In the last few years certain foods like wheatgrass, goji berries and avocados have achieved immense popularity. One can even say that they are nutritional superstars, which is the reason why they are termed as superfoods.
These foods are regularly written about and talked about in the media as they are packed with healthy nutrients. Not only do they help in weight loss, but they also help ward off diseases and live a longer and healthier life.
Read on to know more about the top 15 superfoods that you must add to your diet.
What are superfoods?
There are no set criteria to determine what is or what isn’t a superfood. However, superfoods are generally defined as foods that are nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. They are packed with vitamins and minerals.
These superfoods contain antioxidants that help ward of cancer, healthy fats that prevent heart ailments, fibers that help prevent digestive issues and prevents diabetes and also phytochemicals that provide plants many health benefits due to their rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Incorporate these superfoods to your diet to improve your health and boost your immunity.
Avocado is a fruit from the Lauraceae family of plants. This super nutritious fruit is packed with folic acid, omega-3 fats, potassium, magnesium, lutein, and fiber.
This fruit is also rich in vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins. It also contains iron, manganese, and copper.
Avocados help in cholesterol reduction, maintaining bowel regularity, protect eyes from macular degeneration, relieve symptoms of arthritis and also help prevent cancer.
Several studies have shown that avocados can improve heart health by reducing total cholesterol levels, reducing blood triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol levels (1, 2).
Also, avocados are delicious and easy to add to your diet. You can scoop them with a spoon and eat them plain, or cook them as a vegetable. You can also add avocados to salads or spread them over toast.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids. They are also rich in potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
They are also low in calories, with one cup of blueberries containing just 84 calories. In fact, blueberries are believed to have one of the highest antioxidant levels amongst many fruits and vegetables (3).
Blueberries are known to reduce DNA damage, which may protect against aging and cancer. Blueberries also improve heart healthy by lowering the levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
This superfood also helps in improving brain function and memory. It also helps in fighting urinary tract infection and prevents diabetes.
You can enjoy these sweet and colorful berries as a snack or add them to salads and baked goods.
3. Broccoli rabe
Broccoli is considered one of the best and healthiest vegetable thanks to its nutritional content. This cruciferous vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse that is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
It is a rich source of vitamin C, and vitamin A. It also contains folate, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.
Broccoli has high levels of the antioxidant sulforaphane which helps in reducing blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress.
This superfood also contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent oxidative damage to eyes.
The high fiber content of broccoli also helps in n supporting healthy bowel function.
You can steam or sauté broccoli and add it to your dishes. This super-nutritious vegetable makes a great addition to pasta and soups.
Once avoided due to their high-fat content, almonds have recently gained popularity as a superfood thanks to their impressive nutritional profile.
Almonds are one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium. They are also rich in vitamin E and magnesium, which improves blood blow and keep the heart healthy.
Almonds are also a rich source of powerful antioxidants that are primarily concentrated in the brown layer of their skin (7).
The numerous health benefits of almonds include lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and improved blood sugar control. They also reduce hunger and promote weight loss.
You can chop them add them to salads, yogurt, and baked goods. You can also make almond butter and merely have them as snacks. Almonds are rich in calories so stick to around 12 almonds a day.
5. Acai berries
This antioxidant-rich grape-sized berry is native to Central and South America. This dark-purple berry is a nutritious powerhouse as it contains plenty of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
Studies have shown that acai berries help protect the brain from damage caused by aging (8).
Acai is also known to improve cholesterol levels.
You can buy acai berries from local farmers markets or grocery stores. Acai powder is also available in health food stores, and it can be mixed into smoothies.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. According to research cinnamon contains anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering and immunomodulatory effects which make it one of the healthiest and most beneficial spices on earth (11).
It helps in lowering blood sugar levels, reduces cholesterol levels, decreases the risk of heart disease, balances blood sugar and also supports digestion.
You can add it to sweet treats and smoothies. You can also sprinkle it over yogurt and oatmeal.
Coconut and coconut oil have been in the news recently for their numerous health benefits. They are rich in medium-chain triglycerides, that helps improve digestive health thanks to their bacteria-fighting antioxidant properties.
The MCTs in coconut oil goes straight to the liver and are used as a quick source of energy or turned into ketones. Ketones are beneficial for the brain and are being studied as a treatment for epilepsy and Alzheimers.
Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which when digested turns into monolaurin. Both these substances can kill harmful pathogens like viruses,m bacteria, and fungi (12).
Use extra virgin coconut oil in cooking and baking to add to the nutritional content of the food.
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and cancer-fighting lignans. In fact, flax seeds contain 800 times more lignans than any other plant food (15).
Flaxseeds also lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and help control blood sugar.
You can sprinkle flaxseeds to any dish and add to its nutritional content. You can knead them into pizza dough and even add them to oatmeal and yogurt.
9. Goji berries
Traditional Chinese medicine has used this orange-red fruit for thousands of years. Produced by the wolfberry plant, which is native to China, goji berries have a mild sweet and sour taste.
They are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. These nutritious berries also contain all eight essential amino acids.
Goji berries also contain melatonin, which is a hormone that our bodies need to regulate sleep cycles.
You can eat goji berries straight out of the bag or add them to a salad. They can be added to trail mixes with other dried fruits, nuts and seeds. You can also soak them in water and add them to your smoothie.
When it comes to healthy vegetables, kale is amongst the best. This cruciferous vegetable is packed with antioxidants such as vitamin C, kaempferol, quercetin, and beta-carotene.
One cup of chopped kale gives 200 percent of your daily value for vitamin A, 134 percent of your daily value for vitamin C, and 700 percent of your daily value for vitamin K. it also contains magnesium, potassium, and copper.
You can add kale to your salads or have it as a snack in the form of kale chips. Some people also add kale to their smoothies.
11. Raw milk
Raw milk comes from pasture-grazed cows, it is unpasteurized and unhomogenized. This milk contains all its natural enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, which make it a complete food.
According to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, children who drink raw milk regularly are 50 percent less likely to develop asthma compared to the children who don’t (24).
Raw milk also boosts immunity, improves dental health and supports skeletal growth.
Raw milk is also beneficial in preventing nutritional deficiencies as one serving contains 500 mg of potassium, 400 mg calcium, and 50 mg of magnesium (25).
This milk is also a useful source of good bacteria that keep your gut healthy.
You can buy raw milk from the local farmers market or whole foods market. Add raw milk to your smoothies or cheeses, yogurt, and kefir made from raw milk to enjoy its health benefits.
Wild-caught salmon is thought to be one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods in the world. This fatty fish is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which help reduce the risk of several diseases.
Salmon is also an excellent source of protein which helps in healing, protecting bone health and muscle mass.
Salmon is rich in potassium which controls blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke (29). This delicious fish protects brain health, helps in weight loss and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Add two or three servings of wild-caught salmon to your diet every week.
Spirulina is a microalga with numerous health benefits. This blue-green alga is the richest, most nutritionally dense superfoods on the planet.
It helps detox from heavy metals, primarily arsenic. Studies have also shown that it is an effective antimicrobial agent, particularly for candida (30).
It also helps prevent cancer, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels, reduces chances of stroke and boosts energy. Some studies have also shown that it protects against brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease (31).
Spirulina is available in powder form at health stores and online retailers. You can also mix it into smoothies or sprinkle it over the food you eat to improve their nutritional value.
14. Sweet potatoes
Not only are sweet potatoes a delicious and versatile vegetable, but they are also packed with nutrients. They contain vitamin A, which helps keep eyes healthy, fights inflammation and boosts the immune system.
Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin C, potassium and manganese. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and antioxidants, which help
keep the digestive system healthy. Anthocyanins found in sweet potatoes also have anti-cancer properties (32).
You can bake, boil, steam, roast or fry sweet potatoes. Their natural sweet flavor can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory dishes.
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant called Triticum aestivum. It contains a high dose of chlorophyll and promotes healthy metabolism. It also contains iron, selenium, vitamins A, C and E, amino acids and antioxidants.
Wheatgrass creates an alkaline environment in the body and detoxifies the body of heavy metals.
According to specific lab studies, wheat germ extract has demonstrated anti-cancer potential and have identified apoptosis as the possible mechanism (33).
Wheatgrass can be juiced and taken as a wheatgrass shot. You can also buy powder, frozen juice, capsules and tablets of wheatgrass from health food stores.
Though many foods are described as superfoods, no single food can fulfill all your nutritional requirements. However, some foods that are nutritionally dense and good for health are given the status of superfoods. Include the superfoods mentioned above in your diet to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.