Most people don’t include these three superfoods to their snack cupboard, even though they could have a major impact on their health. Next time you’re hungry between meals, grab for these three snacks instead of chips or candy. What three super snacks am I talking about? Read on to find out!
Bilberries: Herbal Remedy Rich in Antioxidants
The “wild cousin” of blueberry, sweet and tangy bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) have been used as a botanical medicine since the early Middle Ages. Tea brewed from bilberry leaves was used to treat imbalances in blood sugar. European herbalists used bilberry as a remedy for bladder infections as well as for stomach and gastrointestinal complaints. In modern herbal medicine, extract of bilberry is used to address cardiovascular health concerns.
Bilberry is plumper and darker than blueberry with a deep red flesh whereas blueberries are greener on the inside. This difference in pigment is a result of bilberry having a higher content of powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. In the body, anthocyanins help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to health problems such as heart disease.
You can experience the health enhancing effects of bilberry in a daily cup of the fresh fruit. For a delicious tea, simmer 1 tablespoon of dried bilberries in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes; strain and drink.
Extracts of bilberry need to be standardized to contain a specific percentage of anthocyanins, depending upon your health concerns. Before purchasing bilberry capsules, check with your health practitioner to be sure you recieve the right formulation for your needs.
Sage: Clarity for Body and Mind
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a fascinating botanical remedy that has been used by ancient and modern cultures around the globe for a variety of health concerns. From loosening congestion to facilitating relaxation, sage is a versatile herbal remedy to include in your personal apothecary.
Sage is recognized by its grayish leaves and purplish-blue flowers, which contain compounds that have antibacterial, antiseptic, and astringent properties. These bacteria-fighting properties make sage a useful ingredient in products such as natural deodorant and mouthwash. A sage tea or tincture may help ease the irritation of a sore throat, loosen chest or nasal congestion, and alleviate digestive cramping.
You might be familiar with using sage in aromatherapy preparations, to support emotional wellbeing. When used in this way, sage essential oil is added to an air diffuser or in candles. In a method known as smudging, (commonly used in religious or spiritual ceremony), White sage is burned as a dried bundle with the intention to ease mental stress and enhance mood. Many people burn sage to enhance their practice of yoga or meditation.
Using sage as a botanical remedy is very different from cooking with the herb. Medicinal preparations and essential oils derived from sage contain thujones, a naturally occurring chemical in the plant. If you take a higher dose of medicinal sage than is recommended, it could cause serious health problems such as tremors, rapid heart rate, vertigo and vomiting. Consult your health practitioner for guidance on the safe use of any sage remedy.
Cashews: Nuts for a Stronger Brain and Heart
Cashews, although considered a tree nut, are technically a dry fruit with one seed that becomes hard at maturity. Sweet and soft compared to most other nut varieties, a serving of cashews (about 18 whole nuts) is a great source of fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamins C and B. They are low in saturated fat and provide a rich source of “healthy fats” known as mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs).
Studies show including nuts in your diet can:
- lower changes of coronary heart disease by 37%
- support brain health
- help maintain blood sugar balance
When selecting cashews, be mindful of added salt or sugars which would alter the nutritional value of this wonderful food. Also, make note of the use of hydrogenated oils which would increase the trans-fatty acid content–something that is not a great addition to a wholesome, healthy diet.
Cashews can be eaten whole (fresh or roasted), used in spreads and butters, and as a source for gluten-free flour. Cashew “nut milk” is a great alternative to dairy milk! It is just as creamy and lends a light nutty flavor to a bowl of cereal, cocoa, coffee, or baking. Chopped cashews make a great topping over yogurt, pudding, frozen treats, soups and stews. Cashew butter or milk can be blended into smoothies. There are so many ways to enjoy cashews–we just can’t cover all of them!
Spicy Vegan Cashew Lettuce Wraps
This easy vegan snack will be the spice of your end-of-summer/back-to-school gathering. Deliciously nutritious, these lettuce wraps bring together three plant-based proteins: brown rice, spiced tofu, and cashews. The brown rice and cashew add a sweet contrast to the spiced tofu. Though optional, having a tableside bowl of tahini, cashew cream or a cilantro-lime dressing adds a nice mild complement to the wraps.
- 2 cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 package organic tofu (firm or extra firm is best)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 cup roasted cashew halves
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (sriracha)**
- 2 carrots
- 3 small heads lettuce (or 1 large)
- Tahini, cashew cream, or cilantro lime cream dressing (not vinaigrette), to serve (optional)
**If you’d like a milder variety, hold the sriracha for a table condiment that each person can add to their wrap according to their liking.
- Cook the brown rice, according to the package instructions. When it’s done, season the rice with some kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Drain the tofu by wrapping it in a paper towel, placing it on a plate, and covering it with a heavy object for 5 minutes or more.
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the tofu and break into very small pieces with a spatula. Sauté for about 15 minutes, until brown.
- Add the frozen corn and stir for a few minutes until most of the liquid has cooked out of the tofu.
- Add the chili powder and cashew halves, stir to combine. Add the soy sauce and hot sauce and stir until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves.
- To serve, place rice, tofu cashew mixture, and grated carrots within a lettuce leaf, and roll up the leaf.