These days food and preservatives go hand in hand. However, beyond the grocery store shelves lined with these not-so-healthy processed foods, there are still several healthy options waiting to be picked up and tossed into our shopping cart. The good news? Some of them pack an impressive nutritional punch, enough to put most superfoods to shame (we're looking at you, Goji berries!). Ever heard of African superfoods?
Although Africa is (unfortunately) considered one of the poorest continents due to the outside media's take, this is not the case when it comes to its nutrient-dense foods. In fact, Africa features a variety of healthy and nutrient-packed foods which help locals not only get by but lead a healthier life.
But, do they deserve to be called superfoods or is it just hype? Even though there's no agreed-upon definition of the term "superfood," it usually refers to nutritionally dense foods which contain lots of antioxidants to promote your overall health. Given this, this term couldn't be a better fit for African nutrition bombs.
If you think baobab fruit powder is all that Africa has to offer, think again. Even though it's packed with more antioxidants, calcium, potassium and vitamin C, most foods can't even dream of having, this superfruit is just the tip of the iceberg.
So, whether you are a savvy foodie or just want to give your health a nutritional boost, here are nine African superfoods you should keep in your pantry.
Also known as Adansonia digitata, the baobab fruit is one of Africa's most nutrient-dense foods. Even though locals in Africa have been using baobab fruit powder for centuries now, it's not long that we discovered just how beneficial this superfruit could be on our health as well.
The sugar-free fruit is steadily increasing in popularity thanks to the nutrients it contains. Some of them include vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and lots of antioxidants. In fact, experts claim that baobab fruit powder contains six times the vitamin C of an orange, six times the potassium of a banana, six times the antioxidants of berries and twice the calcium of one glass of milk.
As a result, baobab fruit powder comes with numerous health benefits such as boosting energy, shielding your bones and liver, promoting heart health, preventing diabetes as well as making you feel full for longer and losing weight.
Moringa is yet another superfood to originate from Africa's mainland. Much like baobab, moringa powder is also valued as a highly effective medicinal product. It contains lots of minerals and is also an excellent source of protein, amino acids, vitamins, beta-carotene, and phenolics.
Given its rich nutritional profile, moringa powder benefits the human body in a variety of ways such as lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation and serving as an excellent antibacterial agent. One study suggests that this African superfood may even increase libido, especially in men.
It has probably never occurred to you, but pumpkin leaves are hands-down the sweetest greens you can eat. Lacking any bitterness other greens tend to have, you can easily include them in your weekly meal plan.
But, their mild, sweet-like taste is just a bonus. The real deal with this African superfood is the nutritional punch they pack. Between the abundance of vitamins A, B, C and an awful lot of iron, calcium, and folate, pumpkin leaves have the power to crowd your body with all sorts of essential nutrients.
So, it comes as no surprise that pumpkin leaves offer many health benefits, including a better heart health and immune system, arthritis and cancer prevention, a better dental hygiene and more radiant skin.
Used as traditional medicine in Africa for centuries now, tamarind only recently made it to our tables carrying over its beneficial qualities to the western world. This African superfood is a favourite among chefs for its sweet and sour taste. But, scientists appreciate it for its high nutritional value.
Tamarind is jam-packed with fibre. In fact, one serving of tamarind contains 6 grams of fibre which is equivalent to 24% of your daily recommended value. As a result, consuming tamarind daily keeps you full for longer and helps you drop those extra pounds. This African superfood is also rich in other essential nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals (primarily magnesium, iron and potassium).
Some of the tamarind's most significant health benefits include smooth digestion, better blood circulation and nerve function, weight loss, diabetes prevention and cholesterol reduction. Experts also recommend the use of tamarind for the treatment of abdominal pain.
Ginger has been part of our lives for quite some time now. And throughout this co-existence, we've found out that ginger juice is the answer to many ailments, from the semi-expected to the utterly bizarre.
One of the most common uses of ginger juice is for treating nausea and morning sickness in pregnant women. But, that's not all. Ginger juice can also reduce the severity of seasickness or chemo-induced nausea.
Need another reason to root for ginger? Drinking ginger juice also suppresses certain enzymes which result in inflammation while easing sore muscles and alleviating arthritis symptoms. Is there anything ginger juice can't do?
Move over, quinoa. Teff is here! Teff refers to tiny gluten-free grains which can readily replace quinoa in your everyday meals. What's more, teff is an excellent source of calcium, packing about 35% of the daily recommended value in a single serving. These grains are also rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
But, how can teff benefit your health? From preventing colon cancer due to its high resistant starch content to promoting gastrointestinal health and curbing appetite, teff is one of those African superfoods you need in your pantry.
Much like quinoa and teff, amaranth is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you'll even come across. These teeny tiny grains are known for their killer nutritional value. More specifically, one serving of amaranth contains 21% of the daily recommended value of fibre, making you eat less throughout the day and, thus lose weight. It's also packed with the amino acid lysine and lots of calcium, magnesium, and squalene which is a nutrient that prevents cancer. But, aside from its cancer-preventive properties, amaranth also lowers cholesterol levels.
In Africa, the coconut tree and its fruit have been an integral part of the locals' lives and for a good reason. That's partially the reason why coconut has also turned into a welcome addition to the lives of people living in the western world.
Even though the saturated fats in coconuts have been a matter of debate on whether this superfood is healthy or not, the truth is that you have nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, this African superfood favours the human body in many ways, from treating skin infections to shielding us against harmful microorganisms, coconuts rightfully deserve a spot in our pantry. Check out our tasty coconut snowball bites recipe for a healthy way to get more coconut into your diet.
Hibiscus flowers are used to make a popular tea-like drink in Egypt known as Karkade. However, this isn't the only way Africans incorporate this superfood into their everyday life. They take advantage of the health benefits this colourful superfood has to offer in any way possible, from spices and sauces to jams and much more. But, would they get in all that trouble?
Research proves that hibiscus is indeed a superfood by serving as a natural alternative to several ailments. One study suggests that this underrated African plant can lower blood pressure, even prevent gastric cancer and bacteria from infecting your body.
There's something so unique about protecting your body in the most natural way possible, from opting for tasty ingredients rather than supplements to knowing exactly what you put in your body. But, no matter how much you love staying "healthy au naturel", you need to put some effort to keep this relationship fresh.
If you want to take your health a step further, variety is crucial, and these nine African superfoods are a great place to start. Not only do they deliver multiple benefits, but when cooked nicely they can bring a smile on everyone's face.