by Dr. Will Cole
When it comes to eating healthy, the first order of action is establishing a solid foundation of vegetables, fresh fruits, healthy fats, fiber, and protein. If you’re getting those in your body on a daily basis, you can rest assured that your diet is boosting your gut microbiome, supporting optimal energy and productivity, and helping fend off chronic disease.
Once you have the basics down pat, get excited because there’s another whole world to explore: The world of superfoods. These foods are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy antioxidant compounds that pack an extra punch when it comes to boosting your health.
As a functional medicine practitioner, it’s my job to sort through all wellness trends and identify the superfoods that will really make a difference to your health.
On that note, here are five of my favorites and exactly how to use them. As an added bonus, they can all be used as part of a plant-based keto diet, or, a Ketotarian diet as I like to call it.
1. Cacao Butter
As a society, we spent years villainizing fat, thinking it was the sole cause of heart disease, obesity, and so many other illnesses and diseases. These days, however, we’re re-thinking this fear of fat in a major way. In fact, many functional medicine experts are recommending that their patients increase their fat intake by way of more clean, plant-based sources of fat (instead of stocking up on meat and dairy).
Enter: Cacao butter. This butter is derived from cacao beans and is a deliciously rich way to take your baked goods, smoothies, or hot chocolate to a whole new level by adding a ton of flavor to your favorite recipes. Try Navitas’ Cacao Butter. It’s organic, vegan, and fair-trade making it the perfect superfood source for getting more fats into your life.
2. MCT Oil
You may have heard about MCT oil before, possibly in the context of bulletproof coffee or brain health. This oil is made from MCTs—which stands for medium-chain-triglycerides—a special kind of fatty acid that is six to twelve carbons in length. But why are MCTs so healthy? For one, they help us reach ketosis faster. On top of that, they can also help us improve our overall brain health, increase metabolic rate for reduced weight, and lower cholesterol and healthy blood sugar.
As we mentioned before, in functional medicine we’re rediscovering the many ways that fat can improve and support our health; we’re finding that fats are vital for the optimal functioning of our brain, immune systems, and hormones. And if you think about it, this makes sense. We start our lives relying on fat-rich breast milk to give us the energy it takes to grow and develop.
When buying MCT oil, keep in mind that its’ found in two forms—natural and synthetic. Natural sources are going to be the purest and most bioavailable to our bodies and can be found in dairy fats, palm kernel oil, and my favorite plant-based source—coconut oil. Try adding some coconut oil-derived MCTs to your morning coffee or tea and see how it goes.
Ah, hemp. One of nature’s most versatile plants! Hemp is a superstar protein source—at 4g per serving—and is especially good for those of us who try to limit our consumption of animal products. In fact, it is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, which means that it’s a complete protein.
Lucky for us, it’s also a healthy source of fat—containing high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Not to mention, it also contains about 25 percent of your daily magnesium requirements per serving. Hemp really does do it all.
You can find hemp as a powder that you can use in smoothies and other beverages Or, try opting for hemp seeds, which you can sprinkle on your yogurt or salads.
A plant-based diet can help drive down inflammation, but if you want to continue to elevate your health, turmeric is always on the top of my list. Turmeric helps fend off chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of so many different diseases in our modern world—including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and even depression and diabetes.
So how does turmeric work against chronic inflammation? We have a compound called curcumin to thank for turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory powers, which works by blocking NF-kB, a molecule that turns on genes that are involved in inflammation.
You can take turmeric in a capsule or try making turmeric-rich foods like green curry. Another option is adding a turmeric latte—also known as golden milk—to your daily routine. This ancient drink has become my go-to afternoon treat, gaining extra bonus points for being caffeine-free and low in sugar.
Maca is an herb that’s part of a larger group of herbs called “adaptogens.” Adaptogens aren’t high in healthy protein or fats but they can restore balance to important areas of your health that are out-of-whack, particularly your stress response and nervous system. Adaptogens are able to regulate the connection between your brain and your hormones, which plays an important role in your mood and energy levels every single day.
If you’re going to buy adaptogens, remember one thing: They’re not all created equal. Look for a brand that’s using quality ingredients and sources it’s adaptogens responsibly. For example, Navitas’ high-quality Maca Powder is ethically sourced from Peru; you can easily add it to just about any smoothie, drink, or dessert.
So there you have it! As a functional medicine doctor, I’ve seen a healthy plant-based diet—with plenty of superfoods—turn numerous patients’ health around. So try taking one (or all!) or these five superfoods for a spin and see it they are able to take your health to a new level.
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