What is Superfood?
Superfood is a marketing term for food claimed to confer health benefits resulting from an exceptional nutrient density. The term is not commonly used by experts, dietitians, and nutrition scientists, most of whom dispute those particular foods have the health benefits claimed by their advocate.
Nutritionally speaking, there is no such thing as a superfood. No standard criteria or legal definitions classify any food as a superfood at this time. However, most superfoods are plant-based. The term was coined for marketing purposes to influence food trends and sell products.
Superfoods are those that contain a high volume of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Antioxidants are natural molecules that occur in certain foods. They help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are natural byproducts of energy production that can wreak havoc on the body.
Antioxidant molecules decrease or reverse the effects of free radicals that have close links with the following health problems:
- heart disease
- respiratory diseases
- immune deficiency
- Parkinson’s disease
Superfoods are not cure-all foods. Dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton explains:
“A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.”
Studies have demonstrated that superfoods high in antioxidants and flavonoids help prevent coronary heart disease and cancer, as well as improving immunity and decreasing inflammation. Regularly eating fruits and vegetables also has strong associations with a lower risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions and overall mortality.
The nutrients they contain help promote a healthy complexion, nails, and hair and increase energy levels. They can also help maintain a healthy weight.
Introducing the 33 delicious, nutrient-packed superfoods:
1. Dark, Leafy Green
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are an excellent source of iron (especially important for women), vitamin A, and lutein for eye health. Best of all, you know those omega-3s everyone’s talking about? They reside in dark greens (including seaweed, which is why they’re concentrated in fish).
Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are an excellent source of nutrients including folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber.
They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer.
Some well-known DGLVs include:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
Some DGLVs have a bitter taste and not everyone enjoys them plain. You can get creative by including them in your favorite soups, salads, smoothies, stir-fries, and curries.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables — cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli rabe — contain a powerful range of disease fighters. One particular hero, sulforaphane, may increase enzymes that lower the incidence of colon and lung cancers.
The higher levels of flavonoids in berries have been shown to lower the risk of a heart attack. A few commonly identified superfood berries include acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, tart cherries, cranberries, and goji berries.
Many foods considered to be superfoods are rich in color, often indicating that they are rich in antioxidants.
They boast the following benefits:
- Acai berries: These are small, dark purple berries grown in South America. They contain 19 amino acids and many antioxidants.
- Blueberries: These are high in fiber, manganese, and vitamin K. Cranberries are high in a particular flavonoid that helps lower the risk of urinary tract infection.
- Goji berries: These are small red berries native to Asia that are high in vitamin C and E, along with many different types of flavonoids. They are frequently used in Eastern medicine to help treat diabetes and high blood pressure and maintain eye, liver, and kidney health.
Tea contains few calories, helps with hydration, and is a good source of antioxidants.
Catechins, potent antioxidants found primarily in green tea, have beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology examined the effects of green tea, white tea, and water consumption on stress levels in 18 students.
The study suggested that both green and white tea had reduced stress levels and that white tea had an even greater effect. Larger studies are necessary to confirm this possible health benefit.
Green tea may also have an anti-arthritic effect by suppressing overall inflammation.
5. Sweet Potato
Whether orange or white, sweet potatoes contain phytonutrients that promote heart and eye health and boost immunity. They’re flush with beta-carotene (thought to lower breast cancer risk) and vitamin A (which may reduce the effects of smoking).
Eggs have historically been a controversial topic in the nutrition world due to their high cholesterol content, but they remain one of the healthiest foods.
Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorus.
They’re also loaded with high-quality protein.
In fact, eating eggs could increase “good” HDL cholesterol in some people, which may lead to a favorable reduction in heart disease risk. More research is needed to draw a definite conclusion.
Legumes, or pulses, are a class of plant foods made up of beans (including soy), lentils, peas, peanuts, and alfalfa.
They earn the superfood label because they’re loaded with nutrients and play a role in preventing and managing various diseases.
Legumes are a rich source of B vitamins, various minerals, protein, and fiber.
Research indicates that they offer many health benefits including improved type 2 diabetes management, as well as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.
Eating beans and legumes regularly may also promote healthy weight maintenance, due to their ability to improve feelings of fullness.
The pigment betacyanin, which gives beets their distinctive hue, is just one of several disease-fighting phytonutrients found in this root vegetable. Beets are also a good source of folate, which guards against birth defects, colon cancer, and osteoporosis, and are high in fiber and beta-carotene.
Creamy, succulent avocados not only contain the best kind of fat (monounsaturated oleic acid) but also help your body block the absorption of bad fats (cholesterol). They’re high in lutein, which aids eyesight, and in potassium and folate, which may reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. And they’re low in pesticides.
10. Wine and grapes
A few studies have shown promise that resveratrol can protect against diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy. These are conditions caused by poorly controlled diabetes where vision is severely affected.
Researchers have also found resveratrol to be beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s disease, relieving hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause, and improving blood glucose control. However, large studies using human subjects are still needed to confirm these findings.
Another flavonoid that occurs in grapes, quercetin, is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by LDL cholesterol in animal studies. Quercetin may also have effects that act against cancer.
However, more studies using human subjects are necessary before researchers can confirm the benefits beyond all doubt.
Although wine does contain antioxidants, keep in mind that eating grapes would provide the same benefit alongside additional fiber. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit alcoholic beverages to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Glucosinolate-rich horseradish fights cancer and kills bacteria. It’s also a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C, which, among other things, helps maintain collagen.
12. Dark chocolate
The component in chocolate specifically responsible for these benefits is cacao powder. Manufacturers derive this from cacao beans. Bear in mind that chocolate may have added ingredients, such as added sugar, that might negate these benefits.
Alliums, the botanical family that includes leeks, onions, and garlic, share many remarkable traits. They can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Research suggests they inhibit the growth of prostate, stomach, and colon cancer cells. They also have antibiotic properties — so they can ward off germs as well as vampires.
14. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, vegetarian protein, and heart-healthy fats.
They also pack various plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress.
Research indicates that eating nuts and seeds can have a protective effect against heart disease.
Common nuts and seeds include:
- Almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts.
- Peanuts — technically a legume, but often considered a nut.
- Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds.
16. Whole Grains
Don’t eat whole grains (such as buckwheat and quinoa) just because they are high in magnesium, B vitamins, fiber, and manganese. Do it because they taste great — nutty, buttery, earthy. And that, in turn, may actually help you to not overeat — one study found that people feel fuller after eating buckwheat than after eating other grains.
Kefir is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency and typically more probiotic strains than yogurt.
Though kefir is traditionally made from cow’s milk, it’s typically well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance due to the fermentation of the lactose by bacteria.
However, it’s also made from non-dairy beverages such as coconut milk, rice milk, and coconut water.
You can purchase kefir or make it yourself. If you’re choosing a commercially prepared product, be mindful of added sugar.
Turmeric, used in holistic medicine as a digestive aid and wound healer, can also serve as an anti-inflammatory, so reach for the curry (turmeric is a primary ingredient) when nursing a toothache or a sprain.
Garlic is a popular culinary ingredient due to its distinct flavor, but it has also been used for its medicinal benefits for centuries.
Research indicates that garlic may be effective in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting immune function.
What’s more, sulfur-containing compounds in garlic may even play a role in preventing certain types of cancer.
Like whole wheat, ancient spelt is sweeter, nuttier, and higher in protein than its processed relatives. Both are also good sources of manganese and copper.
Cinnamon is the gold medalist of the spice rack, with one of the highest antioxidant levels of all herbs and spices. It also has a positive effect on blood glucose levels, so adding it to foods can keep you feeling steady and satiated.
Superstar levels of antioxidants mean that a half teaspoon of dried oregano has the benefits of a spinach salad. Oregano has the ability to act as an expectorant, clearing congestion, and can also improve digestion.
23. Ginger, Cayenne, Black Pepper
That heat on your tongue when you eat spices such as ginger, cayenne, and black pepper is evidence of gingerols, capsaicin, and piperine, compounds that boost metabolism. They also have an aphrodisiac effect — but avoid consuming them if you’re bothered by hot flashes.
Deeply flavorful miso, a fermented soybean paste, is a great source of low-calorie protein (two grams in a 25-calorie serving). It also contains B12 and is a good source of zinc, which helps the immune system function properly.
Like the milk it’s made from, yogurt is a very good source of calcium, phosphorus, and protein. Unlike milk, real yogurt also contains probiotics, the good bacteria your digestive system needs to process and benefit from all the other things you eat. One, Lactobacillus casei, boosts immune response.
Some of the most common varieties of edible mushrooms are the button, portobello, shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms.
Though nutrient content varies depending on the type, mushrooms contain vitamin A, potassium, fiber, and several antioxidants not present in most other foods.
Interestingly, eating more mushrooms is associated with greater consumption of vegetables in general, contributing to an overall more nutritious diet.
Another super feature of mushrooms is that agricultural waste products are used to grow them. This makes mushrooms a sustainable component of a healthy food system.
Seaweed is a term used to describe certain nutrient-rich sea vegetables. It’s most commonly consumed in Asian cuisine but is gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its nutritional value.
Seaweed packs multiple nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, iodine, and fiber.
These ocean vegetables are a source of unique bioactive compounds — not typically present in land vegetables — which may have antioxidant effects.
Some of these compounds may also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes
Sardines Wild-caught sardines are low in mercury (unlike some types of tuna) and high in vitamin D; a three-ounce serving has as much calcium as a cup of milk. Even better, they’re one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s top picks for sustainability.
A King, sockeye, and coho salmon have more DHA plus EPA omega-3 fatty acids than almost any other seafood, as well as some of the lowest mercury levels. Nutritionally, wild-caught Alaskan canned salmon is as good as fresh, and it costs a fraction as much. The Monterey Bay Aquarium also champions this fish’s sustainability.
A tiny, tasty sesame seeds contain unique lignans (or plant compounds), including sesamin and sesamolin, which can help lower cholesterol. The seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorous, and zinc—as well as copper, which research suggests may help maintain strong bones.
Of all nuts, walnuts contain the most alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, which lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and may reduce inflammation in arteries. Walnuts are also a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium.
Used for millennia in the ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber (almost 2 grams each!). They’re also a good source of calcium and potassium
33. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a natural oil extracted from the fruit of olive trees and is one of the mainstays of the Mediterranean diet.
Its biggest claims to health are its high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyphenolic compounds.
It also contains antioxidants such as vitamins E and K, which can protect against cellular damage from oxidative stress.
Superfoods gaining popularity include:
The food industry bestows the superfood label on nutrient-rich foods with a supposed capacity to positively affect health.
Though many foods could be described as super, it’s important to understand that there is no single food that holds the key to good health or disease prevention.
Achieving optimal health through food and nutrition is about more than focusing on one or two of the latest food trends.
Instead, good health is best supported by eating a variety of nutritious foods every day.
Including some, or all, of the foods on this list as part of a balanced diet can benefit your overall health and may prevent certain chronic diseases.
Last Mother’s Day, my girlfriend called me and wished me “Happy Mother’s Day” and so I did wish her as well. In the course of our conversation, I had asked about her husband as he is suffering from a certain type of illness that he had to go away for his treatment.
Then she told me that ever since she had given him superfoods, he started to get better. She said that she bought this powdered superfood and she gives it to him to take daily and it seems to be working very well for him. He is feeling much better now and really very pleased with it.
My gratitude to Almighty is such that I am just so grateful. This couple is such a kind and generous couple, and really help a lot of people over the years. So, she still continues to give it to him to this day. I have searched for it and found something where you can get some if you are interested.
You can have a look at it by clicking on this site and can try it if this would work for you should you desire to try it.
Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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Please leave your comments and/or feedback below.
- Do you eat this superfood above? Which one is your favorite?
- Have you tried the powdered one? If so, how was it?
- How did it help you when you took the superfood powder?
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