October 04, 2020

We’ve all seen the hype about putting more superfoods in our diet. But what exactly is a “superfood” and what makes them so super? There aren’t any set criteria to be defined as a superfood, but most foods considered “super” provide a significant amount of nutrients with very few calories.

Photographer: Dovile Ramoskaite | Source: Unsplash

A superfood must be whole food, unprocessed and in its natural form. Superfoods boost your health with their high dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, or omega-3 fatty acids.

1. Berries

Berries truly are nature’s candy. They are naturally sweet, bite-sized, and come in so many scrumptious flavors. The berries' vibrant colors mean that they are high in antioxidants and nutrients that fight against disease. In addition to these sweet benefits, they are also naturally high in fiber (which we could all use more of).

Incorporating more of these delectable treats into your diet will be no problem for most people. Eating fresh whole berries as a quick and easy snack is an obvious and solid choice, but what if they’re not in season? Don’t stress, just buy a bag of frozen berries. Good news! Studies have shown that when berries are frozen at peak ripeness they contain the same, if not more, nutrients compared to when they’re fresh. Frozen or fresh, berries taste great in yogurt, cereals, or smoothies.

2. Fish

No matter how you like it-- fresh, frozen, or canned-- fish is a good clean source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is a powerhouse food when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. Salmon, tuna steaks, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring contain the highest density of Omega-3 fatty acids. Pick some up at your local grocery store and try out a new recipe.

3. Leafy Greens

I cannot say enough good things about leafy green vegetables. Leafy greens pack a punch with high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.If you are looking for a natural boost to your immune system, bones, and muscles look no further than adding in some tasty spinach, kale, swiss chard, or collard greens to your diet. Want to know another marvelous secret about greens? They add fiber to your diet AND contain several phytochemicals that you can only get from plants (how cool!). Throw them in a salad, saute them with olive oil, put them in a stew or soup. It doesn’t matter how you get them in your body, just get them!

4. Nuts

If you’re looking for a powerful vegetarian or vegan source of protein, look no further. Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans are all an excellent source of plant-based protein. And they’re super easy to incorporate into your diet. Just add a handful to your oatmeal or yogurt. Try different types of nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter. Many people even rave about putting nuts in cooked veggies or salads. The possibilities are endless for this superfood.

5. Olive Oil

If heart health is important to you, olive oil is what you need. Vitamin E, polyphenols, and monounsaturated fatty acids all work together to reduce the risk of heart disease. Drizzle olive oil over your vegetables, use it as a dressing, or when sauteing other superfoods. Better yet, next time you cook rice or pasta try using olive oil instead of butter or margarine. There are countless ways to use olive oil in your daily life.

6. Whole Grains

Whole grains are one of those superfoods you hear about a lot--and for good reason! They have many B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients as well as an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Studies have also shown that they lower cholesterol and defend against heart disease and diabetes.

Try substituting whole grains like wheat berries, bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice as a side at dinner instead of your usual baked potato. Oatmeal is an excellent source of whole grains (you can even add some berries for an extra superfood punch). Just make sure that when you buy bread at the grocery store that the first ingredient in your whole grain bread is “100% whole wheat flour.”

7. Yogurt

If gut health is a concern for you (or even if it’s not), yogurt is the superfood for you. Probiotics, also known as “good bacteria”, are live cultures that protect your body from bacteria that could harm you. Yogurt is also another solid source of non-meat based protein and is jam-packed with calcium. You have to be careful when buying yogurt though. Steer clear of fruited or flavored yogurts because they have a ton of added sugar. Buy plain yogurt and add your toppings like fresh fruit. Yogurt is so versatile; you can even use it in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese in dips and sauces. How cool!

Photographer: Ellieelien | Source: Unsplash

8. Legumes

A common superpower in these superfoods is the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and legumes are no different. Legumes such as kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans all have an excellent source of fiber, folate, and plant-based protein. Learn to make chili or bean-based spread, such as hummus to incorporate legumes into your diet. Or even just sneak them into your salads, soups, or casseroles for a tasty nutrient boost.

9. Tomatoes

Talk about a versatile superfood! Tomatoes go well in so many dishes in just about any season. Summertime? Throw some tomatoes with some leafy greens and other veggies or make a fresh Caprese salad. Fall or wintertime? Stews, soups, or chili are perfect dishes to add a little tasty tomato kick. With its high levels of vitamin C and lycopene, you would be silly not to be eating tomatoes whenever and wherever you can.

10. Cruciferous Vegetables

These superfoods including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and radishes are extra super because they protect your body against certain types of cancer. In addition to fiber, cruciferous veggies have an abundance of vitamins and phytochemicals including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles (which means they kick butt).

Much like tomatoes, this superfood is crazy easy to incorporate into your diet. Add healthy oils and herbs and steam or stir-fry these veggies for a healthy side to any meal. Adding frozen cruciferous veggies to soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles is an easy way to up your superfood intake.

While eating superfoods is not a cure-all, making them a staple in your diet can only improve your health. If trying to incorporate this whole list of superfoods into your diet at once is overwhelming, start small. Try one or two and find your favorite way to prepare and eat them. Once you have mastered those, then venture out to another superfood. Finding new recipes to try is a great way to get yourself excited to try new foods. You never know, you may just find your new favorite food!

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