Professionally verified by Amanda Baker, written by Rachel Butler.
Page updated Feb 13, 2019. First published Sep 2, 2015.
Not all foods are created equal. Some foods are so packed with health benefits that you could say they have superpowers!
We call these foods superfoods. Although it’s not a medical term, these foods have high levels of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants.
They can be found all over the world. They can be a leafy vegetable, growing in the firm ground of a Northern European garden, or a soft exotic fruit growing on a tree in the middle of a humid South American jungle.
Here’s why you should be including them in your daily diet.
Superfoods Can Heal
The variety of nutrients found in superfoods can actually replace your daily vitamins. Most people take a daily supplement because it can be so hard to get all the recommended daily nutrients through diet alone. One serving of superfoods can fulfil your daily vitamin intake.
The power that comes from superfoods are what the foods themselves use to survive. For example, many plant-based superfoods are beneficial because of their flavonoids. These flavonoids are used by the plant to protect it against pests and diseases and fixing any wounds or tears they get. When you eat these superfoods, they help protect you from disease and heal wounds, as well. Other plants can have many other types of antioxidants, all of which stop and even reverse the effects of oxidation in the cells, which can result in damaging or killing cells. These damaged cells, or free radicals, can cause a range of health problems and diseases including cancer.
Incorporating superfoods into your daily diet is like using food as medicine. The better you eat and the more superfoods you include in each meal, the more health benefits you will see. They can help improve your immune system and fight off any future threats to your health. Instead of waiting for your health to deteriorate, start healing and strengthening your immune system from the inside out with superfoods.
Superfoods can also help you look and feel younger. The many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that they contain host a sleuth of benefits for your skin, eyes, hair, and nails. Vitamin E and omega 3’s are great to create supple and soft skin. Lutein is great for your eyesight. Vitamin K and D are good for hair and nail growth.
Superfoods are also great for weight loss. Most superfoods are low in calories. They can also help control your appetite because your body won’t be craving more nutrients.
It’s Easy to find Everyday Superfoods
Fruits and Vegetables
Green Vegetables: These are a great low-calorie food and considered superfoods because of their high antioxidant values. Different types of green vegetables, especially spinach and kale, are full of vitamins and fibre.
Avocados: Adding a slice of avocado to your sandwich can help lower your cholesterol and provides plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids and healthy fats. It also contain over 20 other essential nutrients including folic acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and twice as much potassium as a banana! Avocados also help the body absorb vitamins and antioxidants that you consume from other foods, like lutein and beta-carotene.
Apples: Apples help keep the fat away. Apples supply the body with natural sugars to help control sugar cravings. They also contain two different types of fibre. One, an insoluble fibre in the peel and the other, a soluble fibre called pectin found in the flesh of the apple. These two fibres make the stomach feel fuller, and why eating an apple with a glass of water 15 minutes before a meal can greatly decrease the number of calories you consume.
Berries: All berries are full of antioxidants and fibre. The natural sugars will help the body regulate its blood sugar levels and maintain energy. Blueberries are one of the best berries to eat because they’re full of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that targets cancerous cells.
Low fat dairy: The body needs calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. Dairy products deliver both of those. Great options are skimmed milk and ricotta cheese that is full of whey protein, a nutrient that builds muscle.
Lean meats: Meats are a great source of protein. The downfall is that some are full of fat. If you find a good cut that is very lean, like chicken breast, beef or pork loin, it could be a good addition to your diet. The superpowers of these foods are in their amino acids and protein. They also provide iron and B vitamins which help with oxygenating the blood and increase your energy levels.
Eggs: Eggs contain vitamin B12, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. All of which are amazingly good for you. Claims that eggs are responsible for high cholesterol have been debunked in recent years.
Salmon and other fish: Salmon, shellfish, and some other fish contain a high level of astaxanthin from the microalgae they eat. This is what gives shrimp their pink colour. This algae uses this powerful antioxidant to protect itself from the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. These foods pass those benefits on to you when consumed.
Grains, Nuts and Seeds
Whole Grains: By switching your carbohydrates like rice, pasta, and bread to a whole grain option, you will greatly decrease your body’s chances of storing fat. One of the best choices for whole grains is oatmeal. Oatmeals antioxidant is called avenanthramide and it helps keep the good cholesterol in the body and get rid of the bad.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, and split peas are all examples of legumes. These little morsels are a great way to get your protein and fibre. They also provide iron. These are best if you prepare them yourself to make sure there are no additives, fats, or sugars. They also provide proteins, vitamins, and minerals, such as zinc and magnesium.
Nuts and seeds: Eating a handful of nuts or seeds on a daily basis will help to burn belly fat. The reason only a handful should be eaten is that they are pretty high in calories and fat, but the calories are worth it. The fat from nuts and seeds are the essential fatty acids that are good for the body.
Superfoods Around the World
Goji Berries: Native to China, these berries were used medicinally by the Chinese for decades because of their healing properties. You get the same benefit by eating them.
Acai Berries: These exotic little fruits are found in the deep Amazon rainforests, and have been proven to contain higher than normal antioxidant levels.
Coconut Water: Coconut water is nature’s sports drink. It hydrates and restores lost electrolytes. Its vitamin B content gives you a boost of energy and the cytokinins have anti-ageing benefits.
Cacao: The flavonoids in the cacao plant are known for their ability to protect against any type of cardiovascular disease. It can lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, prevent blood clots, and reduce inflammation of the blood vessels.
Seaweed: Seaweed is loaded with fucoxanthin, which is a type of marine carotenoid that supports a healthy immune system.
Mangosteens: Every part of the mangosteen plant is used medicinally in parts of Asia, from the fruit, rind, and bark. This plant is known for its ability to help diarrhoea, UTI’s, menstrual disorders, and many others.
Kefir: Kefir is a yoghurt-like drink loaded with beneficial probiotics, healthy bacteria, and nutritional yeasts that clean the colon and boost your immune system.
How Not to Use Superfoods
While it’s true that superfoods are very good for you and can greatly benefit your health, you can’t expect them to perform a miracle. Eating a poor diet and adding in a superfood here and there won’t make much of a difference.
Eating healthily and staying active are always the best ways to stay in shape. Superfoods are like a little helper in your endeavour towards staying fit and healthy.
Rachel likes getting to the bottom of everything that is put in front of her, which comes from her background in law. Whenever there is anything tricky to look at, Rachel is always the first port of call.
Her weekends are spent either cycling or walking, then topped off by indulging her love of chocolate as a reward for her hard work.