When you hear the word ‘superfoods’, what do you think of? An apple wearing a superhero cape rescuing carrots from danger? Or perhaps some expensive, possibly hard-to-pronounce, and probably even harder-to-find food?
What if we told you superfoods are actually affordable, easy-to-find foods that perfectly fit into a healthy diet? We put together this guide discussing our top favorite 7 superfoods, their health benefits, suggestions on what to eat with them and how to incorporate them into your diet.
What are Superfoods?
Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods that are considered to be particularly beneficial to our health and well-being. While there's no scientifically based, standardized definition, a food is crowned a "superfood" when it does one of the following:
Offers high levels of desirable nutrients
Can be connected to the prevention of disease, or
Provides several health benefits beyond its basic nutritional value
It's important to mention that no one superfood can offer all the nutrients and health benefits our bodies need to be adequately nourished. The US Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2015-2020 edition recommends a healthy diet that combines various nutritious choices from all food groups.
Superfoods to Add to Your Daily Diet
Poor nutrition can contribute to many health conditions and diseases, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stroke, deficiencies in the brain, and even cancer.
Adding these superfoods to your daily meals and snacks can help promote a healthy eating pattern for an overall, ultimately healthier you.
Strawberries, blueberries, acai berries, blackberries, cranberries, oh my! High in fiber, antioxidants, and disease-fighting nutrients, berries are a low-calorie food that can fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Recent studies have shown that berries can also lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and some degenerative diseases.
Adding into your daily diet: Berries are naturally sweet and delicious to eat on their own.
Try adding them into your morning yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal
Use as an ingredient in a smoothie for a yummy treat.
Add a lackluster salad to dress it up! (Strawberries, blueberries, or cranberries are great additions.)
Helpful hint: Some berries can be dried or freeze-dried before consumption. Therefore, they can lose some of their nutrients in the process.
This fruit has a lot of nutrients that many people miss out on in their daily diet such as vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber, to name a few. In addition, they are loaded with heart-healthy fatty acids and antioxidants that promote the health of your eyes, while also helping to lower cholesterol.
Adding into your daily diet: Avocado is another superfood that can be incredibly nutritious and delicious all on its own, once it's ripe.
Use on top of a salad, toast or eggs.
Use as a replacement for mayonnaise.
Make a homemade guacamole or an avocado sauce for chicken skewers.
Stuff them with your favorite salad (chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, chickpea salad are just a few ideas!)
Walnuts, almonds, and pecans may be small in size, but these nutrient-dense foods are a great source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Adding into your daily diet: Nuts are another superfood that's super to eat all on its own. Just be mindful that nuts are heavy on calories.
Add a handful to oatmeal or yogurt.
Try a nut butter, such as almond, or cashew, on an apple or mixed in a smoothie.
Nuts also pair well with cooked veggies or as a salad topping.
Greens (darker colored variety in particular) are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and numerous phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants that positively impact health). They contain lutein and other carotenoids, which may help lower the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. Leafy greens are also an excellent way to add fiber into your diet!
What are some dark leafy greens? Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, and mustard greens are all examples.
Adding into your daily diet:
Combine a variety of dark greens to make a unique and flavorful salad mix.
Add them to a soup or stew.
Sauté them in olive oil and garlic for an easy side dish.
Helpful hint: Don't like the taste of kale, but want the benefits? Try adding it into a smoothie!
A grain is deemed "whole grain" when it contains three fundamental parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include; barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, Kamut, oats, popcorn, quinoa, red rice, wheat, and wild rice. (This also includes whole grain flours, couscous, pasta, and bread.)
Whole grains are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and insoluble and soluble fiber. These vital nutrients can prevent and fight against several diseases. Studies have shown that those who eat 2-3 servings per day of whole grains may lower their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory disease, and colon cancer.
Adding into your daily diet:
Eat oatmeal for breakfast (don't forget to add berries!)
Instead of your regular baked potato, substitute bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice.
Replace white rice with quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice.
Use cooked brown rice or whole-wheat breadcrumbs as a healthy side with meat or chicken for more substance to your meal.
Helpful hints: Check labels! For foods like bread and cereal, you want to be sure the first ingredients listed are whole wheat or oats.
What's a cruciferous vegetable? These vegetables are in the Brassicaceae family and get their name from their cross-shaped flowers. Examples of vegetables that are considered cruciferous are arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and radishes.
They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals, which may help prevent some types of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are also low-calorie and nutrient-dense, making them highly beneficial to your daily diet if you need to lose weight or are just looking for healthier food options.
Adding into your daily diet:
Cauliflower is a great rice or pizza crust substitute.
Brussels sprouts drizzled with olive oil, roasted in the oven are very appetizing.
Create a mixture of these vegetables and add healthy oils (avocado, olive, etc.) and herbs into a delicious stir-fry.
Try adding a cruciferous vegetable mixture to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes
From chickpeas, lentils and edamame to kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans, the list of legumes goes on and on. What do they all have in common? These plant-based proteins are an excellent source of fiber and minerals.
When integrated into a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, legumes may help improve your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease. These beans can also help keep you feeling full longer, also contributing to healthy weight loss.
Adding into your daily diet: There are so many ways to add legumes into your meals.
Try making a bean dip or hummus to enjoy with vegetables.
Add them to your cooked leafy greens with olive oil and garlic.
You can also add many different legumes to various pasta dishes, soups, and salads.
From helping combat high blood pressure to losing unwanted weight, adding superfoods into a healthy diet provides many wonderful health and wellness benefits.
With that being said, try not to focus on the individual food and instead think of how it is adding to and enhancing your overall meal. Adding variety into our diets allows us to eat many essential vitamins and minerals, while preventing us from eating too little or too much of one particular nutrient. And, by switching it up, you never have to worry about getting bored of eating the same food over and over. Mother nature offers so many incredible and nutritious foods to enrich our health, our diets, our appetites and our lives. Happy and healthy eating!