A superfood is any whole, unprocessed food with a high nutrient density. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Though there aren’t any official recommendations on what constitutes a superfood, the Mayo Clinic rates the healthiest foods as those that are a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and foods that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. There are dozens of different superfoods that meet these criteria. They all fall into 10 different types of superfoods. Here are the 10 types of superfoods that are the healthiest on the planet.
There are dozens of vegetables that are considered superfoods. Most fall under the sub-category of leafy greens. Kale, microgreens, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, watercress, romaine lettuce, and Swiss chard are some of the healthiest leafy greens around. They’re high in vitamins A, C, and K. Leafy greens also contain lutein and beta-carotene, which reduce oxidative stress on the body. There is one vegetable superfood that doesn’t fall under the leafy green umbrella: mushrooms. These tiny treasures are full of fiber and low in fat. They’re also one of the only plant foods that are high in vitamin D.
Just like in with vegetables, most fruit superfoods fall under the same sub-category. In this case, that category is berries. Blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, acai berries, and cranberries are some of the healthiest berries you can eat. They’re high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant polyphenols. One outlier: avocados. Yes, avocados are considered a fruit, and a very healthy one at that. They’re packed with healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients, including folate, magnesium, and potassium.
Contrary to what some low carb diets would have many believe, there are even some grains that make the superfood list. Amaranth, buckwheat, farro, and quinoa are all exceptionally healthy grains. Rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. They can also help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy weight.
Not all meat makes the cut as a superfood. In fact, only one type is considered healthy enough: fish. Filled with protein and vitamins D and B2, fish is one of the healthiest foods on earth. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your body and brain. Fish is also high in rich in calcium and a great source of iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium. One of the healthiest types of fish is wild-caught salmon. Salmon is especially high in omega-3s and low in mercury.
Many nutritionists label eggs as a superfood due to their high nutrient density. In just one small egg, you’ll find iron, phosphorus, selenium, and a high amount of choline, which is an important nutrient for the brain. Additionally, eggs do not cause high cholesterol as previously suspected. Although high in dietary cholesterol, eating eggs does not adversely affect cholesterol levels in the blood.
There are two superfoods that fall under the category of dairy: kefir and yogurt. Both are high in probiotics, which help populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. They’re also high in protein, calcium, B vitamins, and potassium. Kefir is especially healthy because it is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, and helps stimulate the immune system.
7. Nuts and Seeds
There are quite a few nuts and seeds that are considered superfoods. The healthiest nuts include almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. These nuts are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Plus, they provide various health benefits — especially in regard to reducing the risk of heart disease. Seeds, such as flax, chia, and hemp seeds, are also especially healthy. Flax and chia seeds are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as a whole host of antioxidants. Hemp seeds are also high in omega-3s, and they’re one of the few plants that are considered a complete protein source.
8. Herbs and Spices
The use of herbs and spices as medicinal superfoods has been in practice for centuries. For example, turmeric contains curcumin, which has been found to reduce inflammation and diseases often associated with inflammation, including obesity, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Cinnamon has also been found to lower triglycerides in the blood as well as blood sugar.
Natural antioxidants called polyphenols are found in both caffeinated and herbal teas. Tea is also high in catechins, which are a type of natural phenol that prevents cell damage and reduces free radicals. Green, chamomile, and white tea are all great choices for the most health benefits.
Many nutritionists label olive oil as a superfood. It’s high in monounsaturated fats, making it great for heart health. It also contains vitamins E and K and is loaded with powerful antioxidants. It also can help reduce inflammation due to the presence of oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen.
Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, the 10 types of superfoods listed above are a healthy addition to any balanced diet.