What makes a superfood super? There’s no precise definition – but there are a ton of different fruits, vegetables, seeds – and even some meat, fish and dairy – out there with huge health benefits. Whether it’s by providing a tasty, healthy alternative to a sugary energy boost, improving your heart health, or maintaining your immune system, getting some or all of these foods onto your daily menu can make a giant difference to the way you look, feel and enjoy life.
This bright purple vegetable boasts not only the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need to ward off disease and keep your organs fit and healthy, but also betalains, which some studies suggest may be able to defend against cancer and other illnesses. Use it to add some color to a salad, enjoy a glass of juice, or – if you’re feeling brave – try ‘beet kvass’, the fermented beetroot juice that’s all the rage on Pinterest.
It’s not only their Instagram-worthy beauty that makes blueberries so sought after. These smoothie superstars are rich in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. Studies have shown them to have benefits in everything from fighting the signs of ageing and improving memory to helping your body resist cancer. Use them to top your cereal or smoothie bowl, or treat the whole family to a delicious blueberry cobbler.
#3 Oily fish
Oily fish – including salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring – is scientifically proven to be good for your heart. What’s more, it’s packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which may help to prevent heart disease, and with vitamin D – essential for those winter months! Salmon in particular is one of the healthiest ways to get some protein into your meal – there’s also some evidence that it can help protect against the damage caused by UV rays from the sun.
The gorgeous little jewel-like seeds of the pomegranate are a priceless part of your diet. They contain precious antioxidants and pack a high fiber punch to boost your digestive health. What’s more, there is some evidence that they could improve blood flow for improved heart health, slow the growth of prostate cancer, and lower your cholesterol levels. Another benefit is that these sweet little seeds are delicious but low-calorie, which means you can indulge your sweet tooth without filling up on fat or sugar. Opt for sugar-free juice, or sprinkle pomegranate seeds on salads and desserts.
#5 Green tea
This lower-caffeine alternative to coffee is rich in antioxidants and has been used as a natural health supplement for years. Some believe the secret to the disease-busting power of this tasty brew is the phytochemical Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been found to slow irregular cell growth and could be linked to fighting cancer. Try it next time you’re meeting friends for a gossip and a cup of something hot.
All cruciferous vegetables are great for you (think brussels sprouts, cauliflower plus all leafy greens) – but broccoli is a super-powered green. It has huge levels of vitamin C and folate – helping you reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers – plus potassium, iron, calcium, fiber and vitamins A and K. It’s like a one-stop shop for your whole body’s needs. Steam it lightly to retain the most nutrients and add a heap to just about every meal; or you can throw it in a stir-fry or whizz it up into a soup.
Just about everything you could eat tonight would taste better with a hearty infusion of garlic. (OK, maybe don’t put it in your pound cake.) It’s been used for centuries to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, keep your skin looking great, and ward off vampires (probably not your biggest health concern, but better safe than sorry!).
Chia seeds hit the superfood big time after being featured in Chris McDougall’s 2009 book Born To Run, in which he attributed the phenomenal running prowess of the Mexican Tarahumara tribe in part to the role of chia seeds in the tribe’s diet. These tiny, tasteless like powerballs can be added to just about anything, but they’re easiest to digest if you soak them first. They’re full of antioxidant phytochemicals, very high in fiber, and they produce slow-releasing energy, which helps you maintain your weight, stabilize your blood sugar and improve your sports performance. They’re a must for vegans in particular, as chia is both a complete protein and one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3.
#9 Sweet potatoes
Supercharge your diet by swapping out potatoes for sweet potatoes whenever you can: they provide all the carbs you need but with a boost of fiber, potassium, vitamins B6 and C, and beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. Great for your heart, your skin, and your body’s natural defenses.
Along with moving more, eating better is the best thing you can do for your body. Load up on these superfoods to treat your tastebuds – and the rest of your body, too!
Sam spent most of her childhood in the family kitchen, watching her parents prepare traditional Greek dishes. By the time she was 8, she could make spanakopita with her eyes closed. She blogs over at the Kitchen Professor. When she’s not prepping meals for her kids, she loves to try out new recipes, cookware and kitchen utensils.