Nutritionally speaking, there is no such thing as a superfood. The term was coined for marketing purposes to influence food trends and sell products. The food industry bestows the superfood label on nutrient-rich foods with a supposed capacity to positively affect health.
Though many foods could be described as super, it’s important to understand that there is no single food that holds the key to good health or disease prevention. But since the term “superfood” doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it may be worth taking a closer look at some options that you can include in your everyday diet.
Here are our recommendations for foods that may be worthy of the esteemed superfood title.
1. Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are an excellent source of nutrients including folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fibre. Part of what makes DGLVs so super is their potential to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. Some well-known DGLVs include kale, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens and spinach.
2. Berries are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. The strong antioxidant capacity of berries is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions. Whether you enjoy them as part of your breakfast, as a dessert, on a salad or in a smoothie, the health benefits of berries are as versatile as their culinary applications.
3.Originally from China, green tea is a lightly caffeinated beverage with a wide array of medicinal properties. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds which have strong anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. EGCG is likely what gives green tea its apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
4. Eggs have historically been a controversial topic in the nutrition world due to their high cholesterol content, but they remain one of the healthiest foods. Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They’re also loaded with high-quality protein. Eggs contain two potent antioxidants, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are known to protect vision and eye health. Despite fears surrounding egg consumption and high cholesterol, research indicates no measurable increase in heart disease or diabetes risk from eating up to 6–12 eggs per week.
4. Legumes, or pulses, are a class of plant foods made up of beans (including soy), lentils, peas, peanuts and alfalfa. They earn the superfood label because they’re loaded with nutrients and play a role in preventing and managing various diseases. Legumes are a rich source of B vitamins, various minerals, protein and fibre. Research indicates that they offer many health benefits including improved type 2 diabetes management, as well as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.
5. Ginger comes from the root of a flowering plant from China. It’s used as both a culinary flavour enhancer and for its multiple medicinal effects. Ginger root contains antioxidants, such as gingerol, that may be responsible for many of the reported health benefits associated with this food. Ginger is available fresh, as an oil or juice and in dried/powdered forms. It’s easy to incorporate into soups, stir-fries, sauces and teas.
6. Salmon is a highly nutritious fish packed with healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, potassium and selenium. It’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for a variety of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation. Including salmon in your diet may also lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes and help you maintain a healthy weight.
7. Avocado is a highly nutritious fruit, though it’s often treated more like a vegetable in culinary applications. It’s rich in many nutrients, including fibre, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Similar to olive oil, avocado is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Oleic acid is the most predominant MUFA in avocado, which is linked to reduced inflammation in the body.
8. Seaweed is a term used to describe certain nutrient-rich sea vegetables. It’s most commonly consumed in Asian cuisine but is gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its nutritional value. Seaweed packs multiple nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, iodine and fibre. These ocean vegetables are a source of unique bioactive compounds — not typically present in land-vegetables — which may have antioxidant effects. Some of these compounds may also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
The Bottom Line
Achieving optimal health through food and nutrition is about more than focusing on one or two of the latest food trends. Instead, good health is best supported by eating a variety of nutritious foods every day. Including some, or all, of the foods on this list as part of a balanced diet can benefit your overall health and may prevent certain chronic diseases.