I was wondering the same thing – in terms of a definition – and I had to visit numerous online dictionaries before I actually found one that had a definition. This suggests that the reality of superfoods has not yet gone “mainstream.”
You, then, are ahead of the general population just by being curious and willing to learn. You’ve probably been eating some superfoods regularly but didn’t realize their powerhouse nutritive support.
And you’ve probably never heard of others. I’d like to share 21 superfoods for you to consider adding into your lifestyle habits.
Superfoods are nutritionally dense foods whose properties are far superior to other foods.
According to thefreedictionary.com: superfoods are “a non-medical term popularized in the media to refer to foods that can have health-promoting properties such as reducing one’s risk of disease or improving any aspect of physical or emotional health.
So-called superfoods may have an unusually high content of antioxidants, vitamins, or other nutrients.”
You can’t really have a discussion about superfoods without looking at the ORAC scale. ORAC means Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, “a measure of the ability of a food or any other substance to quench oxygen free radicals in a test tube” (6)
Many superfoods have been measured in this manner and are high in antioxidant qualities – hence, one of the many reasons they are considered “super” – or superior – in nature.
BERRIES & FRUIT
This beautiful berry harvested in the Brazilian rainforest, is dark purple in color and is similar in size to the blueberry. High in antioxidants, healthy fats and amino acids, Acai is often found in energy/superfood beverages.
Antioxidants are known to counteract oxidation in the cell. Oxidation is accelerated by lifestyle choices of alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, exposure to the sun, and pollution.
While we cannot escape all these variables, we can make wise choices. Acai has an ORAC score of 5500/100 grams.
Often considered a vegetable, avocados are actually a fruit. Enjoyed by people across the globe, avocados are high in healthy fats and fiber, are low in carbohydrates and offer the full spectrum of amino acids.
They are rich in vitamins and phytosterols (which keep inflammation in the body under control). Enjoy avocado alone as a snack, as a side to a delicious meal, in a salad or a favorite is guacamole.
Avocado is also an excellent addition to your healthy fat smoothie.
Who isn’t familiar with the blueberry?! This delicious and sweet berry is high in antioxidants. Blueberries have been shown to protect the brain, heart and liver against oxidative, age related damage.
(1) Easy to enjoy in smoothies, in a bowl with fresh, organic cream or simply by the handful, adding this berry to your diet provides a low calorie, vitamin and mineral rich addition.
And fortunately for blueberry pie or cobbler lovers, it’s been shown that blueberries are heat stable, meaning that they do not lose their superfood properties when subjected to heat! (1) ORAC: 6552
GOJI / WOLF BERRIES
These nutritionally dense powerhouse berries are found in China’s “herbal medicine valley” and are high in 21 essential minerals, 18 amino acids, vitamin B1, B3 and C as well as protein, fiber and more. (1)
An excellent choice to support the immune system, this berry deserves your attention. The Chinese have used this berry medicinally for thousands of years. Known for the balancing effect on our chi, the goji berry does not warm or cool (traditional Chinese medicine). (2)
According to D. Gary Young: With over 15% protein by weight and one of the highest vitamin, mineral and amino acid profiles of any food I have ever encountered, the wolfberry represents a breakthrough in nutritional medicine.
It is more than just a berry or an herb; it is a hybrid between a food, vitamin, herb and medicine, a superfood that represents the future of therapeutic nutrition. (1) ORAC: 25,300
Pomegranate, that strange apple-like fruit that when you break it open is fully of beautiful, glistening red seeds. The nutrition lives within those seeds and the juice.
Nutrient rich, the pomegranate offers Vitamin C, potassium and B5. With an ORAC score of 2860/100 grams, this fruit is a powerful anecdote to free radicals. (14)
Who would have thought this delicious berry would be high in antioxidants, anti inflammatory and phytonutrient properties? It’s true! Raspberries are also high in fiber, vitamin C and are heart friendly.
High in elegiac acid, a polyphenol, the berries may be effective in cancer prevention; the allergic acid binds the cancer-causing chemicals, thus making them inactive. They strengthen your veins and circulatory system as well. (19) ORAC: 4900
Coconut is amazing in the nutritional support it gives you – not just by eating or drinking, but even using it in your personal care products.
Nothing compares to coconut oil! The flavor is tantalizing, the benefits astounding. Coconut water and coconut milk equally important and a delightful addition to your cupboard.
Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, coconut is an important staple in many cultures, primarily Thailand, South and Southeast Asian countries, West Africa, Hawaii and the West Indies. (5)
Coconut oil is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Comprised of what is known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), coconut oil is considered a healthy fat, is easily digested and converted to energy rather than fat within the body. (4).
COCONUT WATER & MILK
According to Dr Josh Axe coconut water and milk differ thusly:
As a coconut matures, more of the water inside is replaced with coconut meat, so mature coconuts tend to be better producers of coconut milk, while younger coconuts (around five–seven months) are the best producers of coconut water.
Coconut water is higher in sugar and certain electrolytes, while coconut milk is higher in healthy saturated fatty acids (from coconut oil) and calories. (5)
Coconut water is an excellent snack type beverage loaded with electrolytes while coconut milk is a great addition to soups, a smoothie base, other cooking or baking. Considered a healthy fat, coconut milk has a slower burn rate and holds the feeling of being full a long time.
Here’s A Favorite Coconut Milk Smoothie Recipe For You To Enjoy:
- 1/4 – 1/3 can coconut milk
- equal part almond milk (or similar)
- half an avocado
- half banana
- handful of berries of choice
- generous handful of spinach leaves
- 1 T chia seeds
Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add protein powder if desired. If it’s too thick, add purified water or a natural juice to desired consistency.
A nut butter is also a delicious addition. ~ You can see this recipe has several healthy fat ingredients which will hold you a good 4-6 hours until your next meal.
MUSHROOMS – Medicinal Mushrooms (7)
Medicinal mushrooms are growing in popularity and in people’s awareness for their powerful, adaptogenic health qualities. They are a viable source with numerous health promoting/supporting capabilities and again offer high antioxidant activity.
The most prevalent feature of the medicinal mushroom is the polysaccharide. Polysaccharides provide fuel and energy as well as protection for our cells.
The adaptogenic quality of the medicinal mushrooms is hugely important because this innate intelligence means your body will get what it needs. Conventional medicine, drugs – over the counter or prescription – typically have one function.
An adaptogen adapts to your specific ecosystem. What this means is both you and I can use the same product and achieve different results simply because our body chemistry requires different things to achieve balance, wholeness, and health.
Unlike a drug, they become part of your cell structure. This is truly nature at its finest!
More expensive than gold itself, this mushroom supports the endocrine system, is a powerful stress regulator, replenishes the adrenals and supports hormones. Excellent for endurance activities, athletes find much support with this superfood. (7)
Cordyceps are rich in antioxidants, improve kidney and lung functions as well as balance. They also enhance both energy and immunity. Cordyceps are also known for their anticancer properties. (22)
LINGZHI/REISHI – Ganoderma Lucidum
Lingzhi – Chinese
Reishi – Japanese
Known as the King of medicinal mushrooms, the Lingzhi has a 5000 year history in traditional Chinese Medicine and is the most revered and studied of all medicinal mushrooms.
It is known as the herb of longevity, immortality and is said to be the symbol for good luck, good health and happiness. Imagine enjoying lingzhi on a daily basis!
Study of the Lingzhi has shown it has over 400 immunomodulating properties, increases circulation, promotes cardiovascular function, stimulates the immune system, brings equilibrium to weight management, reduces stress, maintains reproductive health and potency, and enhances sleep. (8)
Most importantly, the Lingzhi is known for its anticancer properties. Loaded with triterpenes and polysaccharides, Lingzhi prevents the spread of tumors. (20)
Research has shown Lingzhi to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and kills cancer cells directly. It extends life, reduces side effects of traditional treatment and increases quality of life. (21)
MAITAKE (Dancing Mushroom)
Maitake offers significant immune support, is anti viral, anti bacterial, helps the liver, and regulates the Ph within the body. This regulation of our Ph alone makes it an excellent superfood for cancer, as it activates natural killer cells and annihilates harmful pathogens. (8) (9)
SHIITAKE (Elixir of Life)
Known for it’s culinary deliciousness, it is also a powerful superfood. Used for centuries in Chinese Medicine, this mushroom strengthens the heart, liver, stomach, kidneys, has anti aging properties, and has a highly bioavailable source of iron.
Highly effective in cancer fighting properties and still, leaving that element out, the shiitake far outweighs the typical white button mushroom found in the traditional grocery in the protein, fiber, minerals and B and D2 vitamins they contain. (8) (10)
NUTS & SEEDS
The enjoyment of eating almonds dates back to 4000 BC! As science reveals increasing benefits of eating almonds (raw, the nut butter, milk, meal or flour), they are becoming more popular and sought after.
A healthy fat, almonds are powerful antioxidants, offer a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids and are an excellent source of fiber. (11) Almonds provide nourishment to the brain and support healthy gut flora – crucial for digestion as well as elimination.
An easy thing to habituate is to soak five or six raw almonds in a small amount of purified water overnight. In the morning, eat the almonds mindfully to add all their healthy fat and fiber into your day.
Don’t discard the water! Drink it or simply add it to a smoothie. This practice will help set the stage for healthy digestion throughout your day. ORAC: 4454
Another excellent source of fiber, protein and healthy fats, this nut helps control hunger which in turn will help curb appetite (in a healthy manner), thereby bringing weight into balance.
Brazil nuts offer a plethora of nutrition, including minerals, B complex, vitamin E and selenium. No other food is richer per serving in selenium than the brazil nut. Selenium is an antioxidant, which, as we’ve established, protects the cell from damage. It is also vitally important in healthy thyroid function. (13)
This tiny seed is a powerhouse of nutrition – it is truly a superfood! A healthy fat, chia is easy to add into your diet – add to your smoothie, baking, salads, sauces, oatmeal. It slows digestion, giving it “staying power” and helping you feel full longer.
Chia is rich in Omega 3s and fiber, calcium (bone and teeth health), phosphorus (good for cell repair) and an excellent support for good cholesterol. (12)
In the interest of space, I’m putting all nut butters in one category. Nuts are a superfood in and of themselves and when ground into a spreadable butter, the delicious goodness can be added to your baking, smoothies, and/or a complement to your sliced apple or celery.
Nut butters are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega 3s.
Ginger is a gnarly type root used as both a spice and as medicine. High in anti inflammatory properties, ginger has been known to help with joint issues (where inflammation loves to make itself known).
It is also calming to the stomach, helpful with motion sickness and nausea. It’s ORAC measure is 14,840/100 grams, making it an excellent addition to your diet for its ability to combat cell oxidation. (16)
For a fascinating look at all the ways the various countries and cultures of the world use ginger, visit Wikipedia. (15) Ginger is used around the world in beverages, medicinally and in cooking.
Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is known primarily for its anti-inflammatory properties and curcumin, a major active ingredient with antioxidant and anticancer properties and the primary pharmacological substance supporting the reduction of inflammation in the body.
Turmeric is a personal favorite of mine. Having suffered two concurrent concussions (traumatic brain injury) one year ago, I tripled my use of turmeric to reduce the inflammation in my brain. This was an intuitive process later verified by kinesiology.
In addition to inflammation, turmeric supports the heart, liver, digestion, bowel and skin.It is also said to prevent cancer. (17) ORAC: 127,068
A member of the dark green leafy group, there are numerous varieties of kale – my favorite is dino kale. Leafy greens are important in your diet because they are vitamin, mineral and phytochemical rich.
Kale helps digestion, detoxification, supports the immune system , vision and has also been shown to reduce the risk of, or even combat cancer. (18) It also aids our vision and is an anti-inflammatory agent.
Ideas on how to incorporate kale into your diet: juice it, add to smoothies, lightly saute in coconut oil, and make a kale salad (it’s delicious with sesame dressing).
Another member of the dark green leafy group, spinach offers a plethora of nutritional bang. Readily available in most groceries, spinach supports our vision, is anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, rich in fiber and omega 3’s. An antioxidant, spinach protects us from free radicals.
Spinach is another easy vegetable to incorporate into your lifestyle. Add a few handfuls into your smoothie, add into your scrambled eggs or frittata, saute in coconut oil and add a bit of organic cream or coconut milk for a delicious side. ORAC: 1513
Have you ever considered that honey may, indeed, be a superfood? Forget the processed honey that comes in a plastic bear squeeze bottle! Look for locally sourced honey, preferably in glass containers.
The importance of locally sourced honey goes beyond supporting your local beekeeper. The pollens the bees produce and whose properties are in the honey specifically support you in that same relative environment. It’s a great, easy way to combat allergies.
That said, raw, unprocessed honey is an excellent source of enzymes, is soothing to your digestion, strengthens the immune system, supports the respiratory system and of course tastes delicious!
What we’ve seen here is a repetition of healthy fats, anti-inflammatory support, antioxidants, immune support, and specific system support. I never suggest making huge changes – an attempt to “do it all” at once – as this typically results in overwhelm and ultimately defeat.
Rather, begin by making small changes – one or two at a time. Habituate and then repeat the process by making more changes.
One day, then, you’ll open your cupboard and you won’t see the unhealthy foods you’d once thought as “normal” – and your new normal will be clean, healthy choices that better support your body’s functions. Never seek perfection, only excellence in the one choice you are implementing.
You can find much more information on living a holistic lifestyle in these free magazines and on our YouTube channel.
Marita Rahlenbeck, Transformational Catalyst • Health & Wellness Advocate with special emphasis on Essential Oils and Medicinal Mushrooms.
(1) Ningxia Wolfberry: The Ultimate Superfood, Gary Young ND
(8) A Balanced Life, DVD produced by Alphay Global