nutrient-packed foods that are naturally low in calories. Not only will this promote a healthy weight, it will also help to ensure that your general health remains strong during any periods of slimming and reduced food choice. In this way, acai berries can provide ideal weight management support as part of an overall balanced diet.

So now you know a little bit about why acai berries have been causing a stir in the natural health world. And these are just some of their nutritional benefits. Plus, if you favour an organic lifestyle or are trying to detox, it is worth bearing in mind that acai berries are wild harvested, as opposed to farmed. This means that they aren’t exposed to the harmful pesticides and fertilisers so often found in other fruit and vegetables.

They offer great all-round healthy living support, so why not try them for yourself!

For more information, visit our main website

Beetroot nutrition

So you think you know all about the humble beetroot – the root vegetable so often found in pantries since World War II. But you might be surprised to learn that it is so much more than just a pickle. It is actually a nutritional powerhouse, now widely regarded as a “superfood”, and best friend to those who engage in high-intensity, stamina and endurance exercise.

Beetroot history

The beetroot is no stranger to the average household. Also known as “table beet”, it is one of the many cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris and the most common variety found in Britain, North America and Central America today.

In the earliest days of its consumption, the leaves were most commonly eaten by people living in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The Romans then began to make use of the root for various medicinal purposes. Over the years, it became popular in Central and Eastern Europe for culinary purposes too.

Beetroot, as we know it today, was only cultivated in the 16th century. Interestingly, modern varieties are derived from the sea beet, an inedible plant that grows wild along the coasts of Europe, North Africa and Asia.

An unlikely “super” hero

Unlike some of the other, better known superfoods, like wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina or acai berry, beetroot is not particularly exotic. But don’t let that fool you.

What has traditionally been viewed as a boring, somewhat unappetising vegetable, is really a “super-root” in disguise.

It is a rich source of both carbohydrates and plant proteins, along with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

At the same time, it has a very low caloric value and is almost entirely free of fat. It is also a low-GI food – the sugar conversion process is slow, which supports stable blood sugar levels.

Beetroot antioxidants

You can’t have failed to notice the vivid colour of beetroot – whether the deep purple, the bright yellow  or the lesser seen candy-stripes. Like so many other superfoods, these colours offer a visual clue as to the high level of antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids found in beetroot as a result of its pigment.

The notorious red colour compound is called betanin (or beetroot red), a pigment which is a well-known antioxidant and phyto-chemical. However, all beets contain betalain antioxidants – a class of red and yellow pigments found in plants.

Vitamins and minerals in beetroot

Beetroot is also rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, contributing to its classification as a superfood. For instance, it contains high levels of folate and vitamin C (another powerful antioxidant), as well as riboflavin, niacin and thiamin, vitamin K, calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.

Dietary fibre

Beetroot is high in dietary fibre – both soluble and insoluble. A 100g portion – about two or three small beetroot – contains as much as 10% of the recommended daily allowance.

Fibre is an essential component of healthy digestion and supports everything from stable blood sugar levels to natural cleanse and detox processes in the body.

Dietary nitrate

More recently, a lot of research has been undertaken on beetroot’s capacity to absorb and store exceptionally high levels of nitrate – a nutrient involved in many of the processes that are essential for efficient exercise performance, including blood flow and oxygen usage.

In particular, a study conducted by Exeter University in the UK received a high level of media attention when it found that cyclists who drank a half-litre of beetroot juice several hours before setting off were able to ride up to 20% longer than those who drank a placebo blackcurrant juice.

Since that study, both beetroot and beetroot supplements have been of particular interest to athletes.

Supporting general health and vitality

The unique combination of nutrients found in beetroot mean that it can offer ideal support for general health and vitality, including:

  • a healthy heart and cholesterol levels
  • detoxification and liver function
  • a strong immune system
  • healthy homocysteine levels
  • normal tissue growth
  • musculo-skeletal health
  • healthy skin, hair and nails
  • stable blood sugar levels
  • stamina and energy levels
  • stable moods
  • and healthy digestion.

Belonging to the same family as two other nutritional titans, chard and spinach, both the leaves and roots of beetroot can be eaten. Incorporate it into your daily diet and your body will thank you.

For more information, visit our main website

What am I eating?

Do you eat “clean”?

In this modern age of processed foods, farming on a massive scale and the widespread use of artificial chemicals to enhance everything from taste and appearance to shelf life, you can no longer take it for granted that you know what is in your food just by looking at it.

Unfortunately, food is no longer a simple concept. Can you honestly say you know what you are eating and what is going into your body with every bite?

You might ask yourself, “why is this even important”? Well, the answer is your health. Chemicals, contaminants and pollutants can all contribute to illness and disease, and can even affect processes within your body ranging from weight loss, cognitive function and digestion, to hormonal balance and immunity.

With this in mind, can you afford to ignore the makeup of your meals?

Food additives

A prime example of “hidden” ingredients is food additives. Almost everyone has heard of them, but how many of us actually take the time to find out what they are, which ones appear in our food and how they might affect our health?

Actually more and more of us, particularly as the health benefits of natural living, healthy eating (and, more specifically, an organic diet) become better understood, versus the health risks associated with poor eating habits.

As a result, health-conscious individuals who are seeking to minimise their daily exposure to toxins and pollutants take the trouble to educate themselves about the different types of food additives out there. Over the years, there has been quite a bit of controversy about these chemicals and below are some of the “need to know” basics.  

The basics

As their name implies, food additives are substances that manufacturers add to foods for any number of reasons (usually to increase profits). For example, to preserve flavour, keep the food fresher for longer and to enhance taste, texture and appearance.

However, not all food additives are bad, despite the negative connotations with the phrase. Some are actually natural compounds – for example, vinegar used for pickling and salt used to preserve meat. These additives have been used for centuries and are natural methods. Similarly, there is a common misconception that processed foods automatically contain food additives, but this is not always the case. For example, long-life milk is processed, yet it doesn’t actually require added chemicals to prolong its shelf life.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of additives now used are synthetic or man-made and have, to a large extent, come about as a result of the increasing time constraints of modern living and the changing palates of modern consumers. For instance, the average person is looking for a snack that is either highly salted or sweetened. Similarly, in this age of competitive advertising and saturated food markets, the brighter, highly coloured food items are normally the ones that get selected. Food needs to be fun to eat, nice to look at and tasty.

The nature of the modern diet and lifestyle has resulted in fewer and fewer home-grown and natural whole foods, and an increase in the number and type of processed / refined foods. In turn, this has led to an increase in the number of additives used in foods – both natural and synthetic. While we are, thankfully, starting to see a reversal of this trend, it remains important to inform yourself about the ingredients in your food, to help protect the health of you and your family.

If you are unsure whether or not a food product contains additives, check the label. If there are ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment, they are probably best avoided. It is also important to note that some listed ingredients may contain food additives themselves, without those necessarily being specified. For example, a product may contain margarine, which in turn contains additives, but only “margarine” will be listed as an ingredient on the label.

It is good practice to familiarise yourself with some of the more common food additive names, ready to identify them when out and about shopping. Below we will take a look at some of the most notorious additives – E-numbers.

E-numbers

E-numbers get a lot of media attention but, once again, the reality is a little different to what is often portrayed. The phrase itself conjures up images of “food nasties”, but are they really as bad as we are led to believe? The answer is probably “yes”, but it is worth taking a closer look to get the full picture.

After an additive has been tested and approved for use in foods in Europe, it is given a classification known as an “E-number” (a number with an “E” prefix, e.g. E100), for the purposes of regulation and to inform consumers. In other words, it is simply a systematic way of identifying different food additives. Countries outside Europe use only the number (no ‘E’), whether the additive is approved in Europe or not.

The important (and perhaps surprising) point to bear in mind, is that even natural additives will be labelled with an “E” prefix – so don’t automatically discount a food which otherwise looks healthy. Knowledge is power, so know your E-numbers!

Are food additives safe?

This is a controversial question and one that has not been answered satisfactorily as yet. However, common sense dictates that filling our bodies with synthetic chemicals cannot be as healthy as eating a diet rich in natural whole foods and is likely to be detrimental to health in the long term, for instance by adding to our toxic load.

Since the second half of the 20th century, there has been a significant increase in the use of food additives of varying levels of safety and for the reasons described above. This has necessarily led to the introduction of a wide range of laws worldwide, regulating their use.

The long-term effects on the body of regularly consuming a combination of different food additives are, unfortunately, currently unknown – hence the need for regulation. This is largely due to the fact that most additives are tested in isolation, rather than in combination with other additives. However, what is clear is that some people are sensitive to them and suffer reactions as a result of their consumption. These reactions include:

  • headaches
  • skin irritations (itching, rashes, hives etc)
  • digestive disorders (including diarrhoea and abdominal pains)
  • respiratory problems (like asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis)
  • allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock
  • behavioural changes (such as mood changes, anxiety and hyperactivity).

Research undertaken in 2007 by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and later published by the British medical journal “The Lancet”, provided evidence that a mix of additives commonly found in children’s foods serves to increase the mean level of hyperactivity. Similarly, in 2008, AAP Grand Rounds (the American Academy of Pediatrics) published a study that concluded that a low-additive diet is a valid intervention for children with ADHD.

Bearing all this in mind, it is important to remember that all foods are made up of chemicals, many of which are not always “safer” than those found in food additives. For example, people with food allergies and intolerances are also often sensitive to chemicals found naturally in certain foods, such as dairy, nuts or shellfish. However, it is always a good rule of thumb to opt for natural ingredients over synthetic ones and to adopt an organic lifestyle wherever possible.

Additives to watch out for… 

Some of the additives most likely to cause reactions include:

  • Flavour enhancers: A well-known example is monosodium glutamate (MSG E621). They are commonly found in crisps, instant noodles and microwave and takeaway foods.
  • Aspartame: This is an artificial sweetener, which is made of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol (a type of alcohol). When broken down in the body, methanol forms formaldehyde, formic acid (found in the venom of ants and bees) and diketopiperazine – all quite nasty substances. Aspartame is found in diet drinks, yoghurts and sugar-free items (like chewing gum).
  • Sulphites: This group of additives is often found in dried fruit, desiccated coconut, cordial and wine. They have been known to trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
  • Propionates: This type of additive can occur naturally in foods (e.g. certain types of cheese). They are also common in bread. The effects are dose-related and may range from migraines, bed-wetting, nasal congestion and racing heart to memory loss, eczema and stomach ache.
  • Antioxidants: Don’t get confused with the naturally-occurring antioxidants found in whole foods like fruit and vegetables and which are widely used to support good health and immunity. Antioxidants in the context of food additives refer to those that are synthetic chemicals which are added to food, and may therefore have a harmful effect on the body. Examples include Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), which are added to prevent fat spoilage. They are commonly found in margarine, biscuits, crisps and muesli bars. They have been linked to health conditions such as insomnia, tiredness, asthma and even learning difficulties.
  • Colours: The most common offenders in this category of additives are tartrazine (E102) and annatto (E160b). Synthetic colourings have been linked to allergic reactions, as well as learning and behavioural problems in children.

Categories of additives

Preservatives, colourings and flavourings are some of the best known additives. However, there are actually a number of other categories, each of which is tailored to a specific purpose. These include:

  • acids
  • acidity regulators
  • anti-caking agents
  • antifoaming agents
  • antioxidants
  • bulking agents
  • colour retention agents
  • emulsifiers
  • flavours
  • flavour enhancers
  • flour treatment agents
  • glazing agents
  • humectants
  • tracer gas
  • stabilizers
  • sweeteners
  • and thickeners

In fact, there are currently over 3000 additives used in food across the world, most of which are synthetic.

For more information, visit our main website

Antioxidants for health

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are beneficial compounds found in certain natural foods, such as fruit, vegetables, grasses, grains etc and even some animal products (such as fish oils). They help to defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules, known as free radicals.

How do free radicals damage the body?

When free radicals accumulate in the body (as a result of, for example, poor diet, exposure to pollution, stress and many other factors), they can lead to what is known as oxidative stress. This has the potential to damage your DNA and other important structures in your cells.

Chronic oxidative stress, where your body is repeatedly exposed to high levels of free radicals, can increase your risk of disease (including heart disease), place a strain on your immune system, lead to inflammation in the body and also accelerate the ageing process.

How are antioxidants good for health?

Fortunately, eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help to support your body in neutralising these harmful free radicals. What’s more, naturally antioxidant-rich foods tend to be alkalising, which can simultaneously help to address any inflammation.

What are the best antioxidant foods?

Scientists use several different methods to measure the antioxidant content of foods. However, one of the best tests is the FRAP (Ferric Reducing Ability of Plasma) analysis. It measures the antioxidant content of foods by how well they can neutralise a specific free radical. The higher the FRAP value, the more antioxidants the food contains.

Another method is the ORAC system. The ORAC unit (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), ORAC value, or ORAC score is a method developed by scientists at the National Institute of Health and Aging (NIH) to measures the antioxidant capacity of different foods. Whilst the exact relationship between the ORAC value of a food and its health benefit has not been fully established, it is generally believed that foods with higher ORAC scores have greater antioxidant capacity, and more effectively neutralise harmful free radicals.

Here are the some of the most notoriously antioxidant-rich foods…

  • cloves
  • sumac
  • cinnamon
  • oregano
  • turmeric
  • acai berries
  • sorghum
  • cocoa
  • pecans
  • wheatgrass
  • blueberries
  • krill oil
  • artichokes
  • goji berries
  • kale
  • raspberries
  • beetroot
  • cherries
  • spinach
  • and the list goes on.

If you are trying to integrate more antioxidants into your daily diet, seek out foods that are naturally rich in colour. The common phrase “eat the rainbow” is a good rule of thumb. The pigments that naturally colour these foods tend to contain the antioxidant compounds that are so beneficial for health! Certain vitamins, such as vitamin C and E, are also powerful antioxidants. You may therefore turn to antioxidant supplements for a reliable daily source, coupled with a well-balanced, varied and seasonal diet.

For more information, visit our main website

What are superfoods?

What puts the “super” into superfoods?

The expression “superfood” has been used for many years now, but what does it actually mean? And do these foods provide the answer to your nutritional goals, or is it all just hype?

Well, the reason these foods are referred to as being “super” is because they tend to be a rich source of vitamins and/or other nutrients (such as antioxidants and carotenoids), all of which play a vital role in keeping you healthy. Alternatively, they have a health-promoting characteristic that is not found in other foods of a similar type.

Many are known to contain elevated levels of lutein and vitamin C. They can also be rich in enzymes, proteins, minerals, and a range of phyto-nutrients.

Acai berries

A great example of a food often classed as a superfruit is the acai berrry.

These berries are known to contain among the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit. They also contain high levels of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E and a lot more.

You can incorporate these exotic fruits into your daily diet by purchasing the powder, or by looking for a high quality acai berry supplement – ideally with Brazilian freeze-dried acai berry powder and extract for extra oomph!

Turmeric

Not just limited to the world of fruits, turmeric is another superfood that is known to provide various health benefits. This time a colourful root, turmeric contains high levels of curcumin – the active ingredient most often cited as the reason for its superfood title.

Add it into your diet regularly in whole food form, but for a greater concentration and therefore effect, try a supplement that contains at least 95% curcumin from turmeric extract.

Other colourful fruit and vegetables

And there are so many more examples of superfoods and superfruits.

Look for highly pigmented fruit, vegetables and other plant-based foods (such as wheatgrass), naturally rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and chlorophyll.

Blueberries, cherries and beetroot are just a few others.

These are all readily available in supermarkets or delis. The only downside of accessing their nutrients in whole food form is the concentration and the diminished levels of nutrients as a result of, for example, long-term storage and refrigeration. If you want to be sure of the level and quality of nutrients you are accessing, it is better to opt for health food supplements, where concentrated extracts and freeze-dried powders are used.

And, ideally, choose organic supplements for maximum benefit.

For more information, visit our main website

Natural versus man-made food

Organic nutrients

Natural, organic nutrients – from, for example, fruit, vegetables and leafy greens – help to nourish the body, support natural detoxification and high energy levels and also help to naturally cleanse internal organs and alkalise the blood pH.

Organic forms of these nutritious foods means:

  • no toxic chemicals
  • no GMOs
  • a higher level of nutrients.

This principle extends also to the vitamins and other supplements you might choose to introduce into your daily diet.

Natural or man-made?

The number of milligrams you take of a certain vitamin or mineral on a daily basis is only part of the health equation. The most important factor is how many milligrams your body actually absorbs and uses.

If you buy synthetic or “man-made” health supplements, you could be wasting your money. As they are not natural, the body can’t always work out how to treat them, which means that often they are not fully absorbed. Only organic whole foods, balanced by nature, can provide your body with the nutrients and energy needed to achieve optimum health.

Even healthy people will not be able to fully digest, absorb and use most man-made vitamin and mineral pills. So imagine how little use they will be if you are ill or suffer from digestive system problems – virtually zero. They will pass through your body unabsorbed and be flushed down the toilet after a few hours.

In contrast, natural food state supplement enable the body to utilise the nutrients properly. Only natural whole foods can provide the vital elements and energy that are needed to assist our bodies to reach and maintain optimum health levels. Look after your health the natural way!

Healthy diet and nutrient intake

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all ensure our daily vitamin, mineral and general nutrient requirements were met by diet alone? Unfortunately, in today’s modern and fast-paced world most people consume a diet high in:

  • sugar
  • saturated fat
  • refined carbohydrates
  • nutrient-deficient processed foods
  • caffeine
  • alcohol. 

The lack of nutrients in the average diet is also often exacerbated by the use of prescription drugs, smoking, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, high stress levels and high levels of environmental pollution – the end result is toxic build-up, nutritional deficiency over time and inevitably the body becomes unable to cope.

Once nutritional deficiencies begin to take their toll, the body begins to break down (become ill). Symptoms can be exhibited through many different conditions.

Why you need to replenish your body’s nutrients daily

A lack of nutrients means that your body cannot repair itself fully or efficiently. Over time, this lack of nutrition can cause a host of problems, such as low energy levels, poor memory, irritability, a weak immune system and susceptibility to colds and flu – and these are just the mild issues.

The ability to recover and the speed of recovery following an illness or injury is reduced in nutritionally depleted bodies. We have to eat foods, not only for the calories, but more importantly for the nutrients found within them. This is why so-called “fast foods” and “junk foods” (non-organic processed foods) are basically useless to the body – even though they are high in calories, they provide us with very little by way of of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential oils, antioxidants etc).

The end result of continually eating high-calorie and nutritionally-devoid foods is therefore often obesity, low energy levels and poor health. In contrast, if you feed your body’s cells with nutritionally potent foods (such as superfoods) you will not only feel good, but will also look great and support your long-term health and vitality.

For more information, visit our main website

Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00