In our busy world, finding or making nutritious meals each day can be challenging. So many foods are processed, deep fried or otherwise unhealthy, and eating these types of meals day in and day out can lead to some serious health problems.
For people looking to maximize their nutritional intake while minimizing the number of ingredients and recipes to wade through each day, superfoods are an excellent choice. These powerhouse ingredients are most useful in their natural form and can be prepared in a variety of ways, helping you to get loads of beneficial nutrients per serving.
However, amid the buzz about “superfoods,” many people haven’t actually learned what these foods really are. Are they vegetables, fruits or grains? Fatty or lean? If you’ve heard the term but don’t know where to start with superfoods, use this easy guide to kickstart your path to healthier choices.
What are superfoods?
The word “superfood” is an informal term for a grouping of super-nutritious foods—it is not a scientific classification. Really, it just means “foods that are super good for you.”
Superfoods are extremely nutrient-dense, containing tons of beneficial ingredients and compounds like antioxidants, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, anti-inflammatory compounds, adaptogenic components and much more. While most foods have a handful of these beneficial nutrients, superfoods are packed with many healthy nutrients in a single serving, making them more powerful alternatives.
Many superfoods are derived from plant sources, like berries and herbs, but some are grains or derived from animals. Thankfully, there are a variety of superfoods for everyone to choose from!
Eating superfoods each day can have immense benefits for your health—think of the benefits of healthy eating, except potentially multiplied! Here’s how swapping even a few of these superfoods in to replace less-healthy parts of your diet can make a difference:
- Bolsters immunity: One of the biggest benefits of superfoods is the abundance of vitamins and nutrients they provide capable of bolstering the immune system. Many superfoods, especially berries, contain healthy doses of antioxidants and key immunity-bolstering vitamins that help to strengthen the immune system and prevent you from getting sick. Not only that, but superfoods have other compounds that can reduce inflammation and improve overall health to reduce your risk of major diseases down the road.
- Stabilize mental health: Quite a few superfoods are considered adaptogens, meaning they help the body manage stress more effectively by achieving homeostasis. These adaptogens, as well as other beneficial vitamins and minerals, are crucial to maintaining a healthy mind, both from a memory and concentration perspective and a mental health perspective.
- Reduce pain: Many superfoods are also packed with anti-inflammatory compounds, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Superfoods like nuts, fish and turmeric may help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help alleviate the pain associated with arthritis and other chronic health conditions.
Top 15 superfoods
There are tons of superfoods out there, but some are more well-known and beneficial than others. This list of 15 superfoods can provide a range of healthy compounds, from antioxidants and healthy fats to adaptogens and minerals. Try incorporating at least a few into your diet!
- Leafy greens
- Fatty fish
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Plain yogurt
- Apple cider vinegar
- Green tea
- Chia seeds
How to eat superfoods
Many of the foods listed above may already be present in your weekly meal lineup. However, some may not be as prevalent or even present at all. If you want to add more superfoods into your diet, consider switching one of your normal foods out for a comparable superfood; for example, opt for mixed berries instead of bananas or kale and spinach instead of iceberg lettuce. Or, swap your chicken breast for fatty fish like salmon a few dinners per week.
Superfoods make excellent snacks, as well as the bases for certain meals. A small container can be taken to work, or you can prepare a mix of superfoods like kale, berries and yogurt and blend them into a quick smoothie. By doing these things, you’ll introduce extra nutritional value into balanced meals while cutting out some processed, harmful ingredients you might otherwise eat.
It’s also recommended that you eat superfoods in their natural state. Superfoods that have been processed and incorporated into other, pre-packaged foods may still provide some benefits, but you’ll receive the most nutritional value from fresh, raw foods.
That being said, your entire diet should not be composed of superfoods. While nutrient dense, superfoods do not contain all the nutrients you need to stay healthy, so they should be incorporated into meals alongside other types of foods for a complete, well-rounded diet.