Superfoods: What They Are and Why You Should Add Them To Your Diet

It can be easy to dismiss the impact that food has on our bodies, but mindful eating has taught me that unbalanced eating can lead to my feeling sluggish, tired, and unmotivated. When I eat balanced meals, I find that my tummy suffers less bloating and discomfort, my skin becomes clearer, and I have enough energy to maintain my active lifestyle.

I knew that healthy eating is linked to incredible health benefits and disease prevention, but I had no idea that healthy eating would have such a great impact on my daily living. This realization inspired me to research foods that provide optimal health benefits, which led me to “Superfoods.”

What are Superfoods?

Superfoods include mostly plant-based foods with some fish and dairy that are thought to promote health. First and foremost, let’s not be fooled by the marketing gurus of the food industry. There are no set criteria for determining what is a superfood. “Superfood” is a marketing term used to influence food sales, and the term itself has no root in academic research. Foods labeled as “super” are those that provide rich nutrients wrapped up in nice little minimal-calorie packages.

Why are Superfoods important?

Superfoods are dense with health-promoting nutrients, such as antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals. These nutrients and lower risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improve energy, decrease inflammation, regulating and improving digestion, and supporting weight management.

So…. What’s the catch with Superfoods?

Superfoods have been highly criticized for many reasons, most significantly due to the use of media and marketing to influence public opinion and boost sales. While foods labeled as “Superfoods” are healthy, the way they are processed may not be. For example, natural green tea is high in antioxidants, where commercially manufactured green tea often contains large amounts of added sugar and is cut with other teas. Long story short: always read the nutrition label, and remember that everything is better in moderation- even so-called superfoods.

Although there is no specific food that acts as the key to optimal health, there are some foods that appear to be worthy of the “superfood” label. Let’s take a look at some of these nutrient-abundant foods and dive into the associated health benefits.

Berries

While blueberries are rated high on several lists of superfoods, it is important to recognize that just about any edible berry is worthy of the “superfood” label. Some include raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries.

Why they’re super:

Berries are high in antioxidants, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. Berries can also be effective in maximizing the ability to cope with various digestive and immune-related disorders alongside traditional treatment (with routine consultation of one’s medical treatment team, of course).

How to incorporate them into diet:

Every morning I eat a bagel with cream cheese with blueberries sprinkled on top. It is my favorite. However, one can also use berries as added flavor in oatmeal, as a topping for healthy pancakes or waffles or deserts, to compliment a salad or smoothie, or simply for a snack!

Dark Leafy Greens

Not everyone finds pleasure eating dark leafy greens because of their sometimes bitter taste, but finding creative ways to enjoy these beauties is the bulk of the battle in reaping the benefits of these foods. Dark leafy greens may include:

  • Kale
  • Microgreens (immature greens produced from seeds of veggies and herbs)
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet Greens (the leaves of beets)
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage)
  • Turnip Greens

Why they’re super:

Dark leafy greens contain nutrients including folate, sinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They contain potential to decrease risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They are also helpful in acting as an anti-inflammatory.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Any of these greens are great additions to salads, soups, or sandwiches. Lately, I have been eating spinach in stir fries and breakfast scrambles.

Eggs

Eggs have a high cholesterol content, causing debate about whether or not they are actually healthy (which makes this another opportunity to mention that moderation is key with ALL foods). However, eggs are still considered one of the healthiest foods.

Why they’re super:

Despite their cholesterol content, eggs contain many essential vitamins, such as vitamin B’s, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorous. They are also an excellent source of protein and contain antioxidants that can promote vision and eye health.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Eggs are incredibly versatile. Make them scrambled, fried, dippy, hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side up, over easy/medium/hard, poached, baked, or basted. Eat them on their own or add them to a salad, sandwich, wrap, or stir fry. I love making over medium eggs over a bed of fresh spinach with a teeeeeeeny bit of sriracha drizzled on top for some spice, but the possibilities are endless!

Green Tea

Green tea is a caffeinated tea with a variety of health benefits. However, examining the processing of any green tea is critical. Green tea that is overly processed, such as bottled green teas (I see you, Lipton), may contain high levels of sugar and chemicals that strip green tea of its nutrients. Commercial green tea may also be cut with other teas, minimizing the health benefits even further. A gentle reminder? Scan the label before consuming. Your body will thank you for it.

Why it’s super:

Organically processed, natural green tea is chalk full of antioxidants and micronutrients (AKA polyphenols), acting as a strong anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory agents in green tea is the key ingredient to preventing chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Drink it! Drink it cold, drink it hot, or drink it lukewarm. I like to brew green tea in bulk and chill it in the refrigerator to grab for a tasty, refreshing beverage at any time in the day.

Legumes

Legumes are essentially plants that produce fruits or veggies in pods. Some common types of legumes include kidney beans, cannellini beans, cranberry beans, black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Why they’re super:

Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous. They are naturally low in fat, cholesterol free, and incredibly filling.

How to incorporate them into diet:

One can utilize legumes by adding them to soups, stews, or casseroles. Pureed beans are also a great base for dips and spreads. I like to add chickpeas to salads or add cooked beans to breakfast scrambles or burgers. I also recently discovered a great recipe for Buffalo Chickpea Sweet Potatoes that is delicious and so filling!

Nuts

Awhhhh, nuts! A personal favorite pre-workout snack. Some of the healthiest nuts include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

Why they’re super:

Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Although they do contain some saturated fats, nuts are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Nuts are a great snack raw or roasted. They can also be chopped or sliced and added to stir fries, salads, or yogurt. I love making nuts the key ingredient when I make homemade granola bars! I also add sliced walnuts to my healthy banana bread.

Seeds

Seeds are way underrated! Some great seeds include flax, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower.

Why they’re super:

Seeds contain essential amino acids and minerals, including calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. They also include essential fiber and vitamins.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Seeds are another versatile ingredient. I love adding seeds to oatmeal, salads, yogurt or breakfast bowls. They add a great texture to smoothies and can even be ground to a power to add to flour. (Pro Tip: If you hate drinking water, add some chia seeds and fresh fruit to your water for some awesome flavor and texture.)

Yogurt

Here’s another category that stresses the importance of reading the label. Some yogurts are better than others, and generally one might avoid yogurts with heavy processing, artificial sweeteners and added sugar.

Why it’s super:

Yogurt contains protein and calcium, and it provides important vitamins and probiotics. These are helpful in maintaining gut health, aiding in weight loss, and possibly even preventing diabetes.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Yogurt is a great snack all by itself, but it can also be added to smoothies and smoothie bowls. I love adding some granola and fresh berries for a small breakfast bowl or simple snack.

Garlic

Garlic is considered a nutritional superstar, which may be why it has been long used in alternative and natural medicines. It may be small, but the list of health benefits associated with eating garlic is large.

Why it’s super:

Garlic is loaded with vitamins B and C, selenium, iron, copper, and potassium. Allicin, an oily compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped, offers antioxidant benefits and reduces inflammation. some benefits of garlic include promoting heart health, playing a role in preventing cancer, acting as a natural antibiotic, and reducing swelling and inflammation of various skin conditions (including acne!).

How to incorporate it into diet:

Garlic is another versatile food. I typically add garlic to as many dishes as I can, including veggies, stir fries, salads, and soups. The possibilities are pretty endless with garlic.

Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger and turmeric are other foods that have a long history of use in alternative medicine. They are among the healthiest spices and are loaded with nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Ginger’s main compound is gingerol, which acts as a powerful anti–inflammatory and antioxidant. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This means that both ginger and turmeric have the ability to help fight infections, treat chronic indigestion, manage osteoarthritis, and treating nausea. They also may help in reducing menstrual pain, managing muscle pain and soreness, lowering blood sugar, lowering risk of heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. Some research also identifies ginger and turmeric as having the potential to prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Ginger and turmeric can be ground into a fine powder to use as a spice, as traditionally used in Asian recipes such as curries or stews. Ginger and turmeric can also be peeled, grated, and added to sauces, glazes, and marinades. There are a number of possibilities. They can even be used to create ginger or turmeric water.

Salmon

It’s hard to find a list of healthy foods that doesn’t include salmon. It’s no wonder these fish are strong enough to swim against the heavy current. Salmon, incredibly tasty and versatile, is loaded with important nutrients.

Why it’s super:

Salmon contains B vitamins, potassium, and selenium. It is also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. This means that salmon can help fight inflammation, control weight, reduce risk of heart disease, and may even protect brain health.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Baking is one of the most common ways to consume salmon, due to the ability to preserve the vitamin D content in fish. Salmon can also be prepared by grilling or frying. It can be added to curry, salads, or wraps.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes may not sound healthy due to their name, but the nutritional benefits of this root veggie are abundant. Sweet potatoes, considered a healthy carbohydrate, are incredibly filling and contain some important nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C, B, and A. It is also high in the mineral manganese, which helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health. They are a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is also helpful in regulating blood pressure and supporting weight loss.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I love combining sweet potatoes, eggs, and spinach together to make one awesome breakfast bowl. Other ways to eat sweet potatoes include baking, mashing, or folding sweet potatoes into overnight oats. Another favorite? Slice these babies up and make some sweet potato fries!!

Avocados

Avocados are another personal favorite and considered one of the healthiest fruits. With the rise in popularity of diets such as keto, it is no surprise that avocados have claimed a spot as one of the most popular items to add to your grocery basket.

Why they’re super:

Avocados are a healthy source of monounsaturated fatty acids that contain numerous vitamins, such as A, E, and K. They are also filled with dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados assist in promoting heart health, reducing blood pressure, and minimizing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I have a habit of cracking these babies open and scooping out the insides with a spoon to eat as a mid-morning snack. However, avocados are also great additions to scrambled eggs, breakfast bowls, salads, or soups. Additionally, many folks find avocados to be a wonderful topping to toast or as a substitute for mayo. I also use mashed avocado as a replacement for sour cream when I make burritos, enchiladas, or tacos.

Chocolate

Last, but certainly not least, chocolate doesn’t just satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. Dark chocolate is the healthiest sweet treat. Made from the seed of a cocoa tree, dark chocolate is packed with powerful nutrients. But again, moderation is key.

Why it’s super:

Studies show that dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Chocolate with a high cocoa content contains copious amounts of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Of course, there is a moderate amount of sugar, which reinforces the fact that dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.

How to incorporate it into diet:

If you don’t feel like eating a simply dark chocolate bar, one can experiment with adding dark chocolate to baked goods or as a topping to fruit and other snacks. However, ensuring that dark chocolate contain at least 70% cocoa is the trick to guaranteeing it contains the nutrients that make it super.

What’s the conclusion?

Are “superfoods” a real thing? Who knows, really. The idea that these foods have “super” quality seems rooted in the food industry’s marketing. Regardless of any nicknames or labels, these foods remain high in nutrients and appear to be a welcome addition to our healthy mealtime routines.

7 thoughts on “Superfoods: What They Are and Why You Should Add Them To Your Diet

    1. Great article. I’ve got most of them in my diet, honestly legumes are something that I don’t really eat a lot of probably should. Working on the green tea I like to have hot tea in the winter in the summer not so much. Thanks for sharing!

  1. I love this post You actually wrote on something I know something about. I am a total believer One that I like that you missed is pomegranate that works wonders for me

    Stay well and Laugh when you can

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