With all the trendy, expensive superfoods we’re told to eat, don’t neglect the humble packed-with-nutrients superfoods surrounding us that cost less.
It seems that every other day there is a new superfood we should be using immediately. Goji berries, quinoa, kombucha, chia seeds, and acai berries can be fantastic additions to your diet, but sometimes these superfoods can be difficult to find, expensive, and a little less approachable for many just beginning their health and fitness journeys.
There are plenty of more familiar foods that are just as super as the latest trending superfoods. These humble fruits, spices, and vegetables have been staples of our diets for generations for good reason. They are packed with nutrients, and we would be silly to forget about them or ignore them as we stroll through the produce section.
Avocados have had a bum rap for years as a high fat food. It’s true that avocados contain quite a bit of fat and a good dose of calories, but these good, healthy fats protect the heart and reduce inflammation. The avocado fruit supplies essential omega fatty acids, potassium, folic acid, lutein, and vitamin E. They are great for heart health, lowering cholesterol, keeping your eyes functioning properly, and may even defend against certain types of cancer.
Often a substitute for meat due to their high protein content, beans and lentils provide even more benefits than a meaty texture and protein. They are also a low fat, high fiber, and water-rich food source that leaves people feeling full and satisfied for extended periods of time. They come stocked with antioxidants, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and potassium.
3. Bell Peppers
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 some of the richest, high in fiber and vitamin K, lycopene, lutein, B vitamins, and manganese, but gold and orange are pretty good too. Bell peppers even have a little capsaicin, the antioxidant that gives spicy peppers their sting, which 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.
4. Black Pepper
Black pepper is just a seasoning we dash on meals just before eating them, right? You may think it couldn’t possibly be a superfood, but it totally is. Black pepper is rich in several minerals, aids digestion, improves intestinal health, breaks up congestion, speeds healing, and increases the absorption of turmeric, another superfood spice that everyone should look into.
Blueberries are a super antioxidant, easily recognized by the rich purple-blue color that signifies it is rich in phytonutrients. These berries are also a high fiber and high water food, making them the perfect low calorie sweet when you need something sugary. They may also help protect the eyes and heart from stress and damaging free radicals.
Poor broccoli gets painted as one of the most detestable vegetables to grace our plates. Mothers have been forcing kids eat it forever. Those mothers are heroes. Broccoli is amazing! It has tons of fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The vitamin C makes the iron easier to absorb too. Broccoli aids in digestive health and may be helpful in preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. We’re waiting on further studies.
7. Brown Rice
Brown rice is easy to find, even though we often pick up the white because it is easy to find, familiar, and cooks quicker. White rice has been stripped of many 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. So stop being impatient, and cook your rice a few minutes longer. The benefits are worth it.
Cabbages are an often forgotten superfood, relegated to slaw or sauerkraut and not much else. 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. Include them in your salad, soup, and meals more often.
Can’t get much more common than carrots. We know them well and nibble on them at family gatherings. We’ve been told forever that carrots are good for our eyes. Turns out, they are. Carrots are rich in beta carotene which replenishes the eye’s stores of vitamin A, helps flush toxins, and aids our eyes in resisting stress. Carrots are also a good place to get soluble fiber to lower cholesterol, vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and folate.
Poor celery is right up there with broccoli. We see it as a bland, low-calorie diet aid and go for carrots instead when we reach for the vegetable platter. Celery is so much more. It flavors dishes with healthy organic sodium, is rich in antioxidants, lowers inflammation, has a good dose of vitamin K, is being researched for its effects against breast cancer, and may actually be a mild aphrodisiac.
It’s easy to forget that chocolate comes from a plant when we browse the candy aisle. All those competing bright colors and extra ingredients make it seem far less natural than it is. Dark chocolate and cacao, the seed chocolate comes from, are rich antioxidant foodstuffs. Dark chocolate is low on the glycemic index, a sweet treat that doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. It may also reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, boost mood, and reduce plaque buildup. Most of the fats in dark chocolate are good fats, making it fantastic in moderation. Once again, in moderation. Stick to a small square or less a day.
Cinnamon has some of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice and many foods. It’s not just for toast or seasonal baking. Cinnamon can be easy sprinkled over many foods or made into tea. It is showing some promise in helping to control blood sugar, and it may also lower cholesterol. Cinnamon also has some natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. The scent can bolster your mood and focus too.
Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit. These common citrus fruits are naturally rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, but they also provide soluble fiber, thiamin, and potassium. These fruits are low calorie foods that can be eaten as fruit for a guilt free sweet treat or easily added to recipes for extra flavor and nutrition. The scent of citrus also boosts mood and reduces stress.
Garlic is one of the most well-known herbs in the world. Apart from adding a strong potent flavor to many dishes, garlic comes from the Allium family, which are all rich in antioxidants and powerful sulfur compounds that fight infection and disease. This is why so many people recommend it during cold and flu season. Garlic’s age fighting antioxidants may also help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Ginger is a pungent, aromatic root that does more than spice up stir fry or come in a refreshing carbonated drink. Ginger is full of anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that boost the immune system, reduce pain, and protect against aging. Ginger, rich in digestive enzymes, has also been used for hundreds of years to treat nausea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach.
16. Onions and Leeks
Like garlic, these are part of the Allium family and contain the same powerful sulfur compounds that bolster the immune system, lower inflammation, and chip away at hypertension and cholesterol.
Peas are little superfood that can easily be overlooked when searching for high nutrient foods, but that would also be a shame. Peas are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. They are a low calorie food that pack a lot of nutrition in every bite. Peas provide good 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 help maintain heart health and control blood sugar levels. Peas also make a great source for plant-based protein supplements, like Warrior Blend.
18. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds aren’t just for topping buns or bagels. These little seeds pack a lot of nutrients into their tiny packages. Sesame seeds contain lignans, a fiber that lowers cholesterol, prevents high blood pressure, and makes vitamin E more readily available in the body. Besides lignans, sesame seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, copper, manganese, and calcium. They are also a good source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
19. Sweet Potatoes
It’s time to switch out that white potato for something better. That orange color means sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids, like carrots and pumpkin. Some are even purple and these come with an extra dose of antioxidants. Sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, without resulting in sugar spikes, and are stocked with vitamin C, manganese, fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, and B vitamins.
Tomatoes have long been linked to heart health by lowering cholesterol, and preventing blood platelets from sticking together. They have also been linked to healthy bones and 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 to be easily added to a multitude of dishes. Explore the heirloom varieties for some of the most flavorful and delicious ingredients to add to your meals. Avoid canned tomatoes as they contain more BPA than most canned vegetables. Opt for fresh or jarred instead.