1. Mulberries – Goji berries are great, but it’s time to let the mulberry share some of the superfruit spotlight. These incredibly sweet berries are nutritional powerhouses containing significant levels of Vitamin C, iron, calcium, fiber and protein. Mulberries are a source of resveratrol, one of the best researched anti-aging chemicals, found primarily in the skins and seeds of grapes.
Mulberries contain many antioxidants including anthocyanins, a phytonutrient which protects our bodies from harmful oxidation caused by free radicals. Numerous scientific studies have shown that the consumption of foods containing anthocyanins have numerous health benefits including protection against cancer, neurological diseases and bacterial infections, as well as helping to control inflammation.
These berries are a potent immune system booster as some of the alkaloids they contain have been demonstrated to activate macrophages. These white blood cells detoxify cellular debris and help our acquired immune system to respond effectively against foreign pathogens (1).
Botanically, the tree was traditionally cultivated to feed silkworms which enjoy eating its leaves. It looks like the silkworms may have been on to something, as the leaves have now been shown to contain potent blood sugar stabilizing properties due to a glucose inhibiting chemical known as 1-deoxynojirimycin (2), which may also be contained in the berries in smaller concentrations.
Dried mulberries are a personal favorite of mine as I love the dense chewy texture and rich honey-like flavor. My favorite way to prepare them is blended with an equal amount of organic raisins and pressed into a nut-free crust as a base for raw pies and cakes.
2. Moringa Oleifera – Moringa oleifera, which is also known as the “miracle tree”, is a top green powder ingredient to look out for this year. Packed full of antioxidants and phytonutrients, moringa is also a source of complete plant-based protein. It has recently gained massive popularity as a supplement due to its impressive nutritional profile which includes significant amounts of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, beta-carotene and amino acids. Moringa earns the title of superfood with ease, exerting hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-dyslipidemic, anti-hyperglycemic and anti-cancer effects.
In a recent study moringa extract was demonstrated to inhibit pancreatic cancer in vitro, resulting in a 98% destruction of pancreatic cancer cells. The study also observed an increased cytotoxic effect of the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin when used in conjunction with moringa extract (3). These results may be promising for those who choose to undergo chemotherapy and are looking for a complementary option.
While moringa is often processed and marketed internationally, this plant is an especially precious resource for the millions of people who have access to it in the wild. The bean pods can be split open and their seeds used as a flocculent to help minimize pathogens in well water. Its seeds can also be pressed into oil for cooking or skin care uses. Moringa leaves are an amazing tool for soil remediation efforts due to their high nitrogen content. The anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of the leaves have an application as a hand washing product, making them an accessible resource for those in developing countries.
Perhaps most importantly, the plant may help to supplement the diet of many indigenous populations in the tropics that have not yet learned of this trees amazing nutritive properties. I earnestly believe that moringa is a promising superfood from which the whole planet can potentially benefit.
3. Mucuna Pruriens – This bean is quickly gaining popularity, particularly as an additive to cacao products. Also known as kapikachhu, this herb is recognized as an adaptogenic aphrodisiac in many cultures. It has a host hormone balancing benefits and is suitable for use in both men and women. In traditional medicine it’s used to treat a wide range of conditions from neurological problems to sexual dysfunction and low libido. The powdered bean has also achieved popularity in the body building world as it’s thought to boost HGH secretion and the production of other hormones including testosterone, which tend to diminish with age.
Mucuna is a naturally high source of the chemical L-DOPA, which is a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine can be depleted by stress, excessive sugar intake, mineral deficiencies and the use of stimulants. An imbalance of this compound is also believed to play a role in dangerous, thrill seeking behaviour. If you are looking for a dopamine hit without the hassle of skydiving, these potent beans might be a good place to start.
While I’ve noticed that some superfood vendors have been marketing mucuna extract as the superior form, I would caution against its consumption as a concentrate. Isolated L-DOPA is well known to exhibit a neurotoxic effect and while it’s the most successful treatment for Parkinson’s disease to date, the side effects of this compound are one of the biggest challenges faced with the treatment of this disorder.
This is why consuming mucuna in its whole form is important as the plant contains multiple chemical co-factors and mood altering substances including small amounts of 5-HTP, serotonin, nicotine, tryptamines and beta-carbolines which likely modulate and control the release and effects of L-DOPA. Just to be safe I would recommend consuming Mucuna pruriens in a low dose along with sencha green tea or a green tea extract. The combination of EgCG and L-DOPA can protect the body from the effects of L-DOPA toxicity (4).