Superfoods have been all the rage for years now. We see the superfood buzzword on our packaged energy bars, protein shake mixes, bags of frozen vegetables and fruit juices. However, what are superfoods? Do they actually provide health benefits, is the term superfood solely a clever marketing ploy?
According to Tina Leigh, certified holistic health counselor and author of “Superfood Juices and Smoothies,” “The foremost reason food is considered a superfood is because of nutrient density, which is the percentage of nutrients in food compared to the number of calories. In the case of superfoods, the nutrient-to-calorie ratio falls disproportionately in favor of the nutrients, especially when compared to other healthy foods.”
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite superfoods. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. Nature has provided us with ever so many nutritious and powerful foods to heal and strengthen our bodies. It would take volumes for us to list them all. We’ve also added some tips on how to get more of each superfood into your regular diet.
Superfood expert Steven Pratt, M.D. wrote, “These are the foods that have been proven to help prevent and, in some cases, reverse the well-known scourges of aging, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain cancer, and even dementia.”
Why they’re super: Beets contain magnesium, potassium, betaine, vitamin C and folate. The nutrients in beets can reduce high blood pressure and improve circulation.
How to get more beets into your diet: Beets are delicious on their own or pickled. Once they’re cooked, you can slice them and add them to salads. Alternately, some chefs are using the blood-red root vegetables to make a dye-free version of red velvet cake.
Why it’s super: Salmon is a fatty fish containing a great deal of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon also contains a variety of B vitamins and vitamin D.
How to get more salmon into your diet: You can’t blend it into a smoothie or juice your salmon. Well, perhaps you can, but we don’t recommend it. Rather, grilling it and serving it alongside some steamed vegetables and grains is your best option. It’s also fantastic served on top of a green salad.
Canned salmon is another good option. I like to put high-quality, canned salmon on whole-grain crackers with seasoned cream cheese. When you’re using canned fish, look for brands that don’t use bisphenol A (BPA) in their cans. Also, check the source and make sure you’re comfortable with the area and body of water where the fish was caught.
Why they’re super: Avocados are high in potassium. In fact, they contain more potassium than bananas. They are also high in healthy, monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, magnesium, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
How to get more avocados into your diet: Start in the morning. Avocados are excellent on toast, paired with eggs or served alongside a bowl of fruit. Then, in the afternoon, put some avocado slices on your sandwich. At dinner, make avocado, bean and salsa burritos.
Why it’s super: Kale is loaded with vitamin K, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, and copper as well as a list of other essential nutrients.
How to get more kale into your diet: Kale is excellent in smoothies because, even though it’s a superfood, it doesn’t have a super strong flavor. You can blend it with berries and citrus or chocolate, and it’s hardly noticeable. Kale is also excellent when finely chopped and added to sauces, casseroles and fried rice.
Why they’re super: Full of phytonutrients, blueberries are high in vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese and copper. They are also a good source of fiber.
How to get more blueberries into your diet: A side of blueberries goes nicely with just about any type of food. Pack these small but mighty superfoods into your lunch bag, throw them in your smoothies and serve them in a fruit salad.
Why it’s super: Cocoa is high in flavonoids, also known as plant-based antioxidants. It’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and copper.
How to get more cocoa into your diet: Buy unsweetened cocoa powder and get into the habit of putting a couple of scoops into your smoothie or protein shake. Also, you can use it when you’re cooking. Did you know a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa in chili can balance out the acidic tomatoes and intensify all of the flavors? I won a chili cook-off with cocoa as my secret ingredient.
Why it’s super: Seaweed contains B vitamins and vitamins A, C, D and K.
How to get more seaweed into your diet: Try your hand at making sushi at home. If you’re not into the tedium required for sushi, make a sushi burrito with seaweed wraps. For snacking, pick up some seaweed crackers or small packs of seasoned nori squares.
Why it’s super: Chia is loaded with nothing but goodness. It contains calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as the antioxidant vitamin E. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acid.
How to get more chia into your diet: I like to put chia seeds into everything I bake ― from cookies to brownies to banana muffins. Of course, you can also add them to your shakes and smoothies.
Why it’s super: Basil contains flavonoids and volatile oils that protect the body against harmful bacteria. Basil has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s high in antioxidants. Basil also contains vitamin K and manganese.
How to get more basil into your diet: Make a simple superfood pesto by putting two cups of fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic, an avocado, two tablespoons olive oil, juice from half a lemon and a pinch of sea salt into your food processor. Blend it and serve it over just about anything.
Why it’s super: Where do we even begin with garlic? Garlic has been linked to cancer prevention and increased bone health. It can help lower blood pressure. It has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties as well. Garlic contains vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B6.
How to get more garlic into your diet: Eat your garlic raw to get the most nutrients from it. I like to mince it and put it in salads, on pizza and in my homemade guacamole. Another good way to get garlic into your diet is to puree it with chickpeas, tahini, lemon and olive oil, which makes a delicious hummus dip.
Why they’re super: Walnuts are great for your heart. They contain a particular type of vitamin E that offers more heart health benefits. Walnuts are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, copper and manganese.
How to get more walnuts into your diet: Add walnuts to your salad. Use them as a replacement for pine nuts in pesto. Top your oatmeal with walnuts and blend them into your morning smoothie.
Why they’re super: Eggs are an excellent and nutritious protein source that are high in choline, selenium, vitamins D and A and B vitamins.
How to get more eggs into your diet: An egg sandwich is probably my all-time favorite food. Try it super-style, topped with sliced avocado and red peppers. Remember, eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Boil and peel some eggs to pack into lunches or snack on for quick protein.
Why they’re super: Cranberries are high in disease-fighting antioxidants. They also contain vitamins C, E, K and manganese. Cranberries are also anti-inflammatory foods.
How to get more cranberries into your diet: Dried cranberries are convenient for snacking and for topping your salad. In addition, 100-percent cranberry juice is a good option.
Why it’s super: Asparagus is high in the powerful flavonoid quercetin, which has been shown to improve cardiovascular functions as well as reduce the risk of other chronic health conditions. Asparagus contains a great deal of several other nutrients, including vitamins K, C, E, A, calcium, B vitamins, manganese, zinc and iron.
How to get more asparagus into your diet: It may not sound amazing, but cooked and pureed asparagus makes an excellent soup base. Add roasted garlic, salt, black pepper and spices.
Why it’s super: Quinoa is high in protein. It’s loaded with more than half of the body’s daily requirement for manganese. It’s also high in copper, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.
How to get more quinoa into your diet: I like to use quinoa anytime a recipe calls for rice or couscous. When I have plain, cooked quinoa leftover in the refrigerator, I incorporate it right into my banana bread muffin recipe, in place of some of the flour. Cooked quinoa adds moisture and texture to baked goods.
Why it’s super: Moringa supports brain health and has been shown to improve cardiovascular functioning. It is high in antioxidants, protein, calcium and potassium.
How to get more moringa into your diet: Look for dried, powdered moringa and put it in your smoothies, juices and shakes.
17. Red Bell Pepper
Why they’re super: Red bell peppers have a high concentration of flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants. They are very high in vitamin C and other nutrients like folate, vitamin A and certain B vitamins.
How to get more red bell peppers into your diet: Chop up red peppers and put them in salads. Top your pizza with red peppers or pan-fry them with onions to put on your veggie burger.
Why it’s super: Chlorella is a single-celled, freshwater, green algae. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It contains iron, vitamin C, omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber and other minerals.
How to get more chlorella into your diet: Chlorella is excellent in smoothies, shakes and juice drinks. You can also put a teaspoon into a glass of water and drink it down a couple of times each day.
Why it’s super: Cinnamon is high in manganese, copper and calcium. It is antifungal. Cinnamon can help control blood sugar and aid in weight loss.
How to get more cinnamon into your diet: Look for Ceylon cinnamon at the store. Normally, Mexican cinnamon is of the Ceylon variety. Then, add it into your morning oatmeal and baked goods. It’s also great to sprinkle in your coffee.
Why they’re super: Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C. They are also high in antioxidants that fight diseases.
How to get more apples into your diet: Slice apples and snack on them while you’re doing other things in the kitchen. Put an apple in your lunch bag every day. Eat an apple when you want something sweet.
Why they’re super: Almonds are high in biotin, vitamin E and copper. They contain manganese and magnesium as well. Almonds have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol.
How to get more almonds into your diet: Like other super nuts, almonds are great for snacking. You can also get more almonds in your diet by chopping them and tossing them in your salads. Also, consider making or buying almond butter instead of using peanut butter.
22. Swiss Chard
Why it’s super: Swiss chard is very high in vitamin K. It is also loaded with lots of other vitamins including vitamins A, C and E, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron.
How to get more chard into your diet: Cook chard like you would collard greens. It’s so delicious. You can also use chard in any smoothie recipe that calls for spinach or kale.
Why they’re super: Cherries are full of powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants. They have anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to cancer prevention.
How to get more cherries into your diet: It isn’t easy to find fresh, organic cherries year-round. So, we suggest adding frozen cherries to your smoothies and drinking small servings of 100-percent cherry juice.
Why it’s super: Ginger boosts the immune system. It is excellent for digestion, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger has also been shown to have an antitumor effect on cancer cells.
How to get more ginger into your diet: Make your sauces amazing by adding fresh, grated ginger. Make tea with a bit of fresh ginger and near-boiling water. Add chopped ginger to fried rice, peanut sauce and virtually any Asian dish you make.
25. Sweet Potatoes
Why they’re super: Sweet potatoes have tons of vitamin A and C, manganese and copper. Consuming sweet potatoes can also be helpful for blood sugar regulation.
How to get more sweet potatoes into your diet: Sweet potatoes are excellent when seasoned well and served with eggs at breakfast. I also like to use sweet potatoes along with chopped onions and garlic to make soup broth. Sauté them together and then blend them to make a base for any type of vegetable soup.
Why they’re super: Pineapples are high in vitamin C, manganese and copper. Studies have shown that pineapples can help protect against macular degeneration. Pineapples also contain enzymes that promote healthy digestion.
How to get more pineapple into your diet: Chop fresh pineapple and add it to your fruit salad. Pineapple is also great in smoothies. It brightens the flavor of other fruits.
Why it’s super: Coconuts have been shown to help lower cholesterol, increase weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and improve cardiovascular health. Coconuts are high in manganese, copper and iron.
How to get more coconut into your diet: Dried, chopped coconut pieces are excellent in trail mixes and for snacks. Full-fat, undiluted coconut milk is also wonderful in curry sauce. Coconut oil is an excellent choice for baking as it mimics the consistency of vegetable shortening.
28. Brussels Sprouts
Why they’re super: Loaded with fiber, Brussels sprouts are highly nutritious. They contain large amounts of vitamins K and C. They’re also high in folate, manganese, phosphorus and vitamin A.
How to get more Brussels sprouts into your diet: Slice them in half and pan-fry them, flat-side down until they’re lightly browned. Flip them over and cook until tender. Sprinkle with sea salt and other spices. So good.
Why it’s super: Turmeric has tremendous health benefits. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, aid in cancer treatment, help alleviate arthritis pain and boost the body’s natural immune response.
How to get more turmeric into your diet: Make curry sauce with turmeric. Load it up with other super vegetables and serve it over quinoa.
Superfoods Are Our Heroes
Steven Pratt, M.D., author of “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life,” wrote, “Foods ― the right foods ― can actually change the course of your biochemistry. They can help to stop damage at the cellular levels that can develop into disease.”
Consider yourself challenged to add at least 10 of these incredibly nutritious superfoods to this week’s grocery list. Try to consume some superfoods every day this month.
Dr. Pratt also wrote, “The delightful side effect [of eating superfoods] is that you feel better, have more energy, look better and can embrace all that life has to offer you with more optimism.”
Avocado nutritional information. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.californiaavocado.com /nutrition/nutrients
Leigh, Tina. (2014). Superfood juices & smoothies: 100 delicious and mega-nutritious recipes from the world’s most powerful superfoods. Beverly, MA, USA: Fair Winds Press.
Metaljan, G. (2018). The world’s healthiest foods. Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com/ genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
Pratt, Steven G., Matthews, Kathy. (2006). SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen foods that will change your life, New York, USA.