From the Sunday Times:
Everyone from Gwyneth to Posh has a new favourite food supplement. So do you know your bee pollen from your maca powder?
Ruby Warrington Published: 27 July 2014
So what are you taking these days? From powders to supercharge your smoothies, pills to boost your brain and a roll call of vegetables lining up to be hailed “the new kale”, supplements and superfoods have never been more popular.
In May, looking nothing less than fab at 50, Elle Macpherson launched the Super Elixir, a potent concoction of powdered greens that promises increased vitality and an alkalising effect, and packs quite a punch at £96 a jar (for roughly a month’s supply). And when the philosopher Daniel Pinchbeck launched his new think tank, the Centre for Planetary Culture, in New York last month, the cocktails had ingredients such as chlorophyll, kava and damiana leaf, a Mexican aphrodisiac.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s favourite doctor, Frank Lipman, says: “So much of our food is grown in soil that’s depleted of nutrients, it’s tough to get the necessary nutrition from food alone.” In his view, daily we should all be taking a multivitamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and a probiotic “at a minimum”.
With so many new and exotic products flooding the market, however, how to determine which ones are for you? The nutritionist Nadya Andreeva, author of Happy Belly, says: “Most people will benefit from blue-green algae to alkalise the system, some extra essential fatty acids, extra fibre in the form of something like chia seeds, and a good vitamin B complex.” To get you started, here’s our guide to the next generation of superfoods and supplements. Where will you dive in?
The fruit of the African baobab tree contains more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than red meat and is a source of alkalising minerals including calcium, potassium (gram for gram, five times more than bananas) and magnesium. Add the powder to smoothies.
Loved by Drew Barrymore’s nutritionist, Kimberly Snyder, who describes bee pollen as a “secret weapon” when it comes to boosting energy levels, it’s also one of the ingredients in Victoria Beckham’s favourite new supplement. “My new thing!! Eat one tsp a day!” she tweeted recently, along with an image of Virgin Raw Foods’ Bee Panacea, which also contains bee propolis and raw honey and claims to strengthen the immune system and detoxify the body. Although it is generally safe, some people with pollen allergies have had serious reactions to bee pollen.
The modern western diet — lots of meat, eggs, dairy, processed food and alcohol, and not enough vegetables — is predominantly acid-forming. As one of the most alkalising foods, blue-green algae is thought to help restore a healthy pH. Buy it in either powder or frozen form, and add to soups, salads, smoothies and juice made from leafy green veg.
The new probiotics. No matter how good your diet, a lack of digestive enzymes — due to anything from stress to food sensitivities — means you won’t be absorbing all the nutrients from your £10 bunch of organic kale. Adding these enzymes to your diet in pill form is the fast track to perfecting your digestion.
Dr Frank Lipman recommends supplementing levels of this naturally occurring antioxidant, which can be depleted by ageing, long-term exposure to toxins or chronic illness. Low levels are linked to every significant ageing process in the body, so supplementing it could increase energy and slow the descent into early wrinkledom.
This amino acid, a favourite of the nutritionist Nadya Andreeva, is used to fight severe sugar cravings. It can also help to repair and protect the mucus layer in the gut to ease digestive issues, especially “leaky gut syndrome”, an altered or damaged bowel lining or gut wall resulting from malnutrition, parasites, infection or overuse of medication.
Lipman describes this amino acid, primarily found in tea, as “nature’s chill pill”. Taken as a supplement, it can help to improve the quality of sleep and reduce general feelings of anxiety. “It’s an effective, drug-free alternative that enables you to take the edge off stress any time the need arises,” he says.
“It helps energise me before a workout,” says Madeleine Shaw, Instagram’s favourite health coach and food blogger, of this Peruvian powerhouse. With significant levels of calcium, iron, vitamin C and amino acids, this powdered starch is also thought to raise the libido and help to alleviate erectile dysfunction. No wonder the Incas gave it to their soldiers to fortify them before battle.
In your drink, not on your face. According to the NYC health coach Robyn Youkilis: “It’s amazing for your digestion. I’m about to bust it out to everyone.” It’s also said to help detoxify the body, improve mood, freshen breath and balance energy levels.
It might sound unappetising, but bone broth, like chicken stock, is a “total babe-maker”, says Madeleine Shaw. It’s full of amino acids and collagen, as well as minerals that nourish your cells and reduce inflammation. “Sip this to heal your digestion and create youthful-looking skin,” she says.
Also called raw chocolate, this is the acceptable sweet fix that delivers on a spiritual level, or so says the tantric life coach Elena Angel. “A small dose of raw cacao in your smoothie every morning produces a ‘smoother’ lift than coffee, and acts as a reminder to be more sensitive. Cacao opens the heart.”
This tropical berry, which can be bought in powder form, is one of the most potent sources of vitamin C (ounce for ounce, about 50 times more than an orange), which not only supports the immune system, but also helps to ward off wrinkles by building up the collagen in your skin.
Described as a “next generation” superfood, this is used in salad dressings by Nadya Andreeva. “It is the best source of essential fatty acids if you are vegan or vegetarian and can’t have fish oil.” Just two tablespoons of hemp “hearts” (shelled hemp seeds, which can be blitzed to make a pesto or milk) also provides 10g of protein — almost as much as an egg.
Also known as amaranth, this protein-packed, gluten-free seed is the new quinoa. Studies have shown that kiwicha lowers “bad cholesterol”, protecting your cardiovascular system and helping you manage your blood pressure. It can also be “popped” in a pan, puffing up to a Rice Krispies-like consistency.
Purple kale, asparagus and potatoes
Purple is the new green. “Generally, the more richly coloured the vegetable, the more phytonutrients it has and the more mineral dense it is,” says Andreeva. Slowly making their way into mainstream supermarkets, purple potatoes were reportedly once reserved for royalty in Peru. Now available to everyone, they contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help lower blood pressure and slow signs of ageing.
One of the few sweeteners allowed in Gwyneth Paltrow’s everything-free cookbook, It’s All Good, raw honey is said to promote digestive health, act as a powerful antioxidant, strengthen the immune system and eliminate allergies. It’s also a good medicine for coughs.
“I’m a huge fan of sacha inchi oil — it’s got more antioxidants than anything else,” says Robyn Youkilis. Extracted from the Peruvian sacha inchi seed, sometimes called the Inca peanut, this oil is very low in saturated fats and packed full of omega-3s, which could boost cardiovascular health and support cognitive function as you age.
Sprouting grains by soaking them first increases the amount of enzymes and neutralises the antinutrient phytic acid. “This is a very traditional way of preparing grains, but these days we want food fast, so these methods have been lost,” says Shaw. Some research has also shown that sprouted grains such as brown rice and barley may help to control blood sugar, lower blood pressure and even ease fatigue in nursing mothers.
Andreeva’s favourite tea is an adaptogenic, which means it can adapt to the needs of the body, having either a calming effect or providing an energy boost as needed, and it’s naturally caffeine free.
Who’s taking what
The Eternal Youths
Convinced that the path to longevity comes in pill or powder form, for the eternal youths all roads lead to Peru, home of the most vitality-boosting plants of the Amazon. From Maca in their morning smoothie to memory-boosting sacha inchi oil on their salad, the goal is to make it to 100 with faculties intact. They love getting their legs out (male and female) and, much to their kids’ dismay, they have recently rediscovered clubbing, making lots of new twentysomething friends whose conversation they find “so refreshing”.
If it’s good enough for Victoria Beckham, why wouldn’t you be downing a daily spoonful of bee pollen? Kale and coconut oil are already yesterday’s news for the superfoodistas, who will give anything a go in the name of curbing their sugar cravings, clearing congested skin and beating the battle of the bloat. Their latest obsessions? Fermented veggies and bone broth. Er, delicious. Idols include Miranda Kerr (and secretly the rest of the Victoria’s Secret angels), and, when they’re not doing one of Christina Howells’s Body by Christina online workouts, they can be found browsing the spoils at Net-a-sporter.com.
The Performance Pill Poppers
Also known as the “always-on” brigade, these work-hard-play-hard type-As are looking for all the help they can get when it comes to outperforming the competition. Think turmeric-laced energy shots, capsules of MCT oil to improve athletic stamina and a regular dose of shilajit resin — a cure-all that claims to make you calmer and more efficient, while also minimising hangovers. On the eternal blag for a spot at the renegade C2-MTL commerce and creativity conference in Montreal, they have three TED talks ready to go and are currently plotting their next ultramarathon attempt.
The Back to Naturals
Processed food is the root of all evil for the now-age hippies, who are also convinced that anything that comes with “raw” as a prefix — raw cacao, raw honey, raw milk — has got to be good for you. They have a weakness for home-sprouting kits, ancient grains and anything “hemp” related. Summer is spent on the festival circuit, hawking their hand-printed organic-cotton yoga line. Their favourite pastimes include creating dream catchers, communing with their spirit animal and lobbying against mandatory immunisation at their children’s primary school.