The term “superfood” is pretty overused these days. It’s supposed to indicate a food with a particularly high nutrient content or medicinal quality, however, it’s a term with no legal definition and can be used in a variety of ways, including as a misleading marketing tool.
I’ve seen superfood lists that included items as mundane as turkey, tomatoes, and oats (not that they are not good foods mind you), advertizements that tout their products as superfoods (that fall SO short of the mark it’s ridiculous), and entire companies built around some particular fruit, berry, root or flower that try to lock buyers into long and expensive buying contracts.
To make it a bit simpler to make some best-practice choices, here are my top 10 picks for almost everyone. You might have to learn how to use some of them, but once you do, it is easy.
Keep in mind that food has healing properties and even medicinal qualities. Some foods are particularly rich in nutrients you might need more of. Depending on your specific needs there may be some items well worth including in your own personal top 10 list.
1. SEA VEGETABLES
Most of the American population consumes sea vegetables daily without even realizing it.
Unprocessed sea vegetables are a wonderful food and should really be consumed by all. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, yet low in calories. Sea vegetables are delicious in soups, stews, salads, side dishes, or for making sushi. Look for them in Asian markets and natural food stores.
Try: agar, nori, wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, and dulse. Nori snack packs are now widely available at major stores like Trader Joe’s and Costco.
Berries are loaded with vitamin C, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Indeed, fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease fighting foods available. They are great as a dessert, a snack, or sprinkled on top of your morning porridge.
Try: Goji (dried), raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and blackberries.
*Goji, acai, and mangosteen are often found as concentrated juices. A few ounces per day can be enough to make a big difference in overall health.
3. LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
Green vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy, and dandelion greens are packed with vitamins A and C, iron, folate, beta-carotene, calcium and phytonutrients. They are very filling, high in fiber and low in calories. They are very alkalizing, good for the blood and chlorophyll helps the body cleanse itself.
4. NATURALLY FERMENTED PICKLES/FERMENTED FOODS
Rich in probiotics, pickles stimulate the immune system, improve the digestion process, and act as anti-oxidants. In addition, they also facilitate the synthesis of certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, and B12.
Try: rice bran pickles (nuka), sauerkraut, and Kim chi. There are more and more options on the store shelves–at least in natural food stores–and whole foods.
5. UMEBOSHI PLUM
Often called ‘the king of alkaline foods’, umeboshi plums are an ancient Japanese health food used to balance and strengthen. Highly valued for its antibacterial properties, a digestive aid, and also for hangovers or whenever the body feels depleted. A convenient way to consume it is to use umeboshi plum vinegar, which is not true vinegar but a fuchsia hued brine, ideal for sushi, dips, sauces, and salad dressings. Sold in Asian and natural foods markets.
This slender fish is packed full of important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium. Cold-water fish, such as sardines, contain the highest amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. One of the world’s first canned foods, the sardine is rich in phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and niacin.
Get the ones packed in water without salt added if using canned. Also fresh and salt packed are really delicious! (rinse the salt off of course)
7. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Numerous studies have shown that those who consume the traditional Mediterranean diet low in saturated fat, are at decreased risk of developing heart disease and cancer. And epidemiological studies show that they also live longer. Recent data suggests that olive oil has anti-inflammatory benefits. Avoid over heating the oil and do not use for frying. Use Grape seed oil for higher temperature cooking. Also make sure that your olive oil is the real deal since there are lots of counterfeit olive oils out there now.
8. RAW CACAO
There’s plenty of research available to suggest that cacao is indeed really good for us. It has an extremely high concentration of anti oxidants such as polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins. It also has the highest levels of magnesium found in nature, as well as manganese, zinc, chromium, and iron, and more. Compounds in chocolate also help boost serotonin and endorphin levels which alleviate stress and depression, help with menstrual symptoms, reduce pain sensitivity and increase alertness. http://myrawyear.com/the-truly-raw-cacao-smoothie/
Try Raw cacao nibs in smoothies, trail mix, cereal, or plain.
Maca root has been consumed by the people of the Andes for thousands of years. Scientists are now recognizing it for its immense nutritional value and the health benefits it offers. It is used to increase stamina and libido, help the endocrine system function properly, and is known to help women deal with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings.
Maca root is usually a dried powder and can be consumed as part of smoothies, teas, milk or coffee.
The most commonly known and studied medicinal mushrooms include reishi mushroom, agaricus mushroom, Maitake, Shitake, and Coriolus mushroom. Some of these medicinal mushrooms could be used culinarily, but most are made into teas, powdered mushroom extracts, or tinctures, so that people can take them in their most potent form (i.e., in an “extract” form) for their specific healing effects on the body/mind/spirit. Shitake is easy to find at most grocery stores.
Try shitake in any recipe that calls for mushrooms. Also look for teas. Available as extracts that will boost your immune system in times of need.
Other honorable mentions:
- Coconut – is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content.
- Liver – richest source of B12 and many other essential nutrients. Read more.
- Salmon – rich in omega 3 fatty acids
- Apricots – extremely high in vitamins A & C
- Onions & garlic – rich in sulfur-containing compounds and an outstanding source of polyphenols, including the flavonoid polyphenols and are a standout source of quercetin.
- Beans – High in fiber and protein, low in fat, and very versatile. The darker the color, the more rich in phytonutrients.
For more information on what foods belong on YOUR own personal list visit My Superfoods