by Julie Christensen
In years past, the buzzwords in nutrition were low-fat or low-carb. Today, though, we know that food is more than just calories or fat. Our bodies need the nutrients, good fats and antioxidants available in whole, natural foods — superfoods.
Superfoods are those foods that are readily available, taste great and provide exceptional nutritional value. Most of these foods are plant-based — leafy greens, nuts, seeds, berries and fruit. Choosing these superfoods, along with other whole foods, ensures that your body gets the nutrition you need for optimal health. Not only will you lose weight, but you’ll look and feel great — for years to come.
Amla / Amaliki / Indian Gooseberry. We start our list with a superfood you might have never heard of, the Indian Gooseberry. Although relatively unknown in the United States, Amla is one of the pillars of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, and has been used for hundreds of years there to treat various illnesses. The Amla berry has 200 times the antioxidants of the blueberry, another important superfood. It has been covered by hundreds of articles in peer reviewed medical literature in relation to fighting cancer, diabetes, heart health, depression and more. Learn more, and more and find it online.
Apple. Apples have delighted and beguiled us since Biblical times. Now we know that they’re a powerful superfood, as well. Apples are packed with antioxidants, polyphenols and flavanoids, which are plant compounds known to protect against inflammation, infection and even cancer. Apples are also a good source of fiber, which can reduce cholesterol levels and help you feel fuller so you eat less! Most of the apple’s benefits lies in its skin, so don’t peel apples. Apples are regularly named among the top 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits, though, so opt for organic when possible. Learn more.
Avocado. Avocados get a bad rap for being high in calories, but those calories come with some great health benefits. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat (the good fat which helps lower cholesterol levels). Add them to salads, sandwiches, or make guacamole. You can even add avocado to smoothies. Learn more.
Beans. Dried beans and legumes provide the most inexpensive source of protein you’ll find. At just pennies per serving, they provide 30 percent or more of the recommended daily value of protein. Lentils, for example, have 17 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. At the same time, beans are low in fat and high in fiber. To reduce gassiness, soak beans and rinse them before cooking. The more you eat, the more accustomed your stomach becomes to beans. Learn more.
Blueberries. These tiny, sweet fruits pack a nutritional whollop because they’re full of phytonutrients and antioxidants known to prevent cancer and even improve memory. Add 1 cup daily to smoothies, cereal or yogurt. Try dried blueberries in trail mix. Learn more.
Broccoli. This popular member of the Brassica family contains ample amounts of folate, calcium and polyphenols, which boost the immune system, build strong bones and even prevent birth defects. A study at Johns Hopkins University found that broccoli prevents tumor growth by 60 percent and can even shrink existing tumors. Learn more.
Chia seeds. Believe it or not, it’s the same thing as those seeds that grow a chia pet! High in omega 3, fiber, minerals and antioxidants and protein. Easy to add to salads or yogurt. Learn more.
Dark chocolate. If you’re a chocolate lover, rejoice. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which can reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. Opt for dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate and eat it as a special treat — no more than 1 ounce per day. Learn more.
Garlic. One of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, garlic was used in ancient times more for its medicinal value than its flavor. Garlic has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making it an ideal remedy for common colds and viruses. Learn more.
Hibiscus Tea. A peer reviewed double blind study showed hibiscus tea to be effective in the lowering of blood pressure. It also has higher antioxidant content than green tea, white tea, and matcha. The phytonutrient content means that you can get nutrition without calories! Learn more.
Honey. Like garlic, honey also has antibacterial properties that make it useful for preventing and treating illnesses. It can also prevent constipation, improve digestion, lower blood pressure and calm coughs. Choose the darkest honey you can find for the most nutrition, but avoid giving honey to children under the age of 2. Learn more.
Kale. Kale is an incredibly nutrient dense leafy green, and possibly one of the healthiest, easy to find foods on the planet. It is rich in vitamins A, C and K, low in calories, and high in fiber. It scores a perfect 1,000 on the ANDI nutrient scale. It is known as a cancer preventer, an anti-inflammatory, and a detoxifier. Learn more and more and more.
Oats. The soluble fiber in oats has been found to lower cholesterol, by as much as 23 percent. It’s also a good source of protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium and zinc. So, warm up a bowl of oatmeal and enjoy great health! Learn more.
Pecans. Considered one of the greatest superfood bargains, pecans have an incredibly high antioxidant content compared to other nuts. That’s considerably higher than walnuts! You also get heart healthy fats like with other nuts, high fiber, protein, and more than 19 vitamins and minerals. Learn more.
Pomegranate. This Mediterranean fruit contains more heart-healthy phytochemicals than green tea or red wine. Drinking just ½ cup of juice per day can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Learn more.
Pumpkin. Pumpkin, along with other orange vegetables, is a good source of carotene, a phytochemical necessary for eye health. It also contains plenty of fiber and is low in calories. Don’t save pumpkin for the holiday season. Enjoy pumpkins and other winter squash year-round. Learn more.
Red Cabbage. Available just about everywhere, and incredibly cheap. Lasts forever in your refrigerator. Easy to add to any salad. What’s not to like? High in fiber. Thought to lower cholesterol and to help prevent cancer. Lots of vitamins K, C and folate. Learn more.
Salmon. Wild salmon, in particular, has been shown to be a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, deficient in most American diets. Omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function and can even relieve symptoms of ADHD. They also improve heart health and can prevent cancer. Learn more.
Tumeric. Used for more than 4,000 years to treat a variety of ailments, this spice has been shown to be effective in the prevention of cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stomach ulcers and bacterial and viral infections. It contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that is also known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Learn more.
Walnuts. Like avocados, nuts often get a bad rap for being high in fat. Eaten in moderation, though, they provide healthy Omega 3 fats that can ward off heart disease. Eat a handful of walnuts or almonds a day. Learn more.
What is your favorite superfood that we might have missed? Leave a comment, and we’ll update this page with more superfoods as the information keeps rolling in.