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What Are Superfoods and Why You Need Them

Superfoods, nutrient-rich fruits, seeds and leafy greens, have become popular thanks to their role in helping maintain health and wellness. Here’s what you need to know.

By 1MD Nutrition Editorial Staff

10 minute read

Last Updated October 18, 2021

What Are Superfoods and Why You Need Them

You have probably heard of superfoods. Foods packed with nutrients that science says can promote your health and longevity. Several foods fit in this category, and the high nutrient content of these foods is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. But what are superfoods, and what makes them so special? And how can you best add them to your daily routine? Keep reading to find the answers to your superfood questions.

What are Superfoods?

Superfoods are essentially nutrient powerhouses. These foods have high nutritional density, with a substantial amount of vitamins, minerals, cleansing compounds, and very few calories. The majority of superfoods are plant-based, but there are some fish that make the cut too. For those limited by finances, lack of time, or age-related changes to your body, superfood supplements will pack the punch you need.

Your body requires certain nutrients for optimal function and health, and these need to come from food. Superfoods include many of these nutrients in one place. As part of a balanced diet, they can help maintain heart, digestive, immune, metabolic, and cognitive health while supporting healthy weight management and energy. Superfoods also contain cleansing compounds that reduce occasional oxidative stress to promote whole-body health.

It is important to note that as great as superfoods are for your health, eating superfoods alone does not contribute to a healthful diet. Eating too much of one type of food can prevent you from getting other valuable nutrients because there is no one singular food that has all the essential nutrients. 

For optimal health and wellness, you just want to ensure that superfoods are part of an overall healthy, balanced diet. And these top 10 superfoods are a great place to start. 

Top 10 Superfoods 

Berries

Adding any kind of berry to your diet is a good move. The good news is that there are plenty of berries to choose from. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and cherries; the list goes on. No matter which berry you choose, you get the same superfood benefits. Berries are loaded with cleansing flavonoids that help support heart, immune, and cognitive function. You also get a good dose of fiber to support healthy digestive function.  

Berries in the market

Green Tea

What better way to start the day than with a cup of tea. Tea contains few calories, helps with hydration, and is a good source of antioxidants. Green tea, in particular, contains catechins, potent purifying agents that help protect your cells and tissues from occasional oxidative stress and help promote healthy cell growth and function. You also get just enough caffeine to kick start your day and a comforting way to wind down at the end of the day, as green tea has been shown to help reduce everyday stress and soothe away tension.

Salmon

Salmon has a well-deserved reputation as a healthy food. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential, meaning you need to get them through diet. The large amounts of these found in salmon can help support healthy blood pressure levels, proper circulation and promote cell, cognitive, and joint function. In addition to omega-3s, salmon is full of healthful nutrients like vitamin B12, which helps support healthy nerve function, and vitamin D, which promotes bone health. It is pretty clear there are real health benefits to go along with all the hype, making salmon a true superfood.

Leafy Greens

Your mom told you to eat your greens for a good reason. Leafy greens, like spinach, are the reason Popeye stays strong, and these superfoods can keep your health strong too. Leafy green vegetables are packed with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals to help support heart, digestive, and cognitive health, healthy blood sugar levels, and proper cell growth. Fiber and nutrients in one place deliver a satisfaction guaranteed. With a healthy serving on every plate, you satisfy hunger and your body, as you feel fuller longer and have all the essential nutrients each cell requires to function properly. 

Avocado

Avocados are easily one of the trendiest superfoods. People are putting avocados on everything. And for a good reason. Avocados are versatile, delicious, and one of the most nutrient-rich foods out there. Among all the fruits, avocados contain the most fiber, which supports healthy digestion and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. You also get a healthy dose of folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E in every serving, not to mention healthy monounsaturated fats that help support normal cholesterol levels. An avocado a day is a great way to keep poor health away. 

A variety of legumes on wooden spoons

Legumes

Legumes, including beans, peas, and lentils, are a key food in some of the healthiest diets. You get variety, versatility, and a host of beneficial nutrients with every bite. Legumes are rich in plant protein, fiber, and other essential minerals and cleansing compounds to support heart, digestive, and metabolic health. They can also support healthy weight management because they are low in calories and keep you feeling full longer, so you’re not tempted to reach for processed snack foods. Legumes are superfoods of the earth, so eat what your mother gave you. Mother Earth, that is.

Sweet Potato

Sometimes sweetness brings goodness, and there is no better example than the sweet potato. This vegetable is the best source of vitamin A, which supports healthy vision and immune system function. The high fiber content helps promote digestion, healthy weight management, and proper blood sugar metabolism. Several powerful cleansing nutrients help promote healthy cell growth and function while also supporting immune responses. Magnesium helps to promote cognitive health and reduces everyday stress. You can mash them, hash them, bake, or saute them. All that matters is having this super potato on your plate. 

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds have been part of the human diet since Paleolithic times. While only a few like almonds, walnuts, chia, and flax get all the glory, the reality is that all seeds and nuts bring health benefits to the table. The nutrient makeup of each nut and seed varies, but in general, these superfoods contain plant proteins, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats. This, combined with a handful of essential vitamins, minerals, and powerful cleansing phytochemicals, can help support your daily heart, digestive, immune, metabolic, and cognitive health. So anytime you need a healthful snack, a handful of nuts and seeds will have your back.

Dark Chocolate

That’s right. You read that correctly. Dark chocolate is a superfood when consumed in moderation. The health benefits of dark chocolate come from the flavonoids, compounds found in plants that add rich color to the food, and powerful purifying benefits. By helping to reduce occasional oxidative stress, the flavonoids in dark chocolate help support heart, cognitive, and immune health while also promoting healthy circulation, soothing away tension, and supporting everyday mood. If you were looking for a reason to feel less guilty about indulging, dark chocolate is your answer. Just be mindful not to eat too much.

Red wine and dark chocolate

Grapes/Wine

Yes, wine also belongs on this list of superfoods. It is specifically the grapes in wine that provide the healthful cleansing compounds. Resveratrol, from the skin of grapes, can help support healthy cholesterol levels, proper circulation, and arterial health and reduce the risk of unnecessary immune responses. Grapes are also full of essential vitamins and minerals to support overall health. However, in moderation, you can treat yourself to some red wine and still receive the support resveratrol has to offer. When you have a choice, go with red because it is fermented longer than white wine, so that it will give you more resveratrol. 

How to Incorporate Superfoods Into Your Diet

Does it ever feel like there is not enough time in the day to keep your diet balanced and healthful? Everywhere you look, there are convenient and processed foods to grab on the go, and sadly, too many people choose convenience over health. But, you have another option. By packing in a few superfoods each day, you get plenty of the essential nutrients you need. 

These four S’s, are a great place to easily start adding superfoods to your diet:

♦ Smoothies - there are endless combinations of superfruits and vegetables you can use for a morning smoothie. The more creative and colorful your breakfast is, the more super you will feel. 

Salads - Grab as many vegetables as you can, some healthy protein, and top with crunchy nuts and seeds. A few superfoods will make the perfect super salad

Soups - You can make a super soup for every season using any mix of vegetables and add avocado for extra creaminess and extra nutrients.

Stir fry - Just like your salads, grab as many superfoods as you can, serve over zoodles instead of rice, and pump up your nutrient intake. 

It is important to buy produce that is in season to ensure the highest nutrient content. But, for those really busy days when meal prep is not an option, don’t worry. You can add a superfood supplement powder to your morning smoothie or with a glass of water to make sure you still get the nutrients your body needs even when you’re on the go. 

Benefits of Taking a Superfood Powder Supplement

Do you currently eat enough fruits, vegetables, fiber, and protein? According to the CDC, adults should consume 2 cups of fruit, 2 to 3 cups of vegetables, 25 grams (women) or 38 grams (men) of fiber, and between 46 and 56 grams of protein per day. If you are like the majority of Americans, your answer will be ‘no.’ 

Adding superfoods to your daily routine is an easy way to give your body essential nutrients that might otherwise be missing from your diet. Superfoods contain multiple nutrients giving you powerful support in small meals. And when time is limited, as it is for most people in today’s world, a superfood powder supplement is the perfect solution.

The benefits of taking a superfood powder supplement include:

♦ Immune system support
♦ Healthy digestion and nutrient absorption
♦ Heart, circulatory, and arterial health support
♦ Cognitive and mood support
♦ Healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels
♦ Joint function and bone support
♦ Reduced everyday stress
♦ Healthy cellular function
♦ Enzyme support for energy and focus

Colorful superfood powders

Potential Risks of Taking a Superfood Powder

Depending on your age, sex, and health, a superfood powder will have different benefits and potential risks. As beneficial as vitamins and minerals are, there is a fine line between getting enough nutrients and getting too much. Excessive doses of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to possible side effects.

Some nutrients can build up, so you should speak with your doctor before adding a superfood powder to your health routine. This can help you maintain healthy levels within upper daily limits for maximum health benefits. It is also possible that some nutrients can interact with prescribed medications or can be potentially harmful to certain health conditions, so always follow your doctor’s advice when taking a superfood powder.

You also need to keep an eye on the fiber content of a superfood powder. A high-fiber supplement can support digestive, metabolic, and heart health, but some individuals that do not currently get enough dietary fiber may experience immediate effectiveness in promoting proper bowel function. 

Final Thoughts

The foods you eat play a significant role in your overall health and how you feel every day. Superfoods are an easy and delicious way to get the daily nutrients your body needs for optimal function. Just remember that no superfood will give you everything, so keep every meal balanced and varied. 

Whether it's a colorful plate of fresh fruits and vegetables, handfuls of nuts and seeds, or a superfood powder smoothie, what matters most is your health. And feeling super starts with healthy eating and superfoods.