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What is spirulina? 7 trendy superfoods explained

For anyone who ever wondered what ‘quinoa’ was and was too afraid to ask.

EVER HEAR YOUR arsey friends name-dropping superfoods like quinoa and wondered what they were, but lacked the courage to ask?

We’re here for you.

1. Chia seeds

What’s the story?: The New York Times described chia seeds as “a nutritional ‘it’ item” back in 2012. Grown primarily in Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds have become a go-to superfood in recent years and can be found sprinkled on cereal and yoghurt or used in smoothies and juices.

The health benefits are manifold. The little seeds are packed with Omega 3, antioxidants, protein, fibre and loads of other good stuff. As for the taste, it’s widely described as “mild” and “nutty,” hence its versatility.

They come with a word of warning, though: ingesting dry chia seeds can cause damage to your oesophagus, so make your they expand fully in liquid before you eat them.

2. Hemp hearts

What’s the story?: Hemp hearts are the edible insides of hemp seeds. Like chia seeds, they have a mild taste meaning they can be incorporated into baked products, juices, salads and more. 

What differentiates them from chia, however, is that they contain notably more protein and omegas. Seed wars!

3. Quinoa

What’s the story?: As well as being a tricky one to pronounce, quinoa has slowly become the mascot for all pretentious health foods. “Oh, you’re having quinoa, are you? ‘Tis far from quinoa you were raised.”

It’s basically a grain-like seed that can be used as an alternative to rice and pasta. There are two types – red quinoa and white quinoa. Red quinoa is arguably more aesthetically pleasing for salads, but both are abundant in protein and fibre.

And for the record, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”.

4. Spirulina

Tweet by @Fresh on Crawford Source: Fresh on Crawford/Twitter

What’s the story?: Spirulina is a type of green/blue algae that can be found in the world’s largest ocean and lakes. It is sold in powdered form, as well as capsules and flakes.

Despite sounding like the name of a miniature princess, it is an ancient food item and apparently a source of essential amino acids and protein, as well as a rake of other vitamins.

The most common way of consuming spirulina is adding a spoonful of powder to either water, smoothies or juices. As for its flavour, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste, variously described as “fishy” or “mushroomy”.

5. Matcha

What’s the story?: You may have seen coffee shops/cafés hyping matcha lattes, a concoction that promises a caffeine-like buzz and has anti-oxidant properties.

But what is it?

It’s described as the “ultimate, essential form of green tea”. It’s been all the rage in Japan for many years now and is conquering our shores now. Aside from lattes, the powdered substance has been known to be used in ice-cream, porridge, smoothies and more.

6. Acai berries

What’s the story?: Acai berries are nutrient-rich berries native to the Brazilian rainforest and the fruit du jour. They possess double the antioxidants of blueberries and contain protein, fibre, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.

Acai berries have also been purported to promote weight loss and have anti-ageing properties. There is no scientific research to either support or contradict either of those claims.

What does it taste like? Opinions on that differ.

7. Fonio

What’s the story?: Earlier this year, National Geographic announced that fonio was the “new quinoa”. High praise!

The West African grain is being billed as yet another alternative to quinoa. Gluten-free and replete in amino acids, it is starting to build a little buzz over in the United States, where it’s presently only available in specialty stores or online.

It hasn’t quite hit our shores yet, but expect your health-conscious friends to start name-dropping it soon.

8 delectable treats you won’t believe are completely gluten-free >

Wrecked? Hungover? Here’s how to hack your breakfast >

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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