It seems like every week a new “superfood” finds a way to hit the headlines. Maca one week, avocado the next.
With all this confusion and misinformation, many people are wondering: Anyway, what are superfoods?
Is there a super secret superfood community that handpicks its newest super members? And is there any truth to these superfood claims?
Read on for the answers to these questions and more!
What Are Superfoods?
A quick Google search for the definition of a superfood says it’s “a nutrient-rich food considered to be particularly beneficial for health and well-being.”
Ok great but what does that really mean?
Simply put, superfoods are nutritional powerhouses. Superfoods are extremely high in vitamins, minerals, as well as micronutrients such as antioxidants, enzymes and health fats. All these nutrients are essential for your body so you can thrive.
Or to put it another way: Superfoods are the superheroes of the plant world. Superfoods nourish your body so it can fight chronic diseases and other nutrient deficiencies.
Most superfoods are found in nature and grow in soil: fruits, vegetables, seeds, grasses and seaweeds (or algae).
Top 20 Superfoods
While it’s true that no food is a medical panacea, many scientific studies have shown that some foods offer more health benefits than others. Here are some of the foods that have earned them the title of “superfood”.
Açai berries are native to Central and South America, particularly Brazil, where they grow in parts of the Amazon rainforest. Also known as a Brazilian beauty fruit, its high antioxidant content (more than blueberries or cranberries) can help prevent signs of anti-aging and keep your skin looking youthful and healthy.
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world, making them an easy and accessible superfood to add to your diet. Most people know that bananas are a great source of potassium, which is beneficial for heart health. The fiber content of bananas also aids in digestion and prevents blood sugar levels from spikes.
Barley is a nutrient-rich food loaded with vitamins and minerals such as fiber, iron and calcium. Research shows that barley grass not only strengthens the immune system, but can also kill cancer cells.
These small but mighty berries are loaded with high levels of vitamins K, C, and E, along with disease-fighting nutrients like antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Carob is rich in antioxidants (gallic acid and flavonoids) that kill cancer cells. Carob is also rich in fiber, calcium (and oxalate-free, so it doesn’t prevent the body from absorbing it), and potassium.
Chia seeds were a staple in the diet of the Aztecs dating back to 3500 BC. “chia” means strength in the Mayan language, which makes sense considering chia seeds are an excellent source of protein. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants.
Chlorella is a powerful microalgae that contains more chlorophyll than any other plant. For this reason, chlorella has been shown to protect the body against radiation treatments. Research also shows that chlorella detoxifies heavy metals in the body and prevents them from being absorbed.
While coconut is often associated with tropical vacations, this exotic fruit is actually a great source of healthy fats and essential nutrients.
Guarana berries are native to Brazil and have been used for centuries by Amazonian tribes for their therapeutic properties. Due to its natural caffeine content – 4 to 6 times more than coffee beans – it has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve focus.
Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli and cauliflower. Several studies have shown that maca is a natural mood booster by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other interesting benefits include increased libido (in both men and women) and increased fertility.
Matcha or powdered green tea contains 3 times more catechins (a type of antioxidant) than regular brewed green tea. The natural caffeine in matcha has also been found to increase alertness while preventing a crash in energy levels. Additional research shows that matcha improves attention, reaction time, and memory.
Spirulina is a blue-green microalgae and one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Spirulina was consumed by the Aztecs for energy and strength, which makes sense considering it’s a complete protein source. There are also more than 70 articles showing the anti-cancer effects of spirulina.
Wheatgrass is an edible grass that is rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as iron and calcium. It also contains 17 amino acids and chlorophyll, 8 of which the body cannot produce on its own. Studies have shown that wheatgrass can help kill cancer cells and reduce oxidative stress.
Why Are Superfoods Important?
The truth is that 90% of the American population doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. According to studies, Americans eat fruit once a day and vegetables less than twice a day.
In fact, not eating enough fruit is the #1 dietary risk and the cause of 4.9 million deaths worldwide.
So why not have an extra banana or salad once or twice a week?
I think we can all agree that everyone would benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables.
Organically grown superfoods are grown without harmful chemicals. They also contribute to a healthier and more nutritious soil, combat soil erosion and support water conservation, among other things.
Superfoods are a quick and easy way to nourish your body with natural vitamins and minerals, but stepping into the world of superfoods can be daunting and often greeted with skepticism.