Crazy (Healthy) Food Ingredients, Decoded
Recently Rachel, our Director of Sales, arrived in the office with an intriguing-looking pouch labeled “AMLA POWDER.” I, of course, had never heard of this product before. Was it gluten-free cooking flour? A plant fertilizer? Dog food? It was… none of those things.
Rachel patiently explained that amla powder is dried Indian gooseberry (which is a vitamin C-rich fruit). The powder is utilized for its immunity-boosting abilities and is supposedly amazing for your skin and hair. She planned on tossing some into her smoothie or stirring a spoonful into her tea. I sat there dumbfounded. Should I be making amla shakes?!
At this point I should backtrack and explain: Rachel possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of healthy food ingredients. She also happens to be the most willing, enthusiastic healthy food product guinea pig I’ve ever encountered. She will literally test out any natural ingredient once, no matter how far-fetched or potentially disgusting something sounds. Like, I bet she’d eat a dried slug if it had health benefits then cheerfully report back on its efficacy. I, on the other hand, consider my healthy food savvy to extend to almond butter and… other nut butters. I’m not the most adventurous eater and I’m just not willing to try something out, sight (and taste) unseen. This isn’t to say I’m not interested in exploring healthy ingredients; on the contrary, I find it all fascinating and exciting.
I have a feeling most of you fall in my camp: You’re not necessarily an amla expert, but you’d love for the Rachels of the world to share their insight and knowledge with you. Well, lucky for you, I asked Rachel to divulge some of her favorite kinda-obscure and kinda-amazing healthy ingredients with us – many of which are awesome for your skin, too.
I’ll let her take it from here!
What it is: A natural blue-green algae.
Why it’s good for you: Algae are the world’s oldest super-food. They’re crazy high in antioxidants, super-duper loaded in protein, and rich in vitamin B12.
Trusted source: Now Foods.
How I use it: Sprinkle some into a smoothie.
What it is: Basically, this is coconut butter.
Why it’s good for you: The main difference between coconut butter and oil is that coconut oil is oil extracted from the coconut while coconut butter is made from the meat of the coconut. This means it includes pieces of coconut meat and, therefore, has a lot more fiber. It’s also loaded in healthy fats and antioxidants.
How I use it: Heaping spoonfuls straight out of jar are my preferred form of consumption. Also, it is very yummy stirred into coffee.
What it is: You may have heard of this one before, as it’s very “in” right now. It is a powdered substance made from Japanese green tea leaves.
Why it’s good for you: Buzz aside, there are real reasons to get behind this antioxidant powerhouse. One study noted that matcha has three times more epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, as regular green tea; EGCG is a catechin, a compound that acts as an antioxidant to fight diseases, including some forms of cancer and heart disease.
Trusted source: I’ve been using the one from CAP Beauty (it’s ceremonial grade, apparently that’s a thing).
How I use it: Great to drink as tea or in a latte. I also have been adding into oatmeal or into chia pudding… because, yes, I also make my own chia pudding… who am I?!
What it is: Honey… but a very special honey. It’s sourced from New Zealand and created by bees that pollinate the manuka bush. Warning: It can be pretty expensive.
Why it’s good for you: For one, it has more enzymes than regular honey. It also is highly antibacterial and very potent when ingested and applied topically. Among many things, can help treat acne, acid reflux, allergies, sinusitis, and alleviate a sore throat.
Trusted source: You can purchase manuka honey through a variety of sources (I like Wild Cape) but it must have “UMF” on the label, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor; this grading system helps identify the authenticity and strength of the Manuka. The manuka honey should have a minimum rating of 10+ UMF to ensure all benefits.
How I use it: I prefer to use it topically, as a skin face mask. Also, mixing it with some hot water and lemon makes a really nice “get well soon” tonic.
What it is: Say this one ten times fast. It’s an ancient Indian herb.
Why it’s good for you: Like amla, ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which essentially help the body to adapt. Specifically, they aid in reducing stress, enhancing immunity, increasing stamina, and boosting energy.
Trusted source: Sun Potion.
How I use it: This one is kind of bitter, so anything you can do to mask the taste works. I find that adding a bit to a smoothie is the best way.
What it is: A root vegetable; also known as Indian ginseng.
Why it’s good for you: Maca is a purported hormone balancer and, therefore, can stabilize mood swings – particularly during trying times like menopause. Oh, and one study found it could actually improve your libido, too!
Trusted source: Navitas.
How I use it: Honestly? I’ve been eyeing this recipe for maca oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Because healthy ingredients always taste better in cookie form.