What Are Superfoods? The Top 10 Ultimate Superfoods


Wondering what makes a food a superfood? Even though superfoods lack any formal criteria, generally, medical experts agree that foods with the title ‘superfood’ have health benefits that go far beyond what’s listed on their nutritional labels. There is a wide range of health-promoting superfoods that can be incorporated into your diet in a number of different ways. Simply eating superfoods won’t make you healthier, but adding the following superfoods to an already balanced diet can give you a megadose of added health benefits!

Get to know your superfoods

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, superfood is “a food (such as broccoli, salmon, or blueberries) rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fatty acids, or fiber) considered beneficial to a person’s health. Meanwhile, the Oxford Dictionary defines a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” (1)(2)

variety of beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, cup of milk, a piece of salmon

Most superfoods also happen to be low in calories, are easy to integrate into different diets, and are gluten-free.

The top 10 superfoods worthy of the title

The following superfoods have been scientifically proven to help optimize your body’s ability to function. And these superfoods are not only super healthy, they’re affordable and readily available in grocery stores, online, and at farmers’ markets!

woman mixing spinach and acai in a blender

Acai powder or frozen acai packets can be mixed into smoothies or used to make a nourishing and delicious acai bowl loaded with toppings.

Acai berries

High in antioxidants, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, healthy fats, and phosphorus, the acai berry is one of the most well-known superfoods. Studies have shown that acai berries have anti-inflammatory properties, help improve cognitive function, help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and protect against heart disease. Berries, in general, have also been suggested to help slow down age-related memory loss. (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)

Plant-based protein

Plant proteins are rich in branched-chain and essential amino acids and are exceptionally high in Lysine. Lysine has been researched extensively for its ability to help balance blood glucose, as well as its ability to increase muscle strength and combat anxiety. (9)(10)(11)

two pieces of salmon on a wooden cutting board with herb plants and lemon slices surrounding the salmon

Consuming at least two servings of salmon per week can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce the risk of several diseases.

Salmon

Salmon is one of the highest sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the risk of developing coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Fish oil has also been specifically shown to help combat late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (12)(13)(14)(15)

Avocados

Avocados are nutrient-rich, high-fiber fruits that have been shown to play a significant role in combating chronic diseases. Eating avocados regularly has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and even certain types of cancers. (16)(17)(18)

close up of person's hands holding kale over a large bowl

You can quickly bake a batch of kale chips for a salty snack, mix raw kale into your shakes, or add it as a greens powder.

Kale

Kale is an excellent source of nutrients including zinc, folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Studies have shown that dark leafy greens such as kale can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. (19)(20)

Olive oil

Olive Oil has been shown to provide a range of diverse health benefits. Specifically extra-virgin olive oil is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in individuals at high cardiovascular risk. (21)(22)

Sweet potatoes

The sweet potato is a root vegetable full of nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source for carotenoids, which have been shown to potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers. (23)

Fermented food in white bowl

Fermented superfood kimchi is rich in vitamin K and is considered especially good for men.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, and miso are heavily sought after superfoods by consumers. This is partly because they have a range of health benefits including antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. (24)

Fermented foods rich in vitamin K such as kimchi are especially good superfoods for men. Recent research found foods that contain a large amount of vitamin K2 that can reduce prostate cancer risk by 35%. (25)

Green tea

Green tea is a lightly caffeinated beverage with a broad spectrum of health benefits. Rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds, green tea has been shown to protect against chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It has also been shown to be a useful tool for body-weight management. (26)(27)(28)

Seaweed

Seaweed is packed full of several nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, iodine, and fiber. Studies have shown that consuming seaweed can help lower blood pressure and may play an important role in treating several chronic diseases, including diabetes. (29)(30)

Where did the term superfood originate?

One of the first foods to be dubbed a superfood was the banana. It experienced a spike in popularity in 1999, after bananas were endorsed in medical journals and researchers published their findings of using a banana diet to treat conditions like celiac disease and diabetes. Since then, “superfoods” has become a catch-all term for a variety of nutrient-rich foods that are particularly beneficial for well-being.

We’ve outlined just ten health-promoting foods worthy of the superfoods title, but it’s important to note there are plenty of other foods deserving — and equally not deserving— of the superfood title.

Some superfoods may be a super overpriced food

New superfoods seem to be sprouting up on a monthly basis, and it is important to recognize that a lot of it has to do with false marketing to consumers. There is little actual, quantifiable evidence to support a lot of the superfood claims out there. Unfortunately, this means you can’t take something labeled as a superfood at face value.

The high-octane term has become heavily overused and abused by the food industry. Just because something is labeled as a ‘super’, does not mean it has any unique health benefits beyond its nutritional value.

Did you know?
According to Mintel research, in 2015 alone, the category rose 36%, with the United States claiming the top spot for most “super” product launches. From 2014 to 2015, there was a 36% increase worldwide in the number of foods and beverages marketed to consumers with a “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “supergrain” label. (31)

poke bowl full of vegetables and superfoods

Eat with a range of colors in mind, and you’re bound to be filling up with a vital range of nutritionally rich superfoods.

Incorporating more superfoods into your diet

Want to add more superfoods to your diet? Start adding superfoods to some of your go-to recipes and favorite meals!

Your goal should be to eat a variety of colorful, nutrient-dense foods to meet your daily nutritional needs. Incorporating more superfoods into your diet seems easy enough, but experts warn against the dangers of having a limited diet consisting solely of superfoods. We recommend talking to a dietician or doctor before you start buying everything under the sun with a superfood label.

When it comes to proper nutrition, scientific evidence supports balance, variety, moderation, adequacy, and portion control in order to prevent chronic disease and promote overall well-being. Of course, our list of superfoods can help you achieve your overall goals in a super healthy way!

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superfood
  2. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/superfood
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22224493
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21569436
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26060341
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24122646
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26501271
  8. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf2036033
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23282226
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22524975
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159538
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24860193
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24129365
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17069820
  15. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-12/uoc–wfo122107.php
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17582784
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25567051
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23282226
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29751617
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26816602
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030221/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22418926
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28945458
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18400723
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28864169
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29429153
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20156466
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3199754/
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24697280
  31. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/7955-the-top-three-trending-superfoods