We’re all familiar with the concept of superfoods, but what is it about these health-boosting foods that make them so super? Within each superfood are particular “mesonutrients” (“meso” means “middle” in Greek), and it’s these little guys that are responsible for the health benefits of our favorite treats. To take full advantage of a superfood’s mesonutrients — aka their active compounds or active ingredients — you can actually skip the superfood entirely and go straight to the source.
Let’s take turmeric, for example. The laundry list of turmeric’s health benefits includes helping manage inflammatory conditions such as metabolic syndromes (like high blood pressure and high blood sugar), arthritis, anxiety, and high cholesterol, according to an October 2017 paper published in the journal Foods. The paper’s authors also wrote that turmeric can alleviate excercise-related pain and inflammation. Additionally, a “low dose of the [turmeric] can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions.”
Turmeric most definitely earns its title as a superfood, which is why there are dozens of recipes for turmeric lattes like golden milk and moon milk. Despite the health benefits of turmeric drinks, you can get a higher, more concentrated dose of curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric that’s responsible for the plant’s anti-inflammatory benefits — in a supplement or powder form. This way, you can still take advantage of turmeric while bypassing any of the health risks of sweetened turmeric lattes.
Curcumin isn’t the only active ingredient that’s available in a more undiluted form. Lycopene, which is in red foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit, is believed to lower bad cholesterol and boost metabolism. Drinking tomato juice will supply the body with lycopene, but so will buying lycopene supplements, powders, or syrups.
Other health-boosting mesonutrients you can buy directly are ECGC, a flat-blasting compound in green tea; anthocyanins, an energy-boosting compound that improves communication between brain cells and is found in foods like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, and cranberries; and berberine, an anti-inflammatory extract found in goldenseal and barberry.
Superfoods are an easy source of a variety of important vitamins and minerals, but trendy foods may undercut the health benefits with unnecessary ingredients. Instead, you can tap right into a superfood’s active compounds for maximum health gains.