The word “superfood” is thrown around a lot as a buzzword in the nutrition world, so if you’re someone who’s committed to maintaining optimal health, chances are you’re familiar with the term! But what does it actually mean for a food to be a “superfood”, why do you need them, and which ones should you choose to incorporate your diet regularly? Let’s break it down:
What is a “superfood’?
Simply put, a superfood is nutritionally denser than most foods, and “multi-tasks” in terms of its nutritional benefits. But guess what: there’s no official definition or parameters for superfoods, so you’ll see the term splashed all over packages and food labels (because obviously, it sounds great and sells well!) In all honesty, the term is actually more of a marketing term than a scientific one, which is why it’s so important to become empowered in your own health choices, and understand the nutritionally dense foods that will most benefit you as an individual.
Generally, foods known as superfoods contain a dense amount of vitamins and nutrients, healthy fats, antioxidants, and/or immune-boosting properties that ward off disease and keep your body running optimally. However, people often tend to attach to the attractive “superfood” label, and mistakenly believe they can eat an unlimited quantity of these particular foods.
As with anything, enjoy superfoods in balance, and use them as a launching point to explore other nourishing, nutrient-dense foods.
The following 5 superfoods are a great way to pack a ton of nutrition into a small package, and are easily incorporated into your regular diet.
The top 5 superfoods to incorporate into your diet reguarly:
They might not look like much, but chia seeds are one of the healthiest foods on Earth. Natively grown in South America, they are actually named for the Mayan word for “strength!” They’re incredibly packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids (a great source for vegetarians who miss this vital nutrient from fish.) In addition, an ounce of these powerful seeds gives you a healthy dose of calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Essentially, they’re an excellent source of protein and fats, especially for vegetarians – and add massive antioxidant power to your diet. To get the most out of these little seeds, sprinkle them raw on your meals or soak in juice or milk to add to oatmeal. They can also be soaked in water to act as an egg replacement in vegan recipes.
Blueberries are often one of the first foods that comes to mind when most people hear the term “superfood”, and for good reason: the tiny berry is a nutritional powerhouse, filled with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese, and 4 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving. But perhaps most impressively, they may contain the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruit or vegetable (in the form of flavanoids.) These mighty berries help reduce DNA damage and prevent cancer, so drop them on your cereal or salad, smoothie, or just keep them around for snacks.
Similarly, strawberries aid the body in repairing tissues and boosting immunity with their massive Vitamin C content, so make sure to incorporate these in your diet as well. Just make sure to opt for organic when purchasing berries, as these foods are on the list of the “dirty dozen” foods that most easily absorb chemicals and pesticides.
While kale is a bit more high maintenance than some other greens (it generally needs to be massaged to be eaten raw), it tops the list of nutrient-dense veggies. First off, it’s filled with antioxidant vitamins like Vitamin C, kaempferol, quercetin, and beta-carotene – all of which help prevent cancer, preserve beautiful skin, and fight diseases like arthritis and heart disease. And kale has one of the highest ORAC ratings of all vegetables – the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which measures a food’s ability to track down and eliminate free radicals (those nasty cells that can cause mutations and ultimately cancer in the body.) Basically, kale is a powerhouse at preventing cancer and keeping your body in top form. To glean the benefits from this amazing green, blend it up daily in a green smoothie with frozen banana, unsweetened almond milk, and a spoonful of almond butter.
This gluten-free grain has risen to the top of the health food charts for its massive protein and vitamin content, and is a fantastic option to replace your normal grains like rice or pasta. One of this superfood’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the only plant-based foods to contain all 9 amino acids needed by the body. In a cup of cooked quinoa, you’ll get 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and a hearty dose of magnesium, iron, zinc, folate, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B6. And with a variety of types to choose from (black, red, and white quinoa), it’s way less boring than rice. Cook this grain up to serve where you’d normally serve rice or pasta, or enjoy for breakfast with chopped bananas and almond milk instead of oatmeal.
Guess what: almonds are the most nutritionally dense of all the nuts, which means that you get the highest concentration of nutrients per ounce (and calorie.) A regular serving of 1 ounce serves up a robust amount of Vitamin E, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium, along with 3.4 grams of filling fiber (14% of your daily value.) Keep raw almonds handy for snacking throughout the day, or add them to pretty much anything – from cooked oatmeal in the morning to chopped on salads and stir-fries, or blended into delicious, creamy almond butter. The healthy fats in almonds will keep hunger at bay and prevent you from craving processed foods mid-day.