You might be wondering which foods actually qualify for this elusive category.
“A superfood is a nutrient-rich food that is considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being,” explains Amy Goodson, RD, CSSD, a sports dietitian. The only catch? There is no set criteria to determine a “superfood” from a regular food, so the line between healthy foods and “super” ones is pretty blurry.
Overall, nutrition experts advise that you shouldn’t rely on just one or even a few superfoods to improve your health.
“Instead, focus on variety, especially of color,” says Adina Pearson, RD. “Each color group has different beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants: reds/orange/yellows, greens, blue/purple, and even whites (cauliflower, onions, cabbage). Aim for a rainbow over time or even in one meal—whatever is realistic,” she advises.
For an even simpler approach, eat seasonal produce for a natural variety.
If you want to know which superfoods give you the most bang for your buck, though, here are some nutritionist-approved options:
1. Salmon: This one tops the superfood chart, according to Goodson, because of its omega-3 and vitamin D content. “Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in the body and raise HDL, which is your good cholesterol,” she says. “Vitamin D is found minimally in food and is a key component to calcium absorption at all ages making salmon a powerhouse of nutrition in addition to a great source of protein.”
2. Lentils: Thanks to protein and a whopping 19 grams of fiber per serving, they keep you feeling full and satisfied,” Kasper says. “Moreover, lentils are rich in many vitamins and minerals including iron and folate, making them an especially great choice for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.”
3. Cruciferous Vegetables: “Broccoli, along with the rest of the cruciferous vegetable family, is rich in an array of phytonutrients, the most important of which is glucosinolates,” says Dennett. “Glucosinolates have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and may also help reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. To reap these benefits, load up on not just broccoli, but arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi.”
4. Garlic and The Entire Allium Family: Which includes onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives. “These are rich in organosulfur compounds, a group of phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dennett says. “This makes them protective against heart disease, cancer and other health conditions that may be related to chronic inflammation.”
5. Tart Cherries: These contain the highest antioxidant properties of any food, according to Goodson. “Many athletes utilize tart cherry juice to get the benefits of approximately 45 tart cherries in 8 ounces of concentrated 100 percent juice for recovery.”
6. Algae: “It’s rich in protein, omega-3s and over 40 vitamins and minerals,” Kasper notes. “Interestingly, it’s a great source of vitamin B12, which makes it an excellent addition to vegan and vegetarian diets, as B12 is otherwise only found in fortified foods, meat, and dairy products.”
7. Berries: And not just blueberries! “Cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries are all rich in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber,” Kasper says. “The antioxidants in berries reduce inflammation and help protect us from diseases like cancer.”