The term superfoods is usually applied to healthy, whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds – that contain a high amount of nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidant phytonutrients, enzymes and other substances that boost your energy and protect against disease are found in these foods. Some animal products, like salmon and sardines, are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which guards against cardiovascular problems and boosts brainpower.

What Makes a Food Super?

All superfoods have many vitamins and minerals, although some may contain an abundance of one or more of the nutrients. One cup of kale contains 1180 percent of the daily value of Vitamin K. A cup of spinach has 39 percent of the daily value of magnesium, and one cup of cubed guava fruit has 376.7 mg of vitamin C, more than oranges, strawberries or peaches.

Any unprocessed food with a high nutrient content may fit the superfood label, especially if it’s low in calories. Many nutritious foods (unsurprisingly) also tend to be fruits and veggies. These natural foods are high in fiber or water content to fill you up quickly and help you eat less for the rest of the day. Eating better will make you healthier and ensure you lose weight (or at least maintain your current weight).

11 Super Nutritious Foods

This list isn’t a complete, but it will give an idea of what’s out there if you want to buy more nutritious foods. There are a lot more superfoods out there than you realize, and you may pass them up every time you visit the supermarket. Most of them are in the produce section, but a few, like yogurt and eggs, are in the dairy section. Spices, fermented foods and fresh-caught fish (including salmon) take up the remainder of the spots on the most-wanted list of nutritious foods.

Dark Chocolate

Unsweetened dark chocolate is one of the superfoods everyone can love. The cocoa (or cacao) in dark chocolate has more polyphenols and flavonoids than tea or red wine, giving it the ability to fight free radicals as well as any food.  Buy dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa or cacao (you’ll find this information on the label) to get more antioxidants.

The flavanols in dark chocolate help lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the heart and brain. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate ( about one ounce) a few times a week will satisfy your sweet tooth and protect your heart.

Apples

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and that has some truth to it. Apples are rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, flavonoids and fiber. The antioxidants in apples help protect you against diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  Eat apples with the skin intact to get more nutrients.

Broccoli

A cup of broccoli has 55 calories and contains 245% of Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and transporting calcium to bones. It has 135% of the daily value of Vitamin C and 53% of the DV of chromium, which helps balance blood sugar. Broccoli has a unique blend of antioxidant flavonoids, including kaempferol and quercetin, to keep cells healthy and prevent cancer.

Garlic

Garlic is much more than a flavoring for spaghetti. It contains allicin, which gives this vegetable its distinct smell and most of its health benefits. Garlic can prevent colds and flu, or reduce the number of days you’re sick, according to a University of Florida study. Participants who ate 2.56 grams of garlic extract a day for 45 days had fewer symptoms and improved faster than people who received a placebo.

Garlic has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels

Blueberries

Packed with antioxidants, potassium and Vitamin C, blueberries offer more health benefits than many vegetables. The anti-inflammatory phytoflavonoids in blueberries protect you against cancer and heart disease.

When buying blueberries, opt for darker ones – they contain more antioxidants.

Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, compounds which have been proven to reduce high blood pressure.

Eggs

Eggs get a bad reputation because they contain a lot of cholesterol, but they have plenty of powerful nutrients to counteract it. One study showed that eggs raise HDL, or good cholesterol, and won’t lead to stroke or heart disease in healthy people.

One large, organic, pasture-raised egg has 78 calories and contains 35% of the daily value of choline, a nutrient loosely associated with the B-complex family of vitamins. It also has 28% of the DV of selenium, 27% of the daily value of biotin, and 23% of Vitamin B12. Other nutrients in this powerhouse food are Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, iodine, protein, phosphorus, and Vitamin D.   

Eggs help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts because they contain antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the retina from damage. They are also filling and help you lose weight. One study showed that participants who ate two eggs for breakfast lost more weight than people who ate bagels, even though both meals had the same amount of calories.

Kale

A cup of kale is high in fiber, has no fat and only 36 calories. The nutrients in this super-green include Vitamins K, C, A and lutein, a carotenoid nutrient that supports eye health. Kale also contains organosulfur compounds, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including colon cancer.

Kale has purple or green leaves and comes in four basic types – plain, curly (Scot’s Kale), Leaf and Spear

(curly/plain combination) and Cavolo nero (Dinosaur Kale or Black Cabbage).

Salmon

Salmon has Omega 3 fatty acids to protect you against heart disease and inflammation, but it has a whole lot more. A four ounce serving of wild Coho Salmon has 236% of the daily value of Vitamin B12, which is necessary for energy, cognitive function, and a balanced mood. It also has 128% of the DV of Vitamin D, another nutrient necessary to keep you in a good mood (and help your body absorb calcium and phosphorus.)

Studies show that people who eat fish have a lower risk of heart attacks and unstable angina. (The studies also indicated that fish oil capsules didn’t provide the same protection.)  

Honey

Most Americans consume 150 pounds of sugar a year and only 1.3 pounds of honey. You’ll save calories and reap health benefits by using unfiltered raw honey.  Using honey instead of sugar in coffee or tea will sweeten your drink and may even help you lose weight. One study showed that honey might lower blood sugar and serum triglycerides.

Chia Seeds

Yes, these are the same seeds that sprout green fur on miniature pottery. These tiny seeds are a nutrient-rich addition to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, and cereal. They are packed with fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, and give crunch and texture to any meal. If you’re a vegetarian or don’t like to eat fish, chia seeds are a good way to get more Omega 3s in your diet. But these seeds online or at a health food store – the seeds in your Chia Pet kit aren’t for consumption.

Walnuts

One of the few sources of ALA, a plant-derived Omega 3 fatty acid, walnuts are also a rich source of phenols, including tannins and flavonoids. (Most of the phenols in walnuts are in the skin, so eat this nut with the skin intact.) A quarter-cup of walnuts has 196 calories, so it’s not a low-calorie treat, but it does 113% of the daily value of Omega 3 fatty acids and 51% of the daily value of manganese.

Only 5.5% of U.S. adults eat tree nuts (including walnuts) regularly, but the ones that do consume 157 fewer milligrams of sodium and five grams more fiber a day than those who don’t eat nuts.

A Healthy Food You Can’t Eat

Wheatgrass is one of the real health superfoods you’ve probably heard about on the internet and from your fitness-crazy friends. There’s one major drawback to this nutritious food – humans can’t really eat it! Some people eat wheatgrass (or try to), but it causes nausea, especially on an empty stomach.

You have to drink it in a smoothie (or take a wheatgrass pill) for best results. Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll, the green pigment that gives plants its color. Chlorophyll has dozens of vitamins and minerals, including A, C, E, K and most of the B vitamins, plus zinc, potassium, selenium, manganese and other minerals. And it has hundreds of enzymes and amino acids.

Replace processed food and fast-food with natural superfoods to look and feel better. Once you start eating fresh, whole foods, you won’t be tempted to go back to junk food (although an occasional indulgence is fine). The energy and brainpower you gain from a nutritious diet, along with regular exercise and stress management, will improve your quality of life.

Combining Foods for a More Nutritious Meal

Given the available choices, preparing superfood meals should be easy, even if you’re not a great cook. Combine grilled or baked salmon with acorn squash, pistachios, lemon, and parsley. The fat in the salmon improves how well your body absorbs the vitamins in the veggies. Choose any super-veggie and serve it as a side with salmon or another oily fish. If you’re a vegan, check out this list of easy to make recipes.

Other healthy meals include pumpkin spice oatmeal or a blueberry-banana smoothie for breakfast, a Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad for lunch, or Grilled Halibut with Kale Pistachio Pesto for dinner. For between-meal snacks, make a healthy trail mix snack with walnuts, chia seeds, raisins and dried cranberries.

If you don’t have time to cook, consider contacting a healthy meal delivery service. It may cost more than grabbing takeout, but you’ll get a nutritious low-calorie meal that’s well worth the cost.

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