This Heritage Month we are looking at uniquely South African foods on the DayToDay blog. Superfoods are healthy foods very high in various nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and/or polyphenols. Although many experts consider the term a marketing buzzword, there’s no denying that certain foods are more beneficial to our health than others. Popular superfoods often come from exotic locations that are far away, for example, trendy superfoods like chia seeds, acai and maca root come from South America. This makes them not only expensive to purchase, but also bad for the environment due to the long distances they need to be transported across the world. But we have our own local unique plant products which are great nutritious alternatives to superfoods from afar. Here’s our list of some of our favourite proudly African superfoods.
These quintessential Southern African trees are not only enormous in size, but their fruit offers huge health benefits. Baobab fruit pulp is usually dried and sold as a powder which can be added to smoothies and juices. It is high in fibre, antioxidants, has more vitamin C than oranges and it’s a prebiotic – meaning it supports the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut.
Honeybush tea comes from the fynbos plant Cyclopia that grows in the Western and Eastern Cape. Locally it has been enjoyed for centuries but only recently has it become a commercially-available product whose popularity is increasing here and internationally. It is naturally caffeine free and tastes similar to rooibos but slightly sweeter. There is a lot of research currently being carried out on its benefits. Some health benefits are its high antioxidant content and presence of pinitol, a compound which naturally soothes coughs.
Moringa trees are fast growing and resistant to drought. They’re grown in many parts of Asia, Africa, and here in South Africa. The dried leaves are ground up into a powder which can be added to smoothies, shakes, or simple sprinkled on top of other foods. Moringa tea is also a popular product and it is also sold in capsules for those who don’t fancy the slightly bitter green taste. The reported nutrient content and benefits of moringa is extensive: it’s one of the best plant sources for iron and calcium and is higher in iron than spinach; it contains all essential amino acids, which is unusual for a plant source; ten times more vitamin A than carrots and much more.
Buchu is native to the southwestern Cape. The leaves were chewed by the khoisan for centuries for ailments like UTIs, colds, coughs, and stomach problems. Now it can be bought as a tea or buchu-infused water, and it has a minty blackcurrant taste.
This tea indigenous to Cederberg region needs no introduction. South Africans have been consuming it for years and it is now extremely popular worldwide – we export it to more than 30 countries. This caffeine free tea is good for headaches and stomach aches, rich in many vitamins and minerals, and one of the antioxidants aspalathin is said to help balance blood sugar levels. No longer just a tea, you can find rooibos in many other food and skincare products.