You may be familiar with the term “superfoods” already, and if you are a fitness enthusiast then you would definitely know a lot about it. The first thing that comes to mind hearing this is definitely some food that is rich with nutritional content and possesses great value. But what actually distinguish “superfoods” from food!
What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods give an extra boost in your daily diet for the betterment and maintenance of your physical and mental health. A superfood enriched diet is nutritious food with an added bonus.
According to Merriam-webster, a superfood is defined as ” a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health”. And this sounds like a general definition for nutritious food.
Honestly, if you are wondering about a proper definition or a certain criterion to categorize specific foods on any basis, then you’ll be amazed to know that there is no such demarcation. The term superfood originated in the initial period of the 20th century but has gained immense popularity in recent years with the buzz of switching from junk to healthy foods.
Top 20 Superfoods List
These superfoods are worthy in their own right. Incorporate a few of the following superfoods in your daily diet, and you’ll be astonished by a positive change in your health.
Flaxseeds are known for the health-protective benefits for centuries. These are loaded with nutrients including fiber, protein, omega 3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid- ALA), vitamin B6, Vitamin B1, folate, and beneficial calories.
ALA in flaxseeds is scientifically reported to prevent the deposition of cholesterol inside the blood vessels, thus preventing the probability of heart diseases and decreased inflammation of the blood arteries.
Presence of dietary fibers in the flaxseeds lower down your digesting process, and you feel full for a longer period of time. It also helps in lowering down the cholesterol level and regulation of sugar level in the blood. (1)
Related: Best Flaxseed Oil Supplements
Giving a distinctive taste and lusciously vibrant color to the curries with just a minute amount, turmeric is known to have amazing health benefits. Turmeric is used mostly in Indian cuisine. Not only in dishes, due to its medicinal importance, but turmeric also plays a distinguishing role in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines.
Turmeric holds anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of a family of active compounds. But, curcumin is studied to be responsible for most of turmeric’s medicinal properties.
Though you may find the smell of garlic unbearable, surely you cannot negate its powerful medicinal benefits. Garlic is mentioned a number of times in ancient Egyptian medical texts. It was used to treat a range of health issues ranging from a toothache, and flu to chest pain and leprosy.
Garlic is naturally blessed with an incredible range of nutrients, all enhancing its medicinal importance for human health. It is enriched with vitamin C, manganese, selenium, fiber and vitamin B6.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that garlic possesses anti-clogging, antioxidant, lipid lowering, antimicrobial and antihypertensive properties. It may also help in the prevention of specific types of cancers. (5)(6)
4. Chia Seeds
You may have often noticed chia as an important ingredient a number of healthy diet recipes, such as in smoothies, protein bars, and baked products.
Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein, Omega 3 fatty acids and a number of dietary fibers.
With the presence anti-oxidants, use of chia seeds will prevent your skin from damaging effects of oxidative stress. And adding chia seeds in your diet can get you a smoother, younger looking and fresh skin.
Because of its health benefits, chia seeds have become one of the highly recommended and popular superfoods among the health community. (7)
Related: Best Organic Chia Seeds
5. Maca Root
Maca is native to Peru, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years but has gained medicinal popularity in recent years. It is commonly found in the powder form or is available as supplements.
Nutrytionally, Maca contains vitamin C, iron, copper, vitamin B6, protein, potassium, and manganese.
Traditionally, Maca is used to elevate fertility and sexual desire in both men and women. A review published in 2010 showed that this plant can help to reduce the menopausal symptoms such as interrupted and disturbed sleep, and hot flashes.
Related: Best Organic Maca Root Supplements.
Medicinal use of ginger is reported in the ancient Ayurvedic medication, and is described as “universal remedy”. Plus, its distinctive culinary flavor gives an authentic taste to the dishes.
Ginger root is loaded with antioxidants, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. It’s an essential component, the general is mainly responsible for its slightly spicy flavor. Also, it has anti-anemic properties which help in treating nausea and vomiting. Ginger also helps in a soothing upset stomach, reducing acute pain, and fighting against inflammations.
Both dried and fresh forms of coconut are used in different cuisine because of their unique texture and incredible flavor. You must have enjoyed its flavor in macaroons, muffins, cakes as well as in various curries. Coconut milk is also included in different healthy recipes.
Coconut is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCT may improve the immune system, and can also help in preventing and treating certain cancers. Some studies have suggested that MCT can help in reducing weight as well.
8. Cacao Nibs
Crushed form of pure cocoa beans is called as cacao nibs, which are relatively less processed than the dark chocolate. Cacao beans are extracted from the fruit of the cacao tree. Before crushing to form nibs, these beans are fermented, dried and then peeled.
Cacao nibs provide you protein, flavonoids, sugar, iron and other essential minerals. Flavonoids are scientifically tested to exhibit various health benefits. Such as, consuming flavonoids in the daily diet can safeguard your body from some cancers, heart diseases, and can also improve mental health.
Cacao nibs also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Research published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology revealed a number of anti-inflammatory responses of cocoa flavonoids including prevention from chronic diseases, and improved cardiac health. (16)(17)
Blueberries are certainly an exceptional example of superfoods. This food looks lusciously delicious, tastes incredible, and is also loaded with numerous health benefiting nutrients. Blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin K, and manganese.
These are loaded with antioxidants which protect your body from devastating free radicals and helps in the fight against aging, other diseases.
Acting as a nutritional powerhouse, blueberries protect the natural process of DNA damage, by neutralizing the free radicals that attack DNA. It also prevents the proliferation of cancer.
You will find spirulina as one of the highly recommended health supplement by the dietician to improve the health of your body and brain. It is blessed with vitamin B complex, copper and iron.
Regular Consumption of spirulina on a daily basis is associated with lowering down the LDL (low-density lipids- also known as bad cholesterol) level and increase the level of good cholesterol in the body.
Some scientific evidence has suggested that it may have anticancerous properties. It is experimentally tested to reduce the proliferation of tumor in the animals.
11. Green Tea
Whenever you are looking for some refreshing beverages that are light, energizing, and relaxing, always go for a cup of hot green tea. It is definitely one of the healthiest beverage right now.
The most powerful medicinal benefits of green tea are due to the presence of Epigallocatechin gallate-EGCG. This compound is studied to have several therapeutic effects on health including inhibition of myocardial infarction, decreasing the chances of diabetes, inhibition of the production of free radicals, anti-inflammatory properties, and antioxidant effects.
Green tea has an enormous amount of polyphenols which exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. It also enhances mental health and brain function. (23)
12. Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered to be one of the healthiest oil to cook your meal. It is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree and has only 14% saturated fat while 11% is healthy fats including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains a considerable amount of vitamin K and vitamin E.
Olive oil is packed with antioxidants which are known for reducing the chances of chronic heart diseases by lowering down the oxidation of blood cholesterol. It also exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties with the presence of oleic acid.
You can consume olive oil without being worried about weight gain or obesity, as several studies have suggested that increased consumption of olive oil does not induce weight gain, rather reduce weight. (24)(25)
13. Goji Berries
Goji berries are also called wolfberries. These have been an essential part of Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. These are rich in fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin A, and several minerals which induce its medicinal characteristics.
Goji berries may impart anti-aging benefits due to the presence of anti-oxidants. These anti-oxidants inhibit the damaging of skin’s collagen protein thus prevent it from developing wrinkles, scars, and dark spots.
A study on rat has shown that the extract of goji berries can inhibit the process of glycation or skin aging process.
Avocado is blessed with a startling range of vitamins including Vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin B5, and vitamin E. In addition to these vitamins avocado also contain mineral content.
Interestingly, this unique fruit contains more potassium than a banana which is a typical well-known fruit for high potassium content. Eating potassium can enhance potassium level in your body excessively, and this can reduce your blood pressure and help in lowering down the risk of heart diseases and kidney failure.
Fiber intake through avocado is extremely necessary for the optimal functioning of your digestive system. And it also reduces the blood sugar level. (28)
15. Sweet Potatoes
You will definitely love the smooth texture and exceptionally well-blending flavor of sweet potatoes in your healthy recipes. This superfood is originally harvested in South and Central America. It is rich in fiber content, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, potassium, and several minerals.
Sweet potatoes are remarkably supportive for the proper functioning of your digestive system. These are an exceptional source of highly beneficial carotenoids that are associated with decreasing the risk of specific cancers.
Yogurt is manufactured by fermentation of milk with bacterial culture. It provides you with a range of nutritional benefits. It is loaded with calcium, protein, vitamins and also highly beneficial probiotics that increase the functioning of gut microbiota.
Enrichment with probiotics is associated with several health benefits including lowering down the blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, improving the digestive process, and anti-inflammatory effects.
It helps you treat diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. Plus, consumption of yogurt enhance your body’s ability to absorb minerals and vitamins.
Presence of calcium and vitamin D is great for the strengthening of bones, wound healing, and maintenance of blood pressure. (31)
17. Acai Berry
Acai berries have lusciously beautiful purple color and are packed with a startling range of nutrients. This super fruit contains vitamin A, calcium, fiber and a number of minerals including phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, zinc, chromium, and magnesium.
Acai berries are loaded with antioxidants that neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. They decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) level in the blood and enhance good cholesterol (HDL). In addition to protecting physical health internally and externally, acai berries also have certain compounds which pose positive effects on mental health as well. Regular intake of this superfood can improve your memory, and enhance your learning capabilities. (32)(33)
Quinoa is rich in protein, gluten-free, and is high in vitamin B complex, vitamin E, a bundle of antioxidants, and several valuable minerals. Interestingly, it is one of those plants which are full of all 9 essential amino acids. Surely, this property is enough to sway us to make some delicious recipes with this superfood.
It is a perfect food for people who want to avoid gluten in their diet due to any health issue. And several scientific studies have shown that consuming quinoa instead of other gluten-free foods such as potato, corn, rice flour, and tapioca can significantly increase the nutritional value of your meal.
With an exceptional range of amino acids, quinoa has more percentage of protein content than most of the grains. (34)
Kale definitely resides on top of the ladder among the greens when it comes to nutritional content enrichment. It is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and a number of extremely advantageous minerals. It also contains fats in very little amount, and a large portion of this little amount is basically the most beneficial fatty acid, linolenic acid.
Kale abundantly contains antioxidants including beta-carotene, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These antioxidants help replenish the body in response to the damage done by free radicals.
With the presence of an extensive amount of vitamin C, eating kale will help your body to make collagen protein. (35)
Salmon is definitely one of the most delicious, nutritious and much loved fatty fish all around the globe. It is jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids which are essentially needed by your body from an external source, as your body can’t manufacture this nutrient on its own.
Salmon is an excellent source of taking protein. As per research, our body requires approximately 20 to 30 grams of protein in every meal to enjoy excellent physical health. And a 3.5 ounce of salmon is a perfect source of consuming about 25 grams of high-quality protein. Salmon also provides you with a handsome amount of vitamin B complex which energizes your body, repair DNA, and have anti-inflammatory effects. (36)
There is an exciting range of edible mushroom available to enjoy. Among these, button, shiitake, crimini, oyster, and portobello are the most loved ones. Depending upon the variety of mushroom, the nutritional content varies. However, in general, mushrooms exhibit numerous health benefits.
Mushrooms are an incredible source of protein, fiber, Vitamin B complex, vitamin D, and a range of minerals with a negligible amount of calories.
These are particularly known for boosting the immune system. Scientific research done at the University of Florida showcased amazing advantages of shiitake mushrooms when added in daily diet. The researchers stated that these benefits are still inaccessible to take from any drugs available to date.
Additionally, button mushrooms have been scientifically verified to have anti-inflammatory characteristics. (37)
There you go! These are a few of the exceptionally beneficial, nutritionally enriched, and highly recommended superfoods by the health community. You can make many yummy recipes with these ingredients. Regular intake of these foods will give an extraordinary boost to your health, and you will feel beautiful inside out.