Editor’s Note: Your AAA Network is offering readers a chance to sample new content and sign up for subscriptions to offerings from approved affiliated publishers. Your AAA editors have vetted these articles to ensure they are useful and from trustworthy sources.
You should have the most reliable information about the best foods to eat—and eating superfoods is one way to avoid diet-related diseases, feel better, and live a longer and happier life.
But what is a superfood? And which ones should you be eating?
Superfoods have outstanding nutritional profiles and should be part of your regular healthy eating plan. They’re especially beneficial for your health because of the nutrients and compounds they contain. And superfoods come in many forms, including protein from plant and animal sources, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Here are eight examples of foods commonly recognized as superfoods:
Superfood #1—Berries. In recent years, exotic acai and goji berries have been spotlighted for their beneficial nutrients, but don’t overlook the phytochemical power of our more readily available berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries.
In general, berries are high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. They provide a rich cache of phytochemicals, which include anthocyanins, procyanadins, and ellagitannins; these compounds have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Multiple studies suggest that eating berries may lower the risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related mental decline.
Superfood #2—Bananas. Bananas, the most popular fruit in the U.S., contain vitamins B6 and C, manganese, fiber, potassium, and copper. In addition, bananas contain plant sterols linked with heart health, and soluble pectin and fructooligosaccharides, two types of fiber that foster the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut. Studies have found that bananas may be an ideal food for athletes, since they are a source of sustained energy and their mineral content aids in preventing muscle cramps.
Superfood #3—Fatty fish. Fatty fish is a great source of protein, and, unlike many cuts of meat, is very low in saturated fat. Instead, fatty fish—salmon, herring, tuna, rainbow trout, and mackerel—is rich in unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA).
Diets that contain a significant amount of omega-3s have been linked with a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as less plaque buildup in arteries. Some evidence suggests that omega-3s help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, along with arthritis, depression, and type 2 diabetes.
Superfood #4—Kale and spinach. These nutritional superstars of the leafy green family provide at least 19 essential nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Spinach and kale also are worthy sources of calcium.
Green, leafy vegetables (romaine lettuce and collard greens are other top choices) also are rich in such phytochemicals as beta-carotene, chlorophyll, kaempferol, lutein, quercetin, and zeaxanthin, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Leafy greens have been linked with a number of health benefits, including protection against age-related eye disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Superfood #5—Oats. Oats are almost always consumed in their whole form, with their bran and germ intact. Old-fashioned oats have been steamed and flattened, which reduces cooking time but preserves all of the nutrients; steel-cut oats are whole oat kernels (also called groats) sliced into smaller pieces.
One serving (one-quarter cup uncooked) of oats contains 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, along with iron, thiamin, manganese, and magnesium. Oats are probably best known for their power to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which helps lower the risk of heart disease. Eating oats has also been linked with lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Superfood #6—Dry beans and lentils. Technically, they’re known as pulses—the dried seeds of a broader category of foods called legumes—and they’re rich in protein and fiber while also providing folate, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium, and zinc. Other pulses include chickpeas, black-eyed peas, fava beans (or broad beans), and lupins (a type of bean).
Consuming pulses has been linked with lowering blood cholesterol levels and inflammation, reducing weight, and helping prevent heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Superfood #7—Quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-wah, this ancient grain contains a variety of key nutrients. Quinoa provides high-quality protein; it’s one of the few plant foods that provides all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs to obtain from dietary sources. Quinoa is also a worthy source of fiber and several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and folate), as well as magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and iron.
While research is scarce on quinoa, some studies suggest the nutrients in quinoa have antioxidant effects—and that it may be helpful for weight loss or maintenance because its protein and fiber help fill you up and stay satisfied longer. Quinoa is also a gluten-free grain, which makes it a suitable choice for people who must avoid gluten (found in wheat, barley, and rye) because of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Superfood #8—Winter squash. The colorful, yellow-orange flesh of winter squash is an excellent source of fiber and unrefined carbs that digest slowly. Many varieties are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and K as well as potassium, manganese, copper, and folate, and they provide a wealth of phytochemicals, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Varieties include acorn, butternut, buttercup, delicata, carnival, hubbard, spaghetti, and turban squash.
Special Note About Superfoods
The selections above are just a sampling of the many superfoods available in your local supermarket. However, remember that adding a few superfoods to your diet doesn’t take the place of an overall healthful eating pattern. It’s your total diet that has the most significant effects in the long run, and any one superfood is not a magical solution to your nutrition and health needs.
Get an entire library of everything about nutrition and health—with a subscription to Environmental Nutrition!
But this advice about superfoods is just a fraction of what you’ll get with a subscription to Environmental Nutrition. Your subscription includes full and immediate access to 4,400+ articles, recipes, brand-name food ratings, health study results, nutrition tips, and more—over 22 years of Environmental Nutrition in the digital library!
Your Environmental Nutrition subscription gives you unlimited, 24-hours-a-day access to all of the nutrition, diet, and health content on whatever device you prefer—desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. And the content is fully searchable, so you can find exactly what you want—whenever you want it—in an instant.
When you search the Environmental Nutrition Library, you’ll get answers to all of your questions about nutrition and health, such as:
- How can I trim excess belly fat?
- How can I avoid pesticides in my food?
- Are there any fast foods that are healthy for me?
- Should I take any supplements for my health?
- Are there any gluten-free breads that are healthful and tasty?
- What are the best nutrition bars to eat?
- What are the easiest and quickest lunch recipes?
- Are any diet plans good for me—or all they all just fads?
And much, much more with over 4,400 items and articles that can answer all of your nutrition questions!
A subscription to Environmental Nutrition will deliver valuable health benefits for you!
When you subscribe to Environmental Nutrition today, you’ll have the latest information about how to get and stay healthy through diet and nutrition—and you’ll enjoy all of these benefits:
- You’ll learn all about exciting new nutrition discoveries as the researchers uncover, analyze, and deliver them to you.
- You’ll make informed food choices, based on actual nutritional science, not popular fads or myths.
- You’ll shop confidently every time you enter the supermarket, with sound advice to inform your grocery shopping list.
- You’ll create delicious meals that are as healthy as they are pleasing, with tasty recipes and helpful serving suggestions.
- You’ll avoid so-called “health foods” that are actually harmful to your health, despite what mass media health publications claim.
- You’ll dine out fearlessly, using trusted guidelines for finding the healthy offerings and for avoiding the nutrition-busters that populate many restaurant menus.
- You’ll eat beautifully, healthfully, and joyfully every single day—knowing that you’re preventing disease, prolonging your life, and keeping your mind and body at peak performance!
How can you not consider becoming a subscriber to Environmental Nutrition?
What you’ll get with a subscription to Environmental Nutrition.
When you subscribe to Environmental Nutrition today, you’ll get access to everything we have about nutrition and health—all access and all the time:
- Upcoming 12 digital issues per year—with the easy-to-use Web edition, accessible on any device with an Internet connection and published as the latest, scientifically proven evidence becomes available.
- Instant access to the searchable Environmental Nutrition digital library of more than 260 issues and over 4,400 individual articles, recipes, tips, and more!
- 12 print versions of every newly published issue over the coming year, mailed directly to you as soon as they’re available.
And here is what you don’t get when you become a subscriber to Environmental Nutrition—outside advertisements! It’s advertising-free, so that we can devote more time, space, and effort to helping you be healthier. And because we don’t accept ads from outside companies, we’re beholden only to subscribers—and no on else. So we’re free to name names and tell it like it is when it comes to your health and nutrition.
All of this is available to you —right now—when you subscribe to Environmental Nutrition.
About Environmental Nutrition
For more than 40 years, health-conscious consumers, nutritionists, registered dietitians, and other health professionals have relied on the unbiased, accurate, expert information delivered by Environmental Nutrition. There’s no confusing medical jargon, and all the content is easy to read and understand. You’ll know it’s accurate because everything is based on the latest research and scientific facts. And we take no advertising, so we’re beholden only to readers like you.