What would you call a food that is bursting with nutrients, rich in antioxidants, and has been shown to boost the immune system? What about a food that sounds almost too good to be true? What about a food that is backed by scientific evidence to improve health and help us ward off disease? While it's important to note that there has been no medical or legal formality in this term to date, these type of foods have been loosely coined “superfoods.”
Superfoods is a term that has been linked to a number of foods available today, that have been found to serve as nutrient powerhouses. These elite foods are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Eating these foods has been shown to prolong life, protect our body from many chronic diseases, and optimize our health. Add one, or add them all, to enhance your diet and improve your health.
Check out some delicious “superfoods” below:
Tomatoes - Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is not as readily available in other foods. Lycopene plays a role in the prevention of certain cancers, lowering cholesterol, and protecting the skin against UV rays. Tomatoes are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. This fiber rich slow cooker stew (vegan or omnivore) has tomatoes in it & it's delicious.
Salmon - Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself. These fatty acids have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, improving circulation, reducing inflammation, and enhancing the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. It also contains selenium, which prevents cell damage, as well as other B vitamins. Learn how to cook salmon at home like a pro with this rosemary salmon recipe.
Blueberries - This tiny berry is full of antioxidants and phytonutrients. The phytonutrients contained in this fruit work to neutralize free radicals, which otherwise cause aging and cell damage. The antioxidants in blueberries have been shown to be protective against cancer and reduce the negative cognitive effects seen in age-related conditions such as dementia. Consuming blueberries on a regular basis has been found to enhance memory. Additionally, one cup of blueberries contains 6 grams of fiber, also helping to reduce cholesterol levels. Blueberries are a great way to top off a healthy parfait fruit dessert!
Black Beans - Adding black beans to your diet will provide a rich source of protein, which feeds your muscles and organs, without the saturated fat that is found in meat. This superfood is also rich in antioxidants, fiber, and iron. Check out these black bean veggie meatballs or just start up a super easy slow cooker of beans.
Chia Seeds - Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. They also provide a great source of fiber, which helps promote colon regularity and improve heart health. Chia seeds make a great topping for healthy smoothies.
Kale - While kale only showed up to the mainstream marketplace relatively recently, it has taken the world by storm. Kale contains a phytonutrient that has been shown to reduce many types of cancers, including ovarian and breast. Rich in vitamins and minerals, and high in fiber, kale is here to stay.
Microgreens - These baby greens from vegetables and greens are not only incredibly tasty to add onto almost any dish, they're also packed with nutrients. They add a wide range of flavor, depending on which you're eating; spicy, sweet, peppery, etc. You can find them in most stores, but it's also a lot of fun (and cheaper) to grow them yourself.
Oats - Magnesium, potassium, phytonutrients, and fiber are all found in oats. The fiber contained in oats has been shown to help in protecting against heart disease. Magnesium has been shown to help regulate blood sugars, which is especially helpful for those who are diagnosed with diabetes or obesity. These oat cookies are delicious.
Açaí - This small purple berry has high levels of antioxidants, in the form of anthocyanins. These anthocyanins help the body fight cancer and heart disease. They also contains oleic acid, the same heart healthy fats found in olive oil. Studies also have shown it to help prevent aging and aid in weight loss. It is important to recognize that only the actual berry has these heath benefits, not the powdered versions often used in smoothies and juices, which are devoid of the nutrients and packed with sugar.
Cacao/Cocoa Powder - Cacao powder is rich in flavonoids, which help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the heart and brain. It also contains minimal calories and almost no fat, yet still provides a sweet enjoyable taste. To work some cacao into your diet, try these gluten free chocolatey vegan brownies (you won't believe they're healthy!).
Now can you see why these foods have been nicknamed “superfoods”? Next time you are at the market, be sure to toss a few of these in your cart. Not only will you improve your health, but your palate will thank you as well!
Written by: M Mittler, MS Registered Dietitian
FB Note: The concept of "superfoods" is an interesting one because, as mentioned above, the word has not been legally defined or regulated in any sense. This is true of many different words in the health industry, in fact (particularly when it comes to supplements), which is another reason why it's important to be a skeptical, informed consumer. There are some foods, however, that research shows help improve health and ward off disease. Regardless of what you call them, these foods are super! With that said, the list above is by no means all-inclusive; here are a few more of our favorite delicious whole foods that could fit the bill of "superfoods" (in no particular order): avocados, berries, bananas, quinoa, watermelon, broccoli, spinach, black rice, beans, lentils, flax seeds, mushrooms, cashews, almonds, beets, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches, apples, cherries - - really, this list could just go on and on. What are your favorite "superfoods"?