This article on superfood gelatin takes a look at one of the biggest buzzwords in food. What can’t go superfood today? There are superfood smoothies, superfood chocolates, superfood lattes, superfood overnight oats. So what’s with the modern interest? And, more importantly, are superfoods worth the hype? Here’s a look.
Add the term to a recipe; double its appeal. Put it on a menu; increase its price. Superfood is a marketing term, not a scientific one, but it still, to most people, connotes better health, more nutrients, the kind of choice you make when you’re doing what’s right. So what’s the deal? Are superfoods, in fact, super? If you combine three so-called superfoods into superfood gelatin, for example, what do you get? To start, let’s look at the term itself.
What, Actually, Is a Superfood?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, superfood is simply an overarching term that describes any food rich in compounds and considered good for health—i.e., most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. If you’re eating a salad made of spinach, kale, arugula or another green, you’re eating superfoods. If you’re drinking a smoothie packed with bananas, apples, almond butter, A+. So, no, superfood isn’t a technical term, but, yet, it is a powerful one.
Why does it work? Why do we want superfoods? Like most trendy buzzwords, superfood does its job: it communicates value, fast.
Look, There’s Food and Then There’s Superfood
The target market for superfoods is the same target market for diets like Whole30, natural grocery stores like Whole Foods and every person everywhere who’s done a juice fast. It’s the people who care about health, the ones hoping to heal their own bodies, the humans who recognize their mortality and want to make nutrient-dense choices about what to put in their mouths.
In short, it’s most of us: those who have faced unexplained illness, those who want to lose a few pounds or the vast majority of us who have launched into or are approaching middle age. We know our bodies need something, and stores, brands and bloggers have a suggestion. “Want to feel, look, work, sleep, age better?” they seem to be asking. “Try this shot of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients—superfoods—and see what you think.”
The Super Superfood: Blueberries
In a December 2012 article called “The Science behind Superfoods: Are They Really Super?,” nonprofit organization EUFIC asks to see the evidence behind superfood claims, starting with one of the most long-standing, a fruit that appears on virtually every superfood list: blueberries.
“Blueberries are one of the more popular and well-known superfoods, and have been studied frequently by scientists curious about their health properties,” says EUFIC. “The berries’ high concentrations of a group of antioxidant plant compounds, especially those called anthocyanins, have been reported to inhibit the growth of cancerous human colon cells, as well as kill them off. Blueberries are also rich in other antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent and reverse age-related memory decline in rats.”
The cited study is but one in a long list of studies available examining the power of blueberries and similar fruits. Another shows women have a 34 percent lower risk of heart disease if they eat more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries each week.
To Make Superfood Gelatin, Start with a Superfood Juice
So blueberries. These foundational superfoods are low on the glycemic index, a good source of fiber and recently listed as one of the 10 healthiest office snacks in article at CNN. They’re also one of seven ingredients in “to the Power of Seven,” a 100% fruit juice available at Trader Joe’s. When you’re looking to create a superfood gelatin rich in health benefits, this naturally sweetened, berry-heavy juice is a good place to start.
A blend of seven organic fruit and vegetable juices with no added sugars added, this juice contains pomegranate, tart cherry, black mulberry, red grape, purple carrot, cranberry and blueberry juices, all “high in Vitamin A and packed with deep color, big flavors and plant phytonutrients,” according to the jar’s label.
Next Comes Gelatin
In a March 2015 Prevention article titled “Is Gelatin the Next Big Superfood?,” writer Stephanie Eckelkamp cites gelatin as being protective for carnivores, good for gut health, comforting to aching joints and a boon for better skin and nail health.
“Gelatin is high in several amino acids, including glycine, which can be hard to find in other foods,” she says. “On one hand, these amino acids are not considered essential, meaning your body can make them from other amino acids. However, they can be conditionally essential, meaning your body has higher needs for them than what it can provide. This is especially true for people who are very active, older adults, pregnant women, people with joint or bone injuries or people who eat a lot of meat.”
A quick Google search reveals similar claims from The Huffington Post, Chalkboard Magazine, blogger Holistic Squid and The Globe and Mail.
In The Globe and Mail’s “Gelatin: the Sports World’s Newest Superfood,” Alex Hutchinson cites research from a team examining the effects of gelatin on strengthening tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage for athletes. “The results showed that simply jumping rope three times a day doubled rates of collagen synthesis,” explains Hutchinson. “Adding five grams of gelatin before the mini-workouts didn’t make much difference, but adding 15 grams doubled collagen synthesis again, for an overall four-fold increase.”
Then You Take the Jello Up a Notch with Tea
Take the superfood powers of berry juices, combine them with gelatin and water and you’ve got a simple superfood snack. But wait. How could that water too become less of a filler and more of a nutrient source? Enter herbal tea.
“While fruit-flavoured teas–such as rosehip, apple and orange–tend to be delicious, they are developed for their flavouring more than anything else,” says Naomi Coleman at The Daily Mail. “Herbal teas on the other hand, such as thyme, peppermint and ginger, have greater therapeutic virtues.”
As with the juice in superfood gelatin, which may be replaced with a basic blueberry or other berry choice, the hot water, which needs to be heated to melt the gelatin anyway, may as well be steeped in a herbal tea. For this post’s recipe, we’ve used red raspberry leaf and nettle, two loose-leaf varieties we have on hand.
Superfood gelatin, chilled in an 8″ by 8″ or doubled in 9″ by 13″ pan, offers a healthy, nutrient-rich snack food for adults and kids alike. You’ve got anthocyanins and antioxidants from the juice, amino acids from the gelatin, added therapeutic benefits from whatever herbal tea you select. Even better for anyone who wants grab-and-go snacks, the resulting gelatin is easy to slice and eat. Calling it a superfood snack is marketing-speak, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. If superfoods are foods rich in health-boosting components, this gelatin definitely qualifies.
Are you on Team Superfood? What are your favorite healthy snacks? When you want to pack a lot of nutrients in every bite, what recipes do you pick? Reach out to tell me about them via the the contact page
Superfood Gelatin: Deep Dark Herbal Berry
To make a larger batch of this gelatin, simply double the proportions and use a 9″ x 13″ pan.
16 oz hot water or steeped tea*
16 oz To the Power of 7 TJ’s Juice (or other berry juice)
22g (around 2 TBs) Perfect Supplements bovine gelatin
Pour 16 ounces of juice into 8″ x 8″ dish. Sprinkle gelatin on top to “bloom” it. Let it rest a few minutes. Pour hot liquids on top. Stir together. Chill until set.
Combine ingredients in a saucepan or teapot. Nutritionally, you can steep as long as you like; for the sake of softening the gelatin, you want it to still be hot. We steeped for maybe 5ish minutes.
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