Anybody who pays attention to healthy food trends and nutrition knows the many benefits of foods like kale, spinach, and even acai berries. However there are many other foods filled with high amounts of healthy nutrients that are a lot less well-known but make great ingredients for many dishes and drinks.
In this article we’ll outline three unusual ingredients with high-impact health benefits that you may want to look out for when ordering your next smoothie or preparing your next meal.
Keep reading to find out more about amazing ingredients like:
- Milk thistle
Spirulina is a microalgae that grows in Hawaii and other tropical regions of the world. One of the most researched superfoods today, spirulina is best known for an intense flavor profile and robust array of health benefits.
As a freshwater and saltwater plant, this superfood has been cultivated in many areas of the world and has been shown to boost energy, improve brain function, and detoxify your system.
Other incredible benefits of this miraculous plant include:
- Reducing cholesterol
- Alleviates sinus issues
- Improve HIV/AIDs
Spirulina reduces cholesterol
Like many of the best superfoods, spirulina has been shown to reduce cholesterol. Studies done on rabbits fed a high cholesterol diet suggest that including spirulina in a regular diet can greatly reduce unhealthy levels of cholesterol. The study further suggested that the more spirulina consumed in a diet, the better the reduction levels of cholesterol!
Spirulina helps with sinus issues
Got the sniffles? Well, maybe you should have some spirulina! A study done on herbal allergy treatments found the spirulina helps to reduce inflammation that causes sinus problems. Compared to those given placebo treatments, individuals given spirulina for treatment of allergies saw a reduction of swelling, nasal discharge, nasal itching, and sneezing.
Spirulina may improve HIV/AIDs symptoms
For a long time epidemiologists struggled to understand why HIV/AIDs rates in Japan, Korea, and Chad were so low compared to other areas of the world. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology provided one potential explanation: the regular consumption of algae.
The study was split into three groups, one which was given spirulina, another that was given brown seaweed, and the third which got a combination of the two. The study found no adverse effects of the treatment and found that both the white blood cell count and the HIV viral load remained stable.
This study was so promising that a participant voluntarily continued the treatment for several months after the study was concluded. This participant reportedly benefited from a significant improvement of CD4 (white blood cells that fight infection) and a decrease in viral load.
Similar to the extremely popular acai berry, maqui berries are extremely nutrient rich and reside in certain parts of South America. They are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and are often used as traditional medicine against things like fever, joint pain, throat diseases, and diarrhea.
Maqui berries include some incredible benefits such as:
- Maintenance of healthy skin and eyes
- Reducing pain and arthritis symptoms
- Promoting cardiovascular health
Maqui berries help maintain healthy skin and eyes
Like many other fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, maqui berries are great for skin and eye health. Antioxidants can help protect the skin against many age-related damage, potentially including certain types of skin cancer.
Studies also suggest that maqui berries may help with symptoms of dry eye. One study found that adults with dry eye experienced significant improvement when taking 60 milligrams of maqui berries daily for 60 days.
Maqui berries reduce arthritis symptoms and pain
Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, maqui berries can be extremely beneficial for those who suffer from joint pains or rheumatoid arthritis. Maqui berries have traditionally been used to help with such ailments as pain and swelling as well as other inflammatory diseases often related to poor immune function
Maqui berries may promote cardiovascular health
Due to the maqui berry's high antioxidant content and free-radical trapping abilities, this tiny fruit may be capable of defending the body against harmful effects of unhealthy cholesterol levels.
One study found that adults who were given a maqui berry supplement for 12 weeks saw lower levels of bad cholesterol and increased levels of good cholesterol.
One of the most popular natural herbs on the market, milk thistle has a long history of healing that goes all the way back to Greece in the year 40 A.D. The plant, which is native to the Mediterranean region, is most well known for being a natural liver supplement but has also been used for such things as breast-milk production and weight loss
Aside from natural liver support and breast-milk production, other benefits of milk thistle include:
- Lowering high cholesterol
- May help prevent gallstones
- Has anti-aging effects
Milk thistle may help to lower cholesterol
With many anti-inflammatory properties, milk thistle has been shown to be helpful in lowering unhealthy levels of cholesterol when used in conjunction with traditional treatment methods. While more formal research is needed, studies suggest that milk thistle improves levels of bad cholesterol, protects against harmful levels of oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation.
Milk thistle may help prevent gallstones
As a natural liver support, milk thistle also has many properties that can help to improve the function of many other digestive organs including the gallbladder.
While research on this topic is limited, milk thistles ability to increase bile flow in the liver, protect against liver diseases such as nonalcoholic liver disease, and promote liver detoxification suggests it may be helpful in preventing gallstones.
Milk thistle has anti-aging effects
The high antioxidant content in milk thistle means this herb may have anti-aging properties that protect the skin from age-related damage.
While the research in this area is mostly limited to animal studies, one study found that silymarin, a core antioxidant in milk thistle, protected the skin of mice against UV-induced oxidative stress and helped to reduce inflammation.
Silymarin has also been linked in protecting against the depletion of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that’s useful in protecting against disease formation.
How to get these impressive foods into your diet
While it may seem like an impossible feat to try and get all of these ingredients into your diet, all of these ingredients can be easily included in your diet in the form of your favorite smoothie, juice, or superfood bowl!
So next time you stop by your favorite smoothie bar, keep an eye out for all or any of these unusual (and unusually incredible) superfoods!