The 8 Best Superfoods and Their Powerful Health Benefits
When someone says “superfood,” a lot of us picture the exotic supplements you’d see in a wellness influencer’s smoothie – moringa, ashwagandha, spirulina, cordyceps. While it can be fun to experiment with new-to-you ingredients, many of the most powerful superfoods are actually common foods you may already have in your fridge!
We all consume a limited amount of food each day, and superfoods are a great way to get more nutritional bang for your buck as they pack a variety of antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients into each serving. So, what exactly makes something a superfood and what are the powerful health benefits?
What are Superfoods?
The dictionary definition of a superfood is “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.” From a scientific perspective, there are no set criteria to designate what counts as a superfood. In fact, the first use of the word “superfood” was an early 1900s campaign by United Fruit Company to promote bananas as an affordable and convenient source of nutrition. There’s also no FDA regulation of the word "superfood" on labels in the United States – so, we are sharing our list of nutrient-rich foods you can’t go wrong with adding to your diet.
Foods that earn the “super” title are typically colorful, plant-based, and full of nutrients that support a healthy heart, brain, and body. A healthy diet includes eating a balanced variety of foods and adding superfoods into a few meals or snacks each day to supercharge your vitamin intake and reap the many health benefits they offer.
Superfoods List and Their Essential Nutrients
Berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, goji berries, and acai berries, are some of the highest antioxidant-packed foods you can eat. A 2018 study concluded that phenolic compounds in berries play a protective role against the most common diseases related to oxidative stress-driven pathologies, such as cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Blueberries are especially known for their potential to protect against diabetes, heart disease, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, thanks in part to the pigment that gives them their dark color. Our Blueberry + Cashew Butter and Cherries + Berries MacroBars are delicious antioxidant-rich snack options.
2. Fermented Foods
Gut health is key to proper absorption of nutrients, and one of the best ways to foster a healthy gut is to eat some fermented foods! Sauerkraut, kimchi, plant-based yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented foods are full of probiotics (I.e., good bacteria) that help keep your gut microbiome in balance. Fermented foods are also easier for the body to digest, meaning the nutrients are more readily available for your body to use. Fermented foods may even have a positive effect on your mood and stress levels!
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
We can’t talk about superfoods without talking about kale...but there are other vegetables in the same family as kale that also deserve superfood status. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, and of course kale, are full of fiber, folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Studies have even suggested that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower rates of a variety of cancers, including breast, pancreatic, bladder, lung, prostate, and colon cancer. Talk about a superpower!
4. Chia and Hemp Seeds
While all nuts and seeds could rightly fit into the superfood category as they’re filled with healthy fats, protein, fiber, and nutrients, two particular seeds stand out – chia and hemp. Both are rare plant sources of complete protein and both contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can help boost brain and immune health. Chia seeds pack a serious fiber punch (around 5g in one tablespoon!) and contain magnesium and calcium. Hemp seeds are full of potassium, magnesium, and iron – great for cholesterol and cardiovascular health.
Many ancient grains like amaranth, millet, sorghum, and fonio have enjoyed renewed popularity in Western countries thanks to their health benefits, and one of the most widely available of these super grains is quinoa. Quinoa is another great source of vegan protein and fiber, as well as several important nutrients including folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron. In addition, it’s high in certain flavonoids with anti-inflammatory qualities, which can help protect against certain diseases and overall mortality.
6. Cocoa and Dark Chocolate
If you’re looking for a reason to enjoy chocolate every day, a study found that cocoa and dark chocolate were higher in antioxidants than any other food tested – including blueberries and acai! In fact, regular consumption of dark chocolate has also been shown to help improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol, and improve brain function. Try adding unsweetened cacao or cocoa powder to your smoothie or coffee, enjoy a piece of dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, or try our Chocolate Lover MacroBar Variety Pack!
A great source of plant-based protein? Check! Full of fiber, magnesium, and iron? Check, check, and check! With a little bit of nearly every essential nutrient, beans and legumes, such as black, pinto, kidney, and navy beans, are true superfoods – and some of the most affordable to enjoy. Studies even show consuming beans can help with regulating blood sugar levels and promoting a healthy cardiovascular system.
Not only is garlic a delicious key ingredient in many of our favorite recipes, but it’s also high in vitamins C, B1, and B6, as well as minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese, and selenium. Its beneficial sulfur compounds can help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol. Plus, raw garlic has major antifungal and antimicrobial properties, making it a great ingredient to consume when you’re feeling under the weather.
Bottom line, superfoods yield an abundance of health benefits; plus, most are convenient and affordable enough to add to your weekly grocery list. To easily add some of these superfoods to your diet, shop GoMacro MacroBars and Kids MacroBars for delicious, plant-based, organic snacks.