As you stand in line at the grocery store, you’ve surely seen headlines on the front cover of nearly every “health” magazine touting the next “superfood.” For a while, it seemed like there was a new so-called superfood hitting the grocery store or supplement shop every month—each one more exotic than its predecessor—from açai berries to mangostene to goji berries to maca powder.
What are superfoods anyway? Why do you need to make sure they’re in your diet?
In the most basic terms, superfoods are foods that provide an abundance of nutrients; in other words, they’re nutrient-dense foods. However, there’s no set standard, so it’s a fairly broad, subjective category. Having said that, the word “superfood” can now be found in the dictionary, where is often defined as a food that is rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.
The top superfoods are a wealth of antioxidants, others provide healthy fats, some are higher in fiber, and still others are loaded with phytonutrients (the chemicals responsible for the rainbow of colors we enjoy in plant foods). Many hit a number of these criteria, and because they’re so nutrient-dense, they’re believed to help people live healthier, more vibrant lives.
The good news is that you can easily include some of the more impressive superfoods in your nutrition plan. And to make sure you’re on the right track, we wanted to share our top superfoods list of 6 (mostly) common, highly recommended superfoods and exactly why they’re, well, super:
Our 6 Top Superfoods
Admittedly, spirulina is somewhat of a new kid on the superfood block; it’s easily the most unusual on the list, but it’s just got so many benefits, we had to include it. In fact, we consider it Nature’s Ultimate Super Food. Spirulina is a formidable nutrient powerhouse, providing high-quality protein, including all the essential amino acids; an impressive list of vitamins and minerals, like iron, magnesium, potassium, and B12; and potent levels of antioxidants.
Honestly, all berries are worthy of the title of “superfood,” but blueberries hold a top spot as one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. These delicious bursts of flavor provide a profusion of phytonutrients (including anthocyanins, flavonols, and resveratrol), are rich in vitamins (especially vitamin C) and antioxidants, and also provide soluble fiber. Plus, berries are lower in sugar and calories than many other fruits, so they help support healthy carbohydrate metabolism and glycemic control.
Ah… the rich smell and flavor of cinnamon. This popular spice has been used around the world for thousands of years and is believed to be one of the most beneficial spices (and top superfoods) on earth due to its health-promoting properties. Cinnamon provides up to 41 different protective antioxidants, and it has been shown to have positive effects on digestion while adding a sweet flavor. Along with a healthy diet, cinnamon can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. You don’t need much for its purported health benefits: a mere half teaspoon may help support digestion, immune function, cognitive function, and carbohydrate metabolism.
What?! Beans are so common, so humble. How can they be considered one of the top superfoods?
Beans are indeed one of the most undervalued superfoods. Yet they’re completely affordable, super easy to find, and so rich in a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, they provide slow-digesting carbs, and they’re a good source of protein, helping to keep you feeling full for longer as well as helping to support glycemic control, which means they may help support weight management. With a healthy serving of soluble fiber, beans have been shown to support heart health.
Finally, they’re so very versatile. Whether used as a main dish, a side dish, or even the secret ingredient in brownies, you can easily take advantage of their nutrient-density as you support your health and weight-loss goals.
Avocados are another favorite food that had to be included on our top superfoods list. Avocados are not only creamy and delicious, they are also nutrient-dense. They’re high in fiber, and they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. Interestingly, they provide more potassium than bananas and also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant carotenoids known for supporting eye health and vision, cognitive function, and heart health. And because avocados help reduce hunger and increase satiety, they have been shown to help promote weight loss.
And one more reason to add avocados to your nutrition plan: one study suggests that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier than those who don’t.
6. Whey Protein
While top superfoods are often considered to be part of the plant world, that isn’t always the case. Whey protein also fits the superfood bill with exceptional nutrient density and health benefits, including enhanced muscle recovery, strength, and hypertrophy; appetite control and weight management; immune support; heart health; and even healthy aging. When it comes to protein quality, whey is often crowned the king, and it’s an excellent source of protein. To read more in-depth on the benefits of whey, check out Coach Tim’s recent Whey Protein article.
There are some caveats when it comes to whey protein, however. How whey is processed, the dairy cows it comes from, and the use (or lack thereof) of artificial sweeteners can either greatly enhance or reduce how super this food is. So, make sure you research your whey protein and go with a brand you can trust.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to make your diet super. While some superfoods are exotic, but many can easily be found at your local grocery store. And the above is our short list of top superfoods. Others include kale, broccoli, salmon and other fish, and even apples and tomatoes. The main point is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods—your health, waistline, and taste buds will all thank you!