Superfoods are nutrient-rich and a catalyst for good health and overall well-being. Not only do they optimize your immune system (fewer missed workdays), but they also have body-healing compounds, reduce inflammation (bad disease instigator), and can kill off harmful bacteria. Added bonus: People who regularly consume super foods are healthier and thinner. What could be better than that?
Some foods are better than others for your health. We can all guess that an apple is better for you than a potato chip. But what about choosing between a couple of pretzels and a few walnuts? Did you know that eating a handful of nuts a few times a week can reduce your risk of getting a heart attack by at least 15% and perhaps as much as 51%? Even if you smoke, are overweight and never exercise. That’s how powerful certain foods are.
Obviously, your success and happiness depends on being in the best health possible, both mind and body. The great news is making these super foods a part of your routine can help you do just that. Here are 14 superfoods that just may help you live a more productive, longer, and healthier life.
This monounsaturated fat fruit contributes to an increased healthy blood flow and brain health. Avocados can lower blood pressure, decreasing the chance of cognitive decline.Avocados are nutrient-rich, high-fiber fruits that may play a role in reducing inflammation and chronic diseases.
Beans are a great source of iron and fiber and can keep your cholesterol levels in check, lower heart disease risk, reduce cancer risk, and keep your body humming for longer periods of time. Studies have proven that those that eat beans on a regular basis weigh 7 pounds less and have a slimmer waist than their bean-abstaining peers.
Berries are full of nutrients and antioxidants which may prevent certain diseases and improve digestion. It doesn’t really matter what kind of berry you eat–they’re all packed with fiber, compounds, and antioxidants that, when eaten regularly, help keep your mind and body strong. Blueberries can help improve memory and can reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. And, a mere cup of strawberries packs a full-day supply of vitamin C, which contains skin-firming properties.
How to include them: When berries are not in season, it is just as healthy to buy them frozen. Add to yogurt, cereal, and smoothies, or eat plain for a snack.
This green vegetable is packed with bone healthy vitamins like C, A, and K and can quell tumor growth and reduce the overall risk of cancer.
Like most high-performing greens, broccoli is high in carotenoids, which help your body rid itself of harmful compounds. Broccoli is the only green veggie with a high level of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane flushes cancer-causing chemicals from the body, making broccoli a champion among superfoods. Other benefits of broccoli include:
- Increased heart health
- Possible increases in cognitive functioning
- Reduction in tumor growth
- Better digestive health due to high fiber
- Help maintaining weight while consuming daily nutrition requirements
5. Dark chocolate
When it comes to chocolate, bitter is better – at least in terms of health. The benefits of chocolate come from flavonols and antioxidants (the same disease-fighting chemicals found in cranberries, apples, strawberries, and red wine). The caveat: Only real cacao contains flavonols, so look for chocolate that boasts a high percentage of cacao (60 percent or more). Dark chocolate also has fewer calories than other varieties, and when eaten in moderation, it lowers unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and prevents plaque from building up in your arteries.
Eggs are rich in high-quality protein and unique antioxidants. Research indicates that eating eggs regularly will not increase your risk of heart disease or diabetes.
Egg yolk contains antioxidants that help keep your eyes healthy, reduce the risk of macular degeneration, and may even protect your skin from UV damage. Eggs also contain brain development and memory-enhancing choline.
7. Fish (the oily variety)
Salmon and sardines are packed with omega-3’s that are incredibly important for brain function and even contain substances that fight off nasty disease-causing inflammation. Salmon is a good source of many nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Limit your consumption of salmon to avoid potential negative effects from contaminants common in fish and seafood.
How to include it: Buy fresh, frozen, or canned fish. Fish with the highest omega-3 content are salmon, tuna steaks, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines.
8. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of fiber and heart-healthy fats. They may reduce your risk of heart disease and support weight loss.
Eat nuts and live longer–the number one reason to eat a handful daily. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health, reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, and can even improve your mood. Rich in omega-3’s, flaxseed–touted as one of the most powerful plant foods available–can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
How to include them: Add a handful to oatmeal or yogurt, or have as a snack. But remember they are calorically dense, so limit to a small handful. Try the various types of nut butters such as peanut (technically a legume), almond, or cashew. Nuts are also a great accompaniment to cooked veggies or salads.
Spirulina is an algae rich in a number of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. You can purchase it in pill, flake, or powder form and add it to smoothies or recipes. Researchers are still working to understand all the health benefits of spirulina, which could include treatment for HIV and herpes. Known benefits include:
- Increased immune support, which may increase the body’s ability to prevent or fight disease
- Healthier heart functions
- Possible protection against allergic reactions
- Possible reduced risk of oral cancer
- Possible reduced risk of liver disorders
Touted as one of the best grains to eat, quinoa is packed with protein, iron, and fiber and can help control weight, lower risk of heart disease, and help prevent diabetes.
This teeny-tiny, grain-like seed packs some serious nutritional prowess. With a mild, nutty flavor and a texture similar to rice or couscous, quinoa is one of the only grains or seeds that provides all nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce themselves. And it’s filled with protein— eight grams per one-cup serving, to be exact!
10. Spinach and kale
Spinach has the power to form healthy new cells and is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And studies have shown that kale may decrease the risk of ovarian, breast, and other cancers.
11. Sweet potatoes
They are rich in vitamin A strengthening the immune system, eye and bone health.They are a highly nutritious food loaded with carotenoids, which have strong antioxidant properties. They may also be beneficial for blood sugar control.
Sweet potatoes contain a high concentration of Vitamin C, but they are also strong in Vitamin A, which boosts immune health and helps the body repair skin and other tissues. Other benefits of sweet potatoes are:
- Antioxidants that help your body fight disease such as cancer
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Help regulating blood sugar
- Antifungal properties
- More efficient brain and nerve functions
Green tea is antioxidant-rich with many health benefits including possible cancer prevention. Tea contains high-quality antioxidants called flavonoids, and because of this, tea can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer, promote healthier bones, gums and teeth, and heighten memory, focus, and mood. For maximum benefit, drink your tea freshly brewed–hot or on ice.
They have something hard to get in any other food–lycopene. And, because of this, tomatoes can help protect skin from UV rays, lower cholesterol, and even prevent some cancers.
Whether you prefer them in salads or on top of pasta, tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a plant nutrient that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene has been linked to many benefits, like keeping your heart healthy and protecting against strokes.
How to include them: Try tomatoes in a salad or as a tomato sauce over your pasta. You can also put them in stews, soups, or chili. Lycopene becomes more available for your body to use when tomatoes are prepared and heated in a healthy fat such as olive oil.
Yogurt contains good bacteria for a healthy gut and reduced intestinal illnesses. And, because it’s so rich in calcium, it also aids in the prevention of osteoporosis.
How to include it: Try eating more yogurt, but watch out for fruited or flavored yogurts, which contain a lot of added sugar. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit. Look for yogurts that have “live active cultures” such as Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus. You can use yogurt in place of mayonnaise or sour cream in dips or sauces.
Achieving optimal health through food and nutrition is about more than focusing on one or two of the latest food trends.Instead, good health is best supported by eating a variety of nutritious foods every day. Including some, or all, of the foods on this list as part of a balanced diet can benefit your overall health and may prevent certain chronic diseases.