One of the easiest ways to eat healthier is to start eating superfoods. To make the transition as easy as possible, we’ve put together a list of 50 superfoods and why they’re so good for you. Food advertising can be confusing; it’s hard to know if low-fat, low-sugar, whole grain, all natural, or organic is the healthiest for you and your family. Eating these single ingredient, non-processed foods is a simple way to change your eating habits and be healthier. At the bottom of the article, we also break down the importance of certain vitamins, as well as define some of the nutritional terms.
These crunchy, tangy fruits have always been known to keep the doctor away and keep you healthy. Apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin that has been linked to reducing the risk of lung cancer. Apples are also full of fiber and boron, which is a natural diuretic. Eating more apples has been linked to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma.
Apricots are a superfood because they are a great source of vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is important for having healthy eyes and a strong immune system.
This high fiber, spiky vegetable contains a lot magnesium, which is important for more than 300 biochemical reactions within the human body. Artichokes may also help to lower cholesterol and regulate digestion.
These little stalks of goodness are a natural diuretic, meaning they help prevent bloating and can help rid your body of waste. Asparagus is also high in vitamin K; just a half cup of asparagus will give you half of your daily serving. Asparagus contains a high dose of folate, which can help prevent anemia in adults and birth defects in children when taken during pregnancy.
This great summertime fruit (yes, fruit!) is full of good-for-you healthy fats. The monounsaturated fats contained in avocados are good for your cholesterol, can decrease the risk heart disease, and benefit brain activity. Avocados are also full of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Vitamin B6 is essential in the body for the production of glycogen, a backup source of energy that’s stored in the muscles and liver and promotes skin health.
Bananas are well known for being high in potassium, which is great for muscle health and replacing lost electrolytes after a hard workout or a night of drinking. Bananas are also full of fiber, which helps to fend off hunger, as well as vitamins C and B6.
These red-purple vegetables contain a phytonutrient called betalain, which may help to prevent heart and liver disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. Beets also contain nitrate, which helps blood flow to the brain and might reduce your risk for dementia.
8. Bell Peppers
Red, green, and yellow bell peppers can be cooked in so many different ways and they always taste great. Red peppers even include almost three times your daily-recommended vitamin C intake. They also include lycopene, which reduces risk for certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
These little berries are full of anthocyanin, a flavonoid that will increase the amount of antioxidants in your blood stream. Acai berries also contain essential amino acids that are good for muscle health and regeneration. They may even fend off cancer and aging.
Though sometimes ignored, blackberries contain even more antioxidants than they’re famous cousin the blueberry. Blackberries are also higher in vitamin A and C, magnesium, protein, and they contain less sugar. Anthocyanin, a flavonoid that gives fruits their rich bright colors, is thought to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Blueberries have long been known to be a superfood, but these little blue orbs can pack a big health punch. Blueberries contain fiber, vitamin C, and anthocyanin. They’re known to improve memory by protecting the brain from inflammation and to increase communication between brain cells. They may even reduce your risk or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. Frozen blueberries make for a great snack in the hot summer.
Though most commonly found in Scandinavian countries, lingonberries are closely related to cranberries, meaning they’re good for treating urinary tract infections. They also contain plant polyphenols that lower inflammation, fight staph infections, and replace antioxidants.
For their small size, you might be surprised to find out that the Goji berry contains nearly 500 times more vitamin C per ounce than oranges. These berries also include vitamin E and lots of antioxidants.
10. Black Beans
Black beans are full of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates that will keep you full longer. One cup of beans is 15 grams of protein. When eaten with brown rice, you even get all 9 essential amino acids. Beans contain no saturated fats, which is what differentiates them from red meats. The flavonoids in beans are known to keep arteries pliable and soft.
Broccoli has always been a health food staple. It’s even become the pop culture icon of kids most hated vegetable. But broccoli isn’t all talk, it’s also full of great fiber to help with digestion and to keep you full longer. These greens are full of folate, a B vitamin that can reduce your risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C.
12. Brown Rice
Whole grains are always a healthier choice than refined, white grain foods. This includes brown rice. The whole grain brown rice (you can think of this literally that you’re eating the entire or whole grain, not just the refined grain) is full of fiber, which will fill you up and keep you satisfied for longer. One cup of brown rice also gives you 88 percent of your daily dose of manganese, which is used in the production of energy in the body.
13. Brussels Sprouts
These small, green, leafy globes have gotten a bad rap for their taste, but they have one of the highest nutritional contents. These little guys have more glucosinolates, the compounds that ward off cancer, than any other veggie. Brussels sprouts also contain vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, choline, and even a little protein. Just one cup of brussel sprouts will give you 240 percent of your daily intake of vitamin K1, which is important for proper blood clotting.
Another highly underrated vegetable is the big cousin of the Brussels sprout, the cabbage. These giant balls of fiber are also high in the cancer fighting glucosinolates and vitamins A and C. Red cabbage is also high in anthocyanins.
Not all old wives tales are false; carrots are actually good for your eyes. Just one serving of carrots gives you 210 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A, which is good for healthy skin and eyes. Beta-carotene is what gives carrots their orange color. That beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, which is essential to maintaining good night and color vision. Regular consumption of carrots may help to limit age related eye issues; such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eating lots of brightly colored foods is a great way to maintain a healthy diet, but white-fleshed foods can also be healthy. Cauliflower (and other white-fleshed foods) have been linked to a reduced risk of stroke. These bleach-broccoli looking vegetables are high in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. Due to an interaction with estrogen, cauliflower may reduce risk of uterine, cervical, and breast cancers.
Eating a little of every color is so much easier when cherries are in season. The dark crimson color (no, not the cherries on top of your ice cream sundae) of the cherry flesh comes from anthocyanins. Cherries and tart cherry juice has been linked with muscle recovery. Studies found that runners who drank tart cherry juice before and after a marathon reported less muscle pain and fatigue. Cherries have natural anti-inflammatory effects that can help muscle soreness, arthritis, gout, and even heart disease. Cherries also have a high content of melatonin, which helps to regulate the sleep/wake cycle and helps you to sleep longer and better. Montmorency cherries have 6 times higher melanin content than other cherries.
18. Chia Seeds
These small seeds have been prized for thousands of years by the ancient cultures of South America and are just now seeing a resurgence in the modern diet. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and phosphorous. The seeds are a complete protein that offers all 9 essential amino acids. Just 3 tablespoons of chia seeds contain 10 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Click here to read more about best uses for chia seeds.
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19. Coconut/Coconut oil
The coconut is one of the only natural sources of lauric acid, which helps to prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure. New research shows that the natural saturated fats in coconut and coconut oil are not bad for you like processed fats. Coconut oil is also a natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It has also been proven to treat acne scars.
20. Dark Chocolate
Though all good things should be eaten in moderation, one of those good things that you shouldn’t feel guilty for is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that help to keep your body and heart healthy. It’s important when choosing your dark chocolate to buy some that’s as close to the source as possible with the minimum amount of additives and added sugar.
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Edamame, which is simply steamed, unshelled soybeans, is a great source of plant protein. Just one cup of edamame has 22 grams of protein and 18 grams of fiber. The component thought responsible for most of edamames health benefits is a type of phytoestrogen that works with the soy proteins to protect against cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Eggs are sometimes listed as bad for you because the yolks are high in cholesterol. But if you’re not eating eggs, you’re missing out on a great source of protein. Even if you do suffer from high cholesterol, there are other ways to cut back. Eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids and 6 grams of protein for only 72 calories. Eggs are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Egg yolks are full of choline, a B vitamin that’s important for maintaining a healthy brain, for sending messages from the brain to the muscles, retaining memory, and balancing your metabolism.
23. Flax Seeds
These fibrous seeds are great additions for your morning smoothie. Flax seeds are full of plant omega-3 fatty acids and more lignans than any other food. Lignans may prevent endometrial, ovarian, breast, and prostate cancer. Make sure to ground your flax seed before ingesting or your body won’t be able to absorb all of their goodness. An ounce of flax seeds will give you 8 grams of fiber and 12 grams of fatty acid.
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Garlic is useful for more than flavoring your next dish. Garlic, when crushed or chopped, releases a compound called allicin which has been shown to kill 23 types of bacteria, including staphylococcus and salmonella. Garlic has also been shown to fight prostate cancer and yeast infections.
Grapes are heart healthy for you in the same way that red wine is. Grapes (and red wine) are full of a phytonutrient called resveratrol which can lower LDL, the bad cholesterol. Darker grapes (red and purple) also have a higher content of anthocyanins than green grapes.
Kale has the largest amount of antioxidants of any fruit or veggie. This powerhouse vegetable contains 90 milligrams of fiber per cup while spinach only contains 30 milligrams. Kale has high levels of iron, vitamins C, A, and K, calcium, carotene, lutein, and vitamin B6. All of those healthy nutrients in just one little leaf!
Everything in moderation. Though kale may be the superest of super foods, it’s good to rotate your greens and make sure you’re getting a little of everything. Collard greens are similar to kale but are less well known. One study found that collard greens actually lowered some people’s cholesterol more than the cholesterol lowering medication.
These powerful leafy greens are a top source of vitamin K. Just one cup contains 524 percent of your daily value of vitamin K. Mustard greens are also high in fiber and antioxidants.
This well-known salad leaf is great for your cardiovascular health and brain function. A half-cup of spinach provides more than 5 times your daily dose of vitamin K. You can also get the same amount of iron per serving from spinach that you can from beef.
Also high in vitamin K, Swiss chard is closely related to beets. Vitamin K is great for your overall cardiovascular health.
Oranges aren’t the only place to get your vitamin C. One cup of kiwi, or about two medium-sized fruits, contains 273 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of tissues throughout your whole body. (One cup of oranges contains only 160 percent of your daily vitamin C.) One cup of kiwi also contains more potassium than a cup of sliced bananas and it even contains less sugar. Can’t beat that!
These citrus fruits have long been used to treat scurvy, but they’re still important today in our modern diet. One small lemon can contain up to a third of your daily dose of vitamin C, which is essential for collagen creation to keep your skin, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments strong. Limes contain even more vitamin C than lemons. No wonder that lemon detox can be so powerful for health.
Lentils are a great source of plant protein with a half-cup giving you half of your daily folate, a B vitamin. Lentils are also low on the glycemic index, which means that they cause very little spike in the blood sugar unlike other starches.
You might be surprised to learn that mangoes are a part of the same family as pistachios and cashews. Now just think about that. Mangoes contain a high level of vitamin B6, which is essential for memory and might even slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. Mangoes also have high concentrations of alpha- and beta-carotene, which promote healthy eyes.
This fungi is surprisingly full of fantastic nutrients. Almost devoid of all fat, sugar, and salt, these are a valuable addition to any healthy diet. Mushrooms contain fiber, all five B vitamins, folate, potassium, iron, and selenium, which can be found in very few foods. With all the nutrition packed in, mushrooms can help to control blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Other than mushrooms, this is one of the only places to ingest selenium. But be careful not to overdose, one nut contains your full daily serving.
Peanuts are full of healthy fats and more protein than any other nut. They also contain arginine, which is an amino acid that keeps blood vessels healthy and pliable.
You can just call walnuts the happy nut. These nuts are loaded with serotonin, a brain chemical that is directly tied with happiness. Not only that, just 14 walnut halves contain more than twice the daily dose of an omega-3 fatty acid that’s been linked with memory and coordination improvement.
Almonds are well known as a great snack food, but you might be shocked at how few are actually in a serving. One serving of almonds will fit in the palm of your hand. These nuts are full of healthy fats that promote heart health and lower bad cholesterol.
These small nuts are full of tons of nutrition. Pine nuts can improve your eyesight with vitamin A and lutein, they can help you build stronger bones with vitamin D, boost your immune system with vitamin C, and also give you a small portion of iron and protein.
Another great nut for snacking is the pistachio. One ounce of pistachios contains almost the same amount of potassium as a banana. One ounce or about 45 nuts is one serving. Research has found that most people eat 41 percent more calories when eating unshelled pistachios. When you don’t have to crack the shell and work for it, be careful not over indulge in those healthy fats.
Oats, especially when steel cut and unprocessed, are a great form of fiber to improve digestion, keep you fuller longer, lower cholesterol, and control blood sugar levels.
34. Olive Oil
Olive oil is packed with healthy monounsaturated fats that are great for replacing other, less healthy fats. Olive oil is especially useful for replacing butter when cooking. Olive oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and could ward off cancer with its high vitamin E content.
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Oranges are a great fruit for strengthening your immune system and replacing electrolytes. This bright orange fruit is full of vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B1 for good brain development.
Papaya is great for your skin in more ways than one. Papaya has a unique ingredient called papain that helps to break down dead skin cells and promote healthy skin renewal. It’s also high in vitamin C, E, and carotenoids; such as beta-carotene and lycopene, which are all beneficial for younger, healthier looking skin.
With their delicate skin dappled with orange and red, these little fruits are full of polyphenols and good nutrients; such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium.
This spiky, tangy fruit is full of an enzyme called bromelain that has been used since ancient times to reduce inflammation, slow blood clotting, and even improve the absorption of antibiotics. But beware; pineapple is high in sugar with 16 grams per cup, which is almost half the recommended daily dose.
Pomegranates have become known as a bit of a miracle fruit. The crimson color of its inside reveals that this fruit is high in antioxidants, which will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Though great for your heart, pomegranate and lots of pomegranate juices are high in sugar, be aware of what you’re eating.
Known as a bit of a grandma fruit, dried plums aren’t just great for digestion. Prunes have twice the amount of antioxidants as blueberries and they’re full of polyphenols, which stimulate bone growth. They’re also full of fiber and naturally occurring sorbitol, both of which aid digestion and prevent constipation.
Pumpkins aren’t just for carving and scaring children on Halloween anymore. Bright orange pumpkins are full of alpha- and beta-carotene, which are both natural cancer fighters and can be turned into retinol for healthy eyes. Pumpkin seeds are a powerhouse food in their own right; they’re full of magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acid.
Another important grain to add to your diet is quinoa, which contains high fiber and all nine essential amino acids. In just one cup of quinoa, you’ll get 8 grams of protein. Quinoa cooks just like rice and is known for containing a large amount of lysine, an amino acid that’s important for tissue growth and repair.
Salmon is one of the simplest ways to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Just 3 oz. of salmon is all you need for your full serving of omega-3s and to promote heart health. Salmon is also high in selenium and vitamin D. Make sure your salmon is not farm raised since wild caught salmon is higher in nutritional value.
It may sound strange to eat algae, but this blue-green algae is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. Just to name a few, spirulina has more protein than lentils or red meat, omegas 3, 6, and 9, lots of B vitamins, and 26 times the calcium of milk. If you don’t like the idea of eating algae, find a protein powder that contains spirulina or just add powdered spirulina to your smoothies. Make sure that you know how to tell if your spirulina is contaminated.
Most fruits and vegetables start losing nutritional value as soon as they’re picked from the vine, but not sprouts. Sprouts continue producing enzymes and nutrients even after being picked. They’re also high in chlorophyll, vitamin C, and protein.
46. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a classic road trip food for munching on and keeping you awake at the wheel, but it’s not just the chewing that’s keeping you awake. Sunflower seeds are high in phenylalanine, which is an amino acid that your body turns into the brain chemical norepinephrine, which helps to keep you alert and focused.
47. Sweet Potatoes
Bright orange in color, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A and used for keeping eyes healthy. Just half a sweet potato can give you 450 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A to keep your eyesight good, improves mood, and keeps bones strong.
Drinking hot tea is a great alternative to sweet drinks like sodas, sport drinks, and energy drinks, but that’s not the only reason it’s a great choice. Green tea is also high in EGCG, which is a powerful phytochemical that can prevent cancer by slowing irregular cell growth. Both green and black teas are high in catechins, which can help to lower cholesterol.
The reason your tomatoes are bright red in color is from lycopene. This fantastic antioxidant can benefit you by giving you better skin and reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of lutein, vitamin C, A, and E.
If you need some probiotics to help with digestion, Greek yogurt is the thing to eat. Probiotics are good gut bacteria that help to keep your digestion regulated and healthy. Many yogurt options are high in sugar, so make sure to read the nutrition label and get one without added sugar. Greek yogurt is also a good choice because it has twice the amount of protein and less carbohydrates and sodium than other yogurts.
- Glucosinolates: Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing chemicals most commonly found in cruciferous vegetables that give the veggies their bitter smell and flavor. New research is finding that glucosinolates could help to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the human body.
- Vitamin A: Important for good vision, a healthy immune system, and proper cell growth. Vitamin A comes in two forms; from animal products it’s called retinoid and from plant products it’s called beta-carotene.
- Vitamin C: This common little vitamin is well known as an immune system booster, but it can also protect against cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkles.
- Vitamin E: Important for healthy skin, strong immunity, and healthy eyes. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it will only be absorbed into the system when eaten with fat. Though deficiencies are rare, some people with very low-fat diets may have a vitamin E deficiency.
- Vitamin K: Is most important for blood to properly clot. Vitamin K can be broken down into K1, which is found primarily in leafy green vegetables, and K2, which is primarily found in meats, cheeses, and eggs. K1 is more commonly missing from the modern diet.
- B Vitamins: There are 12 B vitamins and all play an essential role in converting food into energy keeping our bodies running throughout the day.
- Phytosterols: Found only in plants, these compounds are similar to cholesterol and compete for absorption in the gut. Research is well established that these chemicals help to lower cholesterol.
- Anthocyanin: This flavonoids is what gives dark colored fruits (red, purple, blue, and black) their rich hues. Scientists believe that these flavonoids could limit risks for cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as improve cognitive function. There are also many other claims made about anthocyanins health benefits that have not been fully researched or substantiated yet.
- Antioxidants: Is a substance that removes potentially damaging oxidizing organisms in the human body.
- Folate: Folic acid or folate is one of the B vitamins that is essential in the making of DNA. Folate is especially important for women who are pregnant as a deficiency in folate can cause a wide range of birth defects. For adults, folate is used in the creation of red and white blood cells and for converting carbohydrates into energy.
Nutrition and food advertising can make choosing the “right” foods difficult. A couple great rules to live by to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients that you need is to eat a wide variety of colors in your diet and to eat foods that are as natural as possible. The closer it is to how it came out of the ground, the healthier it will be for your body. Superfoods are a great way to add nutrition and variety to your diet. As you read our list, maybe check off the foods you eat regularly and know you like. The ones that aren’t checked off, try to add one or two to your diet each week. Make sure to keep switching things up to give your body the wide variety of nutrition that it needs from many different sources.