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Superfoods to protect your heart and even help beat cancer

Cacao nibs, farro wheat, Buddha's hand: these aren't just fancy names. Without the side-effects of drugs or artificial additives, these foods can help you beat depression, lower cholesterol, cut the risk of heart disease and even beat cancer.

brunch Updated: Aug 30, 2014 20:24 IST
Yashica Dutt
Yashica Dutt
Hindustan Times
Cacao nuts,Buddha's hand,Twig tea

If you are what you eat, then here’s how you can be Superman. Not exactly in the sky-flying, body-suit-wearing sense. But you can beat depression, lower cholesterol levels, cut the risk of heart disease, increase immunity, have extra energy and even beat cancer (yes, you read that right), if you eat certain types of food, the world calls superfoods.

Without the side effects of drugs or artificial additives, these food items are known to not only eliminate most of our disease-related problems but also help us live longer. While some superfoods (tomatoes, strawberries, for instance) may already be sitting pretty in your fridge, here’s a list of what could make you feel super healthy, while making you feel super exotic.

Cacao Nibs

You’ve heard that chocolate is good for you. No? There’s a new research just around the corner waiting to tell you that. But what are even better are processed chocolate beans you could have without being told to feel guilty. Plus, they are the latest food trend on the horizon. These nutty nibs not only taste delicious roasted, but are also known to get your heart beating faster with their dose of concentrated caffeine and are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

How to eat:You can eat them by the handful or add them to a cookie, cake or hot chocolate recipe.

Farro Wheat

Not all wheat is a superfood. What we are recommending is an ancient strain of hard wheat from Egypt that has been a staple for Italian cooking for years. Farro has twice the fibre and protein of whole wheat grains. Cyanogenic glucosides, a carbohydrate found in farro, is known to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. Being rich in magnesium, it’s also found to relieve tensions and cramps, making it a natural muscle relaxant.

How to eat: Like the Italians, use it to add flavour to your soup or simply add it to your salads for a chewy, nutty crunch.

Buddha’s Hand

Don’t let the appearance turn you off, for this tentacle-shaped fruit found mostly in Japan and China is extremely fragrant and more loaded with vitamin C than all your average citrus fruits. Devoid of any pulp or juice, Buddha’s Hand is all rind and, being very low in calories, is famous as one of the most powerful diet foods. The citrus content in the fruit is supposed to be so high, that just one tablespoon is known to make up for more than 13 per cent of your daily intake of vitamin C.

How to eat:Pluck one of the fingers of the hand and dig in for tasty snack or sprinkle them onto salads and main courses. Even the zest could be used to add flavour to your favourite recipes.

Twig Tea

Move aside green tea. Its high antioxidant content has been well publicised. But a Japanese blend of roasted stems, stalks and twigs of the Camellia Sinensis plant (leaves’ from which green tea is made) is a step in an even healthier direction. The Japanese (and trendy folk) call it kukicha and it delivers your chai without the astringent caffeine. Since most of caffeine from regular tea comes from its leaves, twig tea (being leaf-free) is over 90 per cent less acidic than your average cup of coffee. (Green tea is over 60 per cent less acidic in comparison). And guess what? Regular drinkers (like Hollywood celebrity Alicia Silverstone) say it tastes a lot like coffee.

How to have:Brew the mixture and have it in your favourite form. Either as hot or iced or added to a soup, it tastes just as good.

Morel Mushrooms

These popular mushrooms might look a bit like shrivelled dates, but what they lack in appearance, they make up for in nutrition. Belonging to the family of truffles, they might well be one of the tastiest superfoods on this list and provide potassium and B vitamins and are supposed to very beneficial for liver functions. A hot favourite of chefs worldwide, morels are the gourmet ingredient of the moment and are popular for breathing life to many a bland risotto. At the market, just ask for Kashmiri guchchi.

How to eat: Gently sauté in butter, be liberal with garlic, add salt and pepper and you’re ready.

Chia Seeds

No list can be complete without the mention of the superfood of the moment – chia seeds. The world is in love with this magical seed. It’s been touted as everything from being a dieter’s dream (thanks to its ability to soak water and puff to almost twice its size) to a runner’s delight (it delivers proteins, iron, calcium and manganese to help make bones strong and healthy). Chia seeds, when soaked, also produce a gel that’s a great food for keeping the body hydrated. It’s also filled with antioxidants, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are terrific for your heart and your brain. Not just that, it combats diabetes and improves blood pressure. And the fibre content is high. One tablespoon will take care of your cereal intake for the day, and is roughly equal to one full bowl of oatmeal. No wonder Hollywood dieters love it.

How to eat: Eat them raw or sprinkle them over salads and snacks. Soak it in water to form a thick gel and add it to your breakfast cereals, soups and salads.

From HT Brunch, August 31
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First Published: Aug 30, 2014 20:07 IST