Everyone knows that eating healthy means consuming lots of fruits and vegetables. However, there are certain foods that pack an especially high nutrient punch. These foods are called superfoods and contain more vitamins and minerals than the average fare. Typically, superfoods are plant-based, but there are a couple outliers, including fish and yogurt. According to the Mayo Clinic, superfoods are a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they also help improve heart health. Here are 50 nutrient powerhouse superfoods that can enrich your diet:
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods in the world. It’s packed with antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamin C, and various flavonoids and polyphenols.
The nutrient content of microgreens is concentrated, which means they have higher vitamin and antioxidant levels than mature greens. In fact, a study found that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than that of mature greens.
- Collard Greens
Taking in less vitamin K than recommended can increase the risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture. Just one cup of cooked collard greens provides 770 micrograms of vitamin K, which is more than the recommended daily amount based on the 2015-2020 United States Dietary Guidelines.
Free radicals, a byproduct of metabolism, can cause oxidative stress, which has been found to cause accelerated aging and increases the risk of cancer. One small study found that spinach may be able to prevent oxidative damage.
Cabbage is high in fiber and contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and sulfur. It’s also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer.
- Beet Greens
Beet greens provide excellent amounts of both calcium and magnesium. Plus, eating beets and beet green has been shown to lower blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, or pressure when the heart contracts.
Watercress is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, K, and E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, and more. In fact, a one-cup serving of watercress provides over 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and healthy bones.
- Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce has just 8 calories and about one gram of carbohydrates per cup. It’s low in fiber, but high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium.
- Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is high in the flavonoid, Vitexin, which has been shown to help fight heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and preventing dangerous blood clots. Plus, Swiss chard is high in polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin E, and plant pigments.
- Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes, especially those that are orange and purple, are rich in antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, which can help prevent certain cancers, heart disease, and aging. They’re also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Mushrooms contain beneficial properties that may be effective in fighting cancer. They have also been shown to have the ability to stimulate the immune system.
Seaweed has the unique ability to absorb iodine from the ocean. In fact, one dried sheet of seaweed can contain anywhere from 11 to 1,989% of the recommended daily intake of iodine, which can help prevent thyroid and hormone disorders.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is a carotenoid that is responsible for their red colors. Lycopene has been found to provide beneficial health effects, including reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are extremely rich in antioxidants. One study found that participants who ate two cups of Brussels sprouts daily experienced a whopping 18 percent reduction in damage to their cells from oxidative stress.
Blueberries are believed to have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. The flavonoid, anthocyanin, is thought to be responsible for many of blueberries’ beneficial health effects.
Raspberries are high in several antioxidants, including vitamin C, quercetin, and ellagic acid. These antioxidants may help protect against certain diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Apples are especially high in fiber, which makes them very filling. A study found that people who ate apple slices before a meal felt fuller and actually ate an average of 200 fewer calories than those who didn’t.
Strawberries contain more than 25 different anthocyanins, a specific type of antioxidant plant compound. Anthocyanins have been found to have numerous health benefits, especially regarding heart health.
- Acai Berries
Studies have suggested that acai may be able to improve cholesterol levels by decreasing “bad” LDL cholesterol. In fact, a 2011 study found that people who enjoyed acai smoothies twice daily for one month had lower total and LDL cholesterol at the end of the study.
Quercetin, an antioxidant that may be able fight free radicals, improve inflammation, and prevent disease, is one of the most abundant antioxidants in cranberries. In fact, cranberries are one the main fruit sources of quercetin in the world.
Bananas are rich in pectin and resistant starch, which has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and keep hunger at bay by slowing the emptying of the stomach. Additionally, bananas rank low to medium on the glycemic index, especially under-ripe bananas.
Avocados contain a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and important phytochemicals. Studies have found that avocados may help support cardiovascular health, weight management, and healthy aging.
Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that provides fiber, protein, micronutrients, and many more essential nutrients. It has also been found to have a powerful an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Studies have linked buckwheat intake to lower blood sugar for those who have diabetes. This is believed to be due to the unique compound D-chiro-inositol, an important antioxidant found in buckwheat.
- Wheat Germ
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), evidence suggests that wheat germ can help control cholesterol levels. Keeping cholesterol levels low can help lower the risk of heart disease.
Quinoa is especially high in two antioxidants called quercetin and kaempferol. These plant compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer effects.
Salmon contains more omega-3 fatty acids than virtually any other food on earth, and it’s especially high in both EPA and DHA. These fatty acids have been shown to have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and lowering the risk of cancer.
Cod is a great source of protein and low in calories, fat, and carbs. It’s also high in B vitamins, which have been shown to have numerous impacts on brain heath, including neurodegenerative and other diseases.
Eggs and Dairy
Eggs are high in a number of essential vitamins and nutrients, but especially choline. Many people are low in this essential nutrient, which repairs cell membranes and has been shown to improve brain health. Just one egg provides 100 micrograms of choline.
Kefir has even more probiotic content than yogurt. In fact, kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making them a very diverse and beneficial probiotic source.
Consuming probiotic-rich yogurt can help strengthen the immune system and reduce the likelihood of contracting an illness. Probiotics can help reduce inflammation, which has been shown to reduce viral infections, improve digestion, and more.
Beans and Legumes
Chickpeas are full of fiber, which has numerous benefits for digestive health. Additionally, soluble fiber can help increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut while helping to prevent overpopulation of unhealthy bacteria.
Lentils are rich in polyphenols. Some of the polyphenols in lentils, including procyanidin and flavanols, have been found to have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
Nuts and Seeds
In addition to numerous other benefits, almonds are one of the world’s best sources of vitamin E. Several studies have linked vitamin E intake with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Pistachios contain more antioxidants than many other nuts and seeds. They’re especially high in two antioxidants, polyphenols and tocopherols, which have been found to help protect against hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and more.
Walnuts are significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. Walnuts are especially high in a certain type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a type of fat that can only be obtained from dietary sources.
- Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are high in protein, linoleic fatty acids, vitamin E, and so much more. Eating plenty of sunflower seeds as a part of a healthy diet is believed to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
- Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, which can help reduce appetite and overall food intake. In fact, a study found that eating chia seeds for breakfast reduced the amount of food participants ate and improved satiety.
- Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain a large amount of an amino acid called arginine. Arginine produces nitric oxide in the body, which has been found to make the blood vessels dilate and relax, reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure.
Herbs and Spices
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to be a preventative from neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and autoimmune diseases.
Cinnamon is packed with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols. In fact, in one study that compared 26 spices, cinnamon was the one that showed the most antioxidant properties, even more than garlic and oregano.
Cumin is high in antioxidant properties and may also be beneficial in protecting the body against certain types of cancer. In fact, a study compared nine herbs and spices, and found that cumin was one of the most powerful anticarcinogenic plants.
Sage is packed with antioxidant properties, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and rosmarinic acid. Additionally, sage has been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels in rats with type 1 diabetes by activating a receptor in the body that improves insulin sensitivity.
Garlic has been found to boost the function of the immune system. One study found that a daily supplement of garlic reduced the number of colds the participants caught by 63% compared to a placebo.
Gingerol is compound in ginger that has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ginger also is effective against nausea, and there is evidence that it relieves nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
- Green tea
Green tea contains a specific catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which provides much of the antioxidant properties of the tea. Green tea has been found to increase fat loss and boost metabolic rate.
Chamomile helps improve the quality and length of sleep. It’s high in apigenin, an antioxidant that has been shown to bind to receptors in the brain to promote sleepiness that can help combat insomnia.
- White Tea
White tea is packed with catechins, a type of polyphenols. Polyphenols act as antioxidants to protect the cells from damage by compounds called free radicals. In fact, white tea is one of the best types of teas for fighting free radicals.
- Olive oil
Olive oil is made primarily of a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Studies have found that this specific type of fatty acid reduces inflammation and may even help provide protection against certain types of cancer.
- Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is high in lutein, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant for eye health. In fact, eating a diet high in lutein may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
These superfoods are some of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. They should all be considered as part of a healthy diet.