What are superfoods, exactly? Well, qualifications for reaching superfood status are often subjective, as there is no single food that has everything we need to be supercharged and fully nourished. However, when comparing the nutrient content of different types of whole foods, there are some that stand out as super just for the density and diversity of their vitamins and minerals. The following list contains 15 superfoods to make a regular part of your diet, as they’re wildly healthy options for getting full servings of certain nutrients that will help you build a better body.
Superfoods for Super Functioning: The 15 Top Superfoods List
Here’s your list of 15 fantastic superfoods and the scientifically proven health benefits they have to offer.
The avocado is a single-seed stone fruit that’s often thought of as more of a vegetable (maybe because it’s green and savory). It’s extremely nutritious, full of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals galore. Just like olive oil, the avocado is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), particularly oleic acid, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Regularly eating avocados either in smoothies or as a spread could help reduce your risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
Closely related to shallots, leeks, and onions, garlic is a great source of vitamin C, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, and fiber. Not only does it have a distinct flavor and aroma (and a rumored ability to ward off vampires), research has shown that garlic is possibly effective in reducing blood pressure, supporting the immune system, and lowering cholesterol. There are even some compounds in garlic that could help prevent certain cancers.
With calcium, iron, zinc, folate, magnesium, fiber, and vitamin C, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They also offer high levels of carotenoids, which are anti-inflammatory compounds that can aid in the fight against cancer. Including anything from Swiss chard to turnip or collard greens in a salad, green smoothie, or stir-fry can bring you these super benefits.
From the root of a flowering plant originally from China, ginger adds a spicy flavor to foods and smoothies, along with medicinal attributes. The antioxidant gingerol contained in ginger may be the nutritive behind its health benefits, but whatever the cause, ginger has been shown to effectively manage nausea, alleviate pain from inflammation, and possibly even reduce your risk of dementia. Get your ginger fresh, dried, as a juice, an oil, or as a superfood powder that can be added to teas, sauces, and soups.
For any ovo-vegetarians, eggs are a powerhouse of nutrients and protein and easily deserve the label of superfood. Despite their cholesterol content, eggs are still one of the healthiest foods around. Full of B vitamins, iron, selenium, phosphorous, and vitamin A, they also contain the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein, which are excellent for eye health. Eating eggs may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol, and no increase in risk of heart disease or diabetes has been noted for those eating up to a dozen eggs per week.
It’s hard to find a berry that won’t be beneficial to you. From cranberries to blueberries to blackberries and elderberries, each berry is a goldmine of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The antioxidants in berries are associated with decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions. With digestive benefits and immune-boosting properties, berries can be part of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, and, of course, frozen fruit smoothie snacks, which can be wonderful treats for kids and families.
From beech mushrooms to porcini, oyster mushrooms to button ones, the options for edible mushrooms are endless: shiitake, crimini, portobello… say hello to the health benefits of these formidable fungi. Regardless of type, mushrooms contain potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and several unique antioxidants that you cannot find in other foods. Because of their antioxidant content, mushrooms have been shown to play a role in preventing certain cancers and reducing inflammation, and are recommended as a regular if not daily part of your diet. Interested in one more special layer to mushrooms? They can be grown using agricultural waste, making them environmentally sustainable as well. Talk about super!
Legumes (also known as pulses) are excellent sources of protein, making them especially valuable as plant protein for vegans and vegetarians. Soybeans, alfalfa, peas, peanuts, beans of all sorts, and lentils: legumes are packed with benefits. Providing B vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, a regular diet of legumes can help with type 2 diabetes management, cholesterol health, and balanced blood pressure. On top of that: weight management. A healthy weight can make a myriad of health problems disappear, and eating legumes can help curb appetite and replace unhealthier foods, which also helps to promote safe weight loss.
Green tea, which originates from China, is a lightly caffeinated beverage that has over a thousand years of health and medicinal applications. Matcha is a concentrated form of green tea, made from specially cultivated green tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a superfood powder. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, and matcha even more so, for awesome anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. The EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea has also been shown to fight chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Green tea is also an effective tool for those seeking healthy weight loss.
10. Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are wonderful sources of protein, heart-healthy fats, and fiber. With anti-inflammatory antioxidants and protective effects against heart disease, seeds and nuts include almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and hemp seeds. Though seeds and nuts are calorically dense, they are nevertheless still great contributors to weight loss due to their nutrient content and appetite-curbing abilities.
Kefir is a probiotic, a fermented beverage derived from milk that has calcium, B vitamins, protein, and potassium. Similar to yogurt but thinner, kefir usually contains more probiotic strains than yogurt does. Fermented foods are known to help reduce cholesterol, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, and relieve inflammation. Though it is often made with cow’s milk, kefir can typically be tolerated by those with lactose intolerance due to the fermentation process, but kefir can also be made using rice milk, coconut milk, and coconut water so you can sidestep any discomfort due to lactose (you can even make it yourself!). Probiotic foods are easily included on any superfoods list.
12. Olive Oil
An extract of the olive fruit, olive oil is a cornerstone of the healthful Mediterranean diet, and high in monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin K, and polyphenolic compounds. All of these nutrients contribute to cardiovascular health and the management of type 2 diabetes.
A bright yellow spice from India, turmeric is closely related to ginger and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to its active compound, curcumin. Curcumin is anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, and anti-infective, and can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Curcumin’s bioavailability can be improved by pairing it with other spices like black pepper, which will help improve its absorption.
Seaweed is a sea vegetable that you can easily recognize due to its inclusion in Asian cuisine like sushi. With vitamin K, iodine, fiber, and folate, seaweed has bioactive compounds that are not found in land veggies, which bring their own unique antioxidant benefits, such as a reduction in the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
15. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable full of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber, among so much more. The last on our list of super healthy foods, sweet potatoes are good sources of carotenoids, antioxidants with anti-cancer properties. Though they’re sweet, they don’t have a damaging effect on blood sugar levels, and can actually improve the blood sugar control of type 2 diabetics.
Superfoods for Supper
This list is by no means comprehensive when it comes to talking about superfoods and their disease-fighting capabilities. Goji berries, whole grains, dark chocolate… at the end of the day there are a ton of superfoods that can be included in a healthy diet, and the best superfoods will invariably be the ones that you love best. Explore, find your favorites, and enjoy healthy eating every single day!