There’s a great wide world full of superfood out there that many of us don’t even know about, and some common fruits, herbs, and vegetables that may surprise you. These foods offer the best nutrition possible and help stave off a host of illnesses. They should be part of your diet more often.
The fruit of an Amazon palm tree, acai is full of antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Acai is also a great source of fiber, phytosterols, and trace minerals. Acai has a unique flavor, almost a mixture between a berry and chocolate.
Long valued for its topical use on sunburned tourists, this succulent is also rich in amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It is touted as a digestive aid, marketed as juice, added as pulp to shakes, and may also lower cholesterol.
These orange fruits are often overlooked for their more popular relatives, peaches and nectarines. They are high in antioxidants, beta carotene, and lycopene. They promote heart health and keep LDL cholesterol from sticking. Apricots are also a good source for vitamin A and fiber.
Avocados have had a bum rap for years as a high fat food. It’s true that avocados are high in fat, but this is a good healthy fat that protects your heart. These fruits supply essential omega fatty acids, potassium, folic acid, lutein, and vitamin E. They are great for heart health, lowering cholesterol, keeping eyes functioning properly, and may even defend against certain types of cancer.
Beans and Lentils
Often a substitute for meat due to their high protein content, beans and lentils provide even more benefit than protein. They are low-fat and full of both kinds of fiber and so they leave people feeling full and satisfied longer. They also come stocked with antioxidants, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and potassium.
That dark red-purple color is nature’s way of letting the world know this vegetable is packed with antioxidants. Beets are also excellent sources of fiber, folate, magnesium, and calcium. Often pickled, there are thousands of other ways to use them, roasted, grilled, even made into chips like potatoes.
Blueberries are another super antioxidant, easily recognized by the rich purple-blue color, rich in phytonutrients. These berries are also a high fiber and high water food that makes them the perfect low calorie sweet. They may even help protect the eyes and heart from stress and damage.
Mothers have been making kids eat their broccoli for generations and for good reason. Broccoli has tons of fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The vitamin C makes that iron easier to absorb too. Broccoli aids in digestive health and may be helpful in preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
White rice has been stripped of much of the nutrients it was originally born with. Brown rice provides slow burning carbohydrates that don’t cause sugar spikes, proteins, B vitamins, manganese, selenium, and fiber. The high fiber and water in brown rice means you eat fewer calories before filling up too.
Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t really wheat, so there’s no gluten to worry about. This is another slow burning carbohydrate source that is low on the glycemic index. Buckwheat is high in fiber, amino acids, manganese, magnesium, and antioxidants. It may help with blood pressure and lowering high cholesterol. The seed is also very easy to sprout for added enzymes and bioenergy.
Cabbages are an often forgotten vegetable, relegated to slaw or sauerkraut, when they should be more celebrated. They are an excellent place to get vitamin C, fiber, and iodine for the brain and nervous system. Cabbages also contain sulfur compounds which fight infection and disease.
We’ve been told forever that carrots are good for our eyes. Turns out, they really are. Carrots are rich in beta carotene (vitamin A) which replenishes the eye’s stores, helps flush toxins, and aids in resisting stress. Carrots are also a good place to get soluble fiber to lower cholesterol along with vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and folate.
Cinnamon has some of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice and many foods. It’s not just for cinnamon toast or seasonal baking. Cinnamon can be easy sprinkled over many dishes or made into a tea to warm your heart and soul on cold mornings. It may also lower cholesterol and is showing some interesting promise in helping to control blood sugar.
We all know citrus is rich in vitamin C, but these fruits also provide soluble fiber, thiamin, and potassium. They are low calorie foods that can be eaten as fruit or added to recipes for flavor.
Coconut is another fruit that got a bad name when it came to fat, but we now know coconut is rich in healthy medium chain triglycerides. These little saturated fats are more easily absorbed and burned by the body instead of being stored, and may even help people lose weight. These fats raise good cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Young coconut water is also a great electrolyte beverage with plenty of healthy carbohydrates and potassium.
It’s easy to forget that chocolate comes from a plant while we browse the candy aisle as these versions are far removed from the original seed. Dark chocolate and cacao are much better for us, rich in antioxidant sweet stuff. Dark chocolate is low on the glycemic index so, while it remains a pleasantly sweet treat, it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. It may also reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and reduce plaque buildup. Most of the fats in dark chocolate are good fats, making it fantastic in moderation. Eat a small square a day to get all the benefits without the downsides.
Mostly figs are eaten dried, but fresh figs are also delicious and sweet. Figs overflow with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium while also staying low in calories. Like apples, figs contain pectin that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Flax and Chia Seeds
These tiny seeds are the perfect supply of concentrated omega fatty acids and fiber. Flax seeds are high in lignans, powerful antioxidants that may have anticancer properties. Chia seeds are exceptionally high in omega fatty acids and very rich in calcium, potassium, and iron.
Garlic, Leeks, and Onions
Apart from adding a deliciously potent flavor and smell to many dishes, garlic, leeks, and onions all come from the Allium family and contain many antioxidants and powerful sulfur compounds that fight infection and disease. These age-fighting antioxidants may also help control both cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
This pungent, aromatic root does more than spice up stir fry or come in a refreshing, stomach-calming beverage when you fly. Ginger is full of anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that may boost the immune system and fight pain. Ginger, high in digestive enzymes, has also been used for hundreds of years to treat nausea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach.
The fruit of an evergreen found in China, Mongolia, and Tibet, the goji berry, like many berries, is exceptionally rich in antioxidants and carotenoids that may protect the eyes from degenerative diseases. Also providing an ample dose of amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, fatty acids, and B vitamins, goji berries are a well-rounded superfood with a tangy, sweet flavor.
Full of antioxidants called catechins, green tea concentrates these since it isn’t steamed, withered, or fermented beforehand like black tea. The antioxidants in green tea have been the center of many studies showing that it can inhibit cancer and boost heart health.
Kiwifruit is actually a berry and, like most other berries, stocked with antioxidants. They have as much potassium as bananas, more vitamin C than oranges, and plenty of beta carotene too. Kiwis also provide fiber, vitamin E, and folic acid.
The maca root, a taproot native to Bolivia and Peru, is regarded as a highly nutritious, energy-imbuing food and has been used for generations to enhance strength, endurance, libido, and fertility. It contains a large amount of complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, fatty acids, and many minerals and vitamins including calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, iron, potassium, and copper.
Melons may surprise many to make a superfood list, but these refreshing fruits are more than a summer treat. Melons are very rich in water and fiber, making them a low calorie food. They provide plenty of beta carotene (vitamin A), making them very good for vision, like carrots. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Watermelon contains lycopene and other antioxidants that help prevent certain types of cancers and protect the cardiovascular system.
Miso is a seasoning made from fermenting rice, barley, or soybeans. The result is a thick paste that is added to soups, sauces, spreads, or pickled vegetables. Miso is high in sodium, but when used sparingly as a spice it doesn’t seem to affect the heart like other high sodium foods. Miso also doesn’t contain much of the phytoestrogens that have given soy a bad rap recently. It is rich in protein, manganese, vitamin K, and fiber. Fermented soy products have many health benefits.
A healthy protein source low in calories, carbs, and fats, mushrooms are a favorite of dieters, vegetarians, and vegans. Mushrooms are also rich in fiber, potassium, B vitamins, and selenium. Each type of mushroom has its own unique flavor and health benefits. Try branching out and trying more than the white button variety. There’s a whole world of them out there.
Whole grains, like oats, have been shown to lower cholesterol and boost heart health. Oats do even more. They are rich in beta glucans that stimulate the immune system and control blood sugar. Oats are also high in fiber, manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. If you want more natural and raw oats, go for groats or steel-cut oats instead of rolled.
Another antioxidant powerhouse, oregano is rich in vitamin K, fiber, and omega fatty acids while also having antibacterial properties. This herb and spice is also an excellent source of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
Peas can easily be overlooked when searching for high nutrient foods, but that’s really a shame. Peas are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. They are a low calorie food that packs a lot of nutrition into every bite. Peas provide rich amounts of protein, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, phosphorus, vitamin A, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium. They are low in fat and what they have is from healthy omega fatty acids. They have been shown to aid heart health and in controlling blood sugar levels.
Peppers are packed with carotenoids and other antioxidants that fight aging, improve eye function, and defend the heart. Peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamins A and C. Red bell peppers are even richer in vitamin C than their green kin while high in fiber, vitamin K, lycopene, lutein, B vitamins, and manganese. Capsaicin, the antioxidant that gives spicy peppers their sting, has been shown to burn calories, limit pain, and stimulate mucus membranes to clear sinuses of infection. Capsaicin may also play a role in lowering cholesterol and battling cancer.
This tangy, sweet fruit has long been recommended as a digestive aid. Pineapple is full of enzymes that help break down proteins, making it an excellent addition to any meal. Pineapple is also stocked with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. It is exceptionally rich in vitamin C and manganese. Pineapple is also a great provider of fiber, B vitamins, and copper. Pineapple is a low calorie fruit that boosts immune function and digestive well-being, prevents macular degeneration, and may attack cancer too.
Pomegranates have had a long and rich history, playing a role in the mythologies of many ancient countries and even symbolizing eternal life in some of those. Turns out, these stories weren’t far off. Pomegranate may not make you live forever, but the fruit is bursting with age-fighting antioxidants, up to three times as much as found in red wine and green tea.
Not just for pies once a year, pumpkin and its seeds are both highly nutritious. That orange color means it is filled with carotenoids, just like carrots and cantaloupe. This orange squash is also rich in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Their seeds contain large amounts of protein, omega fatty acids, iron, zinc, and trace minerals. Don’t throw them and the carvings out next Halloween. Look up recipes and take advantage of every inch of this superfood.
Pronounced keen-wa, this recently rediscovered ancient “grain” has tons of health benefits. It’s technically not a grain but a seed, more closely related to spinach than wheat, and has a nutty flavor when cooked. Quinoa is loaded with fiber, amino acids (including Lysine), and valuable minerals. It has a heart healthy impact like other true whole grains and may fight migraines too.
Seaweed may not sound appetizing to many of us, but it has been eaten by many civilizations for thousands of years. Seaweed is rich in minerals that have been concentrated in the ocean, like potassium, iron, calcium, iodine, and magnesium. Like land based leafy greens, they are rich in vitamin A, carotenoids, and vitamin C. The taste may be a bit different and definitely acquired, but the health benefits make it well worth a try. Seaweed can be used as a salt substitute, a digestive aid, and to help in controlling our weight.
Not just for the topping of buns, sesame seeds pack a lot of nutrients into their tiny packages. Sesame seeds are another food that comes with lignans, a fiber that lowers cholesterol, prevents high blood pressure, and makes vitamin E more readily available for the body. Besides lignans, sesame is rich in healthy fats, protein, copper, manganese, and calcium, and is a good source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Spinach historically served as Popeye’s source of strength, charging up his muscles when he needed it most. That cartoon character encouraged us all to eat our spinach and he was right. Nature squeezed a lot of rich minerals, enzymes, and vitamins into those thin, low-calorie spinach leaves. One cup of spinach has more than your daily required dose of vitamin K and vitamin A, almost all your daily needs of manganese and folate, and plenty of calcium, fiber, magnesium, and protein. The carotenoids in spinach may even encourage some types of cancer to self-destruct.
All edible grains, seeds, and legumes can be sprouted. So can many herbs and vegetables. Doing so unlocks some powerful enzymes and antioxidants that are not as available in the unsprouted seeds or the mature form of these plants.
You know by now that the orange coloring of this vegetable means sweet potatoes are bursting with carotenoids, like carrots, pumpkin, apricots, and cantaloupe. Some are even purple and these come with more antioxidants. Sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, without resulting in sugar spikes like their white kinfolk can. Sweet potatoes are stocked with vitamin C, manganese, fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, and B vitamins.
Tomatoes have long been linked to heart health as they help lower cholesterol and prevent blood platelets from sticking together. They are also linked to healthy bones and to fighting some forms of cancer. Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants, one of the most powerful being lycopene, and are also very rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Tomatoes are a versatile food that can be found in many colors and flavors and easily added to a multitude of dishes.
This spice, used in curries, has many healing abilities. Turmeric has natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties, combats several types of cancer, works as an anti-inflammatory, seems to protect the liver from damage, and may alleviate arthritis symptoms. Turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse. Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient that gives the spice its yellow color and pungent flavor, has been shown to lower cholesterol too.
With a good dose of healthy omega fatty acids, manganese, and copper, walnuts provide protection for the heart and bones with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory action. They’re also a good source for potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Though, technically not a food, water is essential for life and used in every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. Drinking clean, pure water helps every aspect of health. Water is required to cleanse the body of toxins and waste, metabolize fat, regulate temperature, protect joints, and digest food. Water keeps us from overeating, keeps skin moist and looking younger, and can help with concentration as it keeps the brain hydrated.
Wheat and Barley Grass
The young grasses of these grains don’t contain gluten and are more like leafy green vegetables at this stage than grains. Sometimes called “supergreens,” these grasses are overflowing with enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Wheat and barley grass are rich in vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin E, and B vitamins. They are also a good source of essential amino acids, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. The chlorophyll in these grasses helps clean out toxins, deodorize the body, and lower inflammation.