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Super Foods: Five Cost-Effective, Sustainable and Ethical Choices

By Jess Lewis-Peltier
February 15, 2011
File under: Healthy Eating, Sustainability


These days, we have easy access to many super foods and at least one “must-have miracle food” is being touted in the media at any given time. So many choices and so many proclamations! How can we know which is the best choice for people and the planet?

For superfood economy, ecology and wellbeing three things are important: bang-for-your-buck, sustainability and ethical harvesting. Superfoods can be quite costly, so compare potency and price to get the maximum benefit. Consider whether or not the product is sustainable.

There are a lot of amazing super foods but if what you seek is extremely hard to find that could mean that they are coming from very far away. When purchasing from other countries, be sure to buy fair-trade to ensure that you are buying sustainable and ethically harvested products.

5 practical, economical and sustainable superfoods

1. Blueberries: Native to North America blueberries are grown throughout America, Europe and Asia making them readily available in season. They are fairly drought tolerant and don’t require very rich soils making them a low-impact, sustainable crop that, when in season, can be very economical. Blueberries are rich in disease fighting antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and essential fatty acids (EFAs). Including blueberries in your diet may help memory loss and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, some forms of blindness, urinary tract infections and may help reduce cholesterol. Be sure to look for berries grown locally or shop at the local farmer’s market.

2. Maca: An amazing root grown in the central Andes of Peru, Maca is a tonic herb that balances hormones, increases sexual stamina, improves tissue repair and reduces both cholesterol and inflammation. It’s a common crop and food staple that is crucial the economic survival of some indigenous tribes of the Andes. The majority of this root is fair trade grown but be sure to check any packing for the official certification. Maca is grown and harvested with no threat to the surrounding environment because of its affinity to elevations where not much else will grow.

3. Chia: This tiny seed is the highest plant source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Packed with nutrients and soluble fiber, Chia is one of the most hydrating foods available. Chia is extremely easy to grow in southern climates and is fairly past resistant so it can be harvested sustainably without overuse of resources or pesticides. Be a Locavore, making sure that you are buying from the source closest to where you live. Despite increased media exposure, chia remains very inexpensive particularly when purchased in bulk.

4. Pine Pollen: This superfood isn’t as widely acclaimed in the West, but is frequently used in the East primarily for estrogen/testosterone hormone balancing. Pine pollen is infinitely more potent than the highly touted health benefits of bee pollen and that makes it the ideal choice for vegans. Not only is it an ethical choice, this sustainable superfood is available in bulk locally.

5. Chlorella: A single-celled algae, chlorella has a molecular structure very similar to that of hemoglobin (red blood cells). This superfood is rich in vitamins, minerals and protein as well as the entire range of B complex vitamins, which makes it a great supplement for vegans and vegetarians. Over the years, the manufacturing process used to make chlorella more digestible has simplified driving the cost down considerably. In addition, chlorella can be grown virtually anywhere making it one of the most sustainable superfoods around.

Jess Lewis-Peltier, ‘The Holistic Yogini‘ is a naturopath, biochemist, herbalist and yoga teacher living in southern California Facebook Jess and follow her on Twitter.

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