Plant-based foods, along with fish and dairy that are naturally nutritionally dense, receive the exclusive label of being known as a “superfood.”
While the superfoods don’t fall into a specific criterion, they do share significant health benefits.
They may include antioxidants, healthy fats, phytochemicals, or other beneficial nutrients; or, they may be associated with disease prevention.
Some critics contend that the use of the term “superfood” may be too much.
They believe that academic research should support the name, and some food processing can interfere with the foods’ health benefits.
According to a report in The Nutrition Source, a monthly publication supported by Harvard experts, the term originated in the early 20th century as part of a food marketing strategy.
It gained popularity in medical journals when physicians published their findings of a banana diet that treated conditions, such as celiac disease and diabetes.
Now, more than a century later, the term continues to help drive sales.
Many consumers can become encouraged to increase their consumption of these superfoods.
However, dietary experts advise not to get too attached to the word.
Instead, make sure to read the labels, consume a variety of these superfoods, so you get a balance of nutrients, and don’t limit yourself to these food options. Some other foods can be equally nutritious.
Consuming the right quantity and a variety can help ward off several health issues, like diabetes and digestive problems.
Here is a list of 22 commonly known superfoods, and how their reported health benefits allow them to hold the honorable title of “superfood.”
Acai berries are a staple in the Amazon region. They are sweeter than they are tart. The antioxidant-rich food reportedly lowers cholesterol, boosts brain function, and supports digestive health.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, almonds are technically the seeds of the almond tree.
The tree bears fruit. The seeds of the fruit are what we know as almond nuts. Almonds help reduce bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
They also guard against diabetes, help manage weight, and support bone health.
Did you know that the avocado is a fruit? Indeed, this large creamy berry includes a large seed.
Scientists have linked avocados with many cardiovascular benefits, reduced inflammation and liver damage, weight loss, and increased brain health and memory.
Experts generally list blueberries among the top superfoods.
The fruit is known for its deep shades of blues and purples and sweet and tart flavor.
Blueberries provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Studies suggest that they help limit oxidative DNA damage, ultimately protecting against aging and cancer.
Broccoli is a green cruciferous vegetable that’s a part of a family that includes brussel sprouts, cabbage, and turnips.
It’s packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants and nutrients that benefit digestion and the cardiovascular and immune system. Broccoli also has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Cacao beans are fruits from a tree.
Manufacturers use the edible parts of the pod-like beans, consisting of thick white pulp, to produce chocolate.
They are fermented, dried, roasted crushed, and grounded to make cocoa powder.
Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants, flavonoids, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Its benefits support cardiovascular health, moods, and energy.
Cayenne pepper is a hot and spicy pepper related to jalapenos and paprika.
Its active ingredient, capsaicin, aids many health ailments.
The benefits of the pepper include cardiovascular and digestive health, relieving pain, and boosting metabolism.
Chia seeds contain several components that support a plant-based diet.
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, they are among the most abundant plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and a complete protein that harbors the nine essential amino acids not made in the body.
Chia seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. They support heart health and may help reduce bad cholesterol and weight loss.
Chickpeas are a good source of protein for plant-based diets.
They are also rich in folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and fatty acids.
They are known to help prevent the development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
They also help improve the bacterial environment within the gut and support weight loss.
Eggs are nutrient-dense foods offering as many as eight essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iodine, and selenium.
According to the Egg Nutrition Center, the yolk contains nearly half of the egg’s protein as well as vitamins D, E, and A, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Baked goods, like muffins and bread, incorporate flaxseeds as a result of their unique nutritional benefits.
They are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The most prominent is alpha-linolenic acid.
Flaxseeds also have phytochemicals known as lignans.
They are also rich in antioxidants. They have anti-inflammatory benefits and may reduce the development of certain cancers.
Garlic flavors several types of dishes from all over the world.
Its relatives include leeks and shallots, but garlic’s use goes beyond its culinary purposes.
Both ancient and modern civilizations use it for health and therapeutic benefits. People use them to address conditions that affect the blood system and heart.
Garlic also helps with the prevention of cancers, such as those affecting the breast, lung, prostate, stomach, and colon.
Ginger is a plant that’s pungent flavor adds to many dishes, such as Asian stir-fries and curries, and holiday treats, like gingerbread cookies.
While flavorful, ginger also provides medicinal perks. It is most often used to reduce gastrointestinal problems and provide relief for nausea and vomiting.
Ginger also reduces inflammation and muscle pain associated with exercise.
Green tea comes in different varieties, such as the popular sencha green tea (Japan’s green tea) and matcha green tea (teas leaves grounded into a powder).
Green tea’s protective polyphenols and antioxidants offer beneficial nutritional properties.
Health claims suggest that green tea can reduce the risk of cancer and support weight loss.
Hemp seeds derive from the Cannabis sativa plant and contain an abundant amount of proteins, fiber, and omega fatty acids.
People will often sprinkle the seeds on cereals, salads, and yogurts.
Although the seeds and marijuana come from the same plant species, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is barely present.
The seeds may help with heart disease, weight loss, and digestion.
Kale is a nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetable with family members that include cabbage and broccoli.
Its popularity is due to its powerful antioxidants, such as vitamin C.
The “super green” can help reduce blood clots, cholesterol, and cancer.
Lentils are legumes that people cultivate throughout the world.
As a result, they come in several different types, such as green, red, yellow, brown, and black lentils.
Lentils are high in fiber and protein and are excellent sources of folate, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.
Sweet potatoes, or tubers, are good sources of beta-carotene, fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6.
They can improve the regulation of blood sugar, reduce inflammation and support weight loss.
Since they have high amounts of vitamin A, they can boost the immune system and maintain healthy skin and vision.
Swiss chard is a popular leafy vegetable found in Mediterranean countries.
Its multicolored stalk comes in colors such as red, yellow, and green and contains numerous vitamins and minerals.
They include vitamins K, A, and C and magnesium, iron, and potassium. Swiss chard’s antioxidants help ward off diseases, like lung cancer.
It contains high amounts of fiber that promotes regular bowel movements, slows digestion, and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Steel Cut Oats
Oats are gluten-free whole grains that are present in different forms.
They make popular breakfast foods. Health claims suggest oats can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Oats have soluble fiber, beta-glucan, that helps support weight loss and hunger levels.
Make sure to choose steel-cut oats over rolled oats. Steel cut oats may have more fiber and a lower glycemic index.
Turmeric is a common spice that’s a primary ingredient in many curry powder in places like India and Southeast Asia.
It’s a significant source of the polyphenol curcumin. However, it also contains manganese, iron, potassium, and vitamin C.
Tumeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties support numerous health conditions, such as inflammation, arthritis, cancers, liver and gallbladder problems, and skin irritations.
Quinoa is not only a superfood, but it’s also considered a gluten-free “super grain.”
It is rich in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and folate, and it supplies complete proteins and fiber.
It helps decrease cholesterol and inflammation and supports heart health.
It’s best to eat these foods in their natural state and in variety for a well-balanced diet.