Superfoods are Superduper!

12 07 2012

In tooling around the internet, I started to see articles on Superfoods, so I began searching the internet with the keyword “superfoods”. It seemed like every magazine and website had their own list of the top Superfoods – all with many of the same items, but also all with different suggestions, too. Some lists emphasized general health, some focused on weight loss, etc. How to know about all the Superfoods? How to find them all? How to incorporate them all? I decided to compile a list of all the Superfoods from all the websites I found. The list became kind of onerous (and time-consuming) –  the Superfoods are listed in the order identified most often and descending to the “one list wonders.” (I am sure there are more Superfoods out there, however I believe I have identified the most common and most powerful.) But before I get to the list, I want to answer this question:

What is a Superfood? Why Eat Them?

In general, a Superfood contains nutrients that have shown health benefits and are present in that food in a quantity to make a difference. Superfoods can help your body create homeostasis. Homeostasis is the state of alkalinity balance your body seeks to achieve. Everyday our bodies are bombarded by toxins, chemicals, additives, preservatives, and other pollutants. When your body’s metabolism is out of balance and overly acidic, free radicals run amok. The result can be inflammation, pain, illness, fatigue, and increased risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. By consuming Superfoods, you give your body the best chance to be healthy by consuming the vitamins and nutrients it needs in quantities that can make a difference.

The term “Superfoods” is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists. Some nutritionists dispute that particular foods have the health benefits often advocated in articles and magazines. There is no legal definition of the term and some will say it is a term that has become misleading because it is being used as a marketing tool.

Regardless, the fact remains that “Superfoods” are all natural and not processed. If you can try to get some of these foods in to your regular diet, it can only be a good thing. Just Google “Superfoods Menus” and you’ll get lots of ideas on how to incorporate them in to your daily diet. I believe the more we can eat natural foods and avoid processed foods – the middle of the grocery store – the better off we will be. Something else to ponder: if you’re getting all your vitamins and nutrients from your diet, do you need supplements? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.

Superfoods are not hard to get: all of these Superfoods are available at your local grocery store.

The List

The foods listed below are pretty common sensical and there aren’t too many surprises. I did find it interesting that celery, lettuce, grapes, zucchini, and squash, to name a few, weren’t on any list anywhere. Also, I learned that you can get calcium from many plant-based foods – not just dairy. Some of the foods in parentheses were only listed once, but because they fell in a “super” group, I included them in the group rather than list them individually under the One List Wonders. Also, at the bottom of this posting is a listing of definitions in case you want to know a bit more about some of these chemical terms.

1a. Nuts and Seeds (pistachios, almonds, flaxseed, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame, almond butter, hemp, chia seeds). Nuts are loaded with calcium, antioxidants, antiinflammatories, and Omega-3 fatty acids which help burn fat and satisfy hunger cravings. The two most mentioned nuts were almonds and walnuts.  Raw almonds are a great source of Vitamin E, magnesium, protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Avoid all the flavored or roasted almonds – you’ve lost all the good stuff. Walnuts contain the most alpha-linolenic omega -3 fatty acids of all the nuts. They’re also a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium. A good way to incorporate flaxseed, hemp, and chia seeds is to stir them in to oatmeal, sprinkle on your salad, or mix into casseroles. Chia seeds are the newest Superfood to hit the internet, but they’ve been around since ancient times. They’re gluten-free, loaded with omega-3 and calcium, and have more protein ounce-for-ounce than beans. Sesame seeds contain unique plant compounds, sesamin and sesamolin, which help lower cholesterol; also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.

1b. Dark, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, green juice, asparagus). Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of iron, vitamin A, lutein for eye health, glutathione, and potassium – and low in calories. Broccoli (high in Vitamin K) and spinach are definitely the top-mentioned veggies in this category. These vegetables boost the immune system and help fight cancer. Kale is the super star in this category: it’s rich in Vitamins A, B, C, calcium, lutein and zeaxanthin (for your eyes), indole-3 carbinol (protect against colon cancer), iron, and chlorophyll.

2a. Omega-3 Fish (wild-caught salmon, sardines). Salmon is a lean fish loaded with hearth-healthy monounsaturated fats (EPA and DHA), is a high quality protein, and contains astaxanthin (caratenoid) and other antioxidants. Wild-caught sardines are low in mercury, high in vitamin D and calcium, and are also an excellent source of omega-3.

2b. Blueberries (goji, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry). Blueberries were virtually on every list I found. Fresh or frozen, they are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants. Anthocyanins (flavonoid), the compound that makes blueberries blue, may have anti-diabetic effects as well. New research also suggests blueberries might protect the heart muscle from damage.

3. Beans (lentils, garbanzo, pinto, kidney, white, black). Virtually all types of beans are nutrient powerhouses. They’re high in folate acid and antioxidants that stop cell-damaging free radicals implicated in causing cancer and Alzheimer’s. Beans are also high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Lentils help prevent insulin spikes that cause your body to create excess fat.

4. Fruit (Oranges, pears, grapefruit, bananas, apples, kiwi, figs, citrus zest). An “apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Apples are a powerful source of antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonoids, and Vitamin C, as well as a good source of fiber. Fuji apples have the highest total of antioxidants. Be sure to eat the skin for maximum benefit (that goes for pears, plums, peaches, etc). The fiber and antioxidant content of apples are linked to lowering the risk of heart disease, and the prevention of lung cancer and Type II diabetes. Kiwi is extremely rich in Vitamin C, and contains folate, potassium, fiber, carotenoids, polyphenols, glutathione, and pectin. Citrus zest (from the skin of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) reduces the risk of squamous-cell skin cancer by 30% (Univ. of AZ study), and acts as a detoxifying agent. High in fiber and packed with Vitamin C, oranges help you feel full longer. Bananas, rich in potassium, are loaded with “resistant starch” – a healthy carb that boosts metabolism and burns fat. Besides being a good source of fiber and protein, grapefruit contains a compound that can lower insulin (a fat-storage hormone). Figs are an excellent source of fiber, calcium, and potassium.

5a. Grains (whole wheat, quinoa, pearl barley, spelt, buckwheat, buckwheat pasta, brown rice). In “Forks Over Knives,” whole grains are identified as essential to a heart healthy diet. Whole grains are high in magnesium, B vitamins, fiber, and manganese. Quinoa was the winner in this group – it’s considered a complete protein because it contains essential amino acids for tissue development. It’s also higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than other grains. A plus for many these days is that it’s gluten-free. Pearl barley also contains “resistant starch”. Brown rice is a low-energy-density food which means it’s heavy and filling but low in calories – a great substitute for white rice! Spelt, an ancient grain, is a good source of protein, manganese, and copper. Buckwheat pasta is high in fiber and, unlike most carbs, contains protein.

5b. Dark Chocolate. Everybody likes seeing this on the list! Full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats and flavonoids, this antioxidant has been found to help reduce blood pressure, improve bad cholesterol, and helps muscle fatigue. Also helps curb cravings for high-calorie desserts. It’s still high-calorie, so a couple bites will do.

6. Alliums (Garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, horseradish). Alliums can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, have antibiotic properties, and research suggests they inhibit the growth of the prostate, stomach, and colon cancer cells. Horseradish contains glucosinolate (fights cancer and kills bacteria), calcium, potassium, and Vitamin C. Shallots have a probiotic ingredient called fructo-oligosaccharides that helps with digestion, as well as abundant antioxidants. Garlic contains allicin which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties (and gives it its smell). Also rich in Vitamin C, B6, and manganese – and food tastes better.

7a. Oats. Whole grain oats are one of the best sources of soluble fiber which helps reduce cholesterol (lowers total and LDL) and is also an excellent grain for diabetics because it has less impact on blood-sugar than other grains. It’s also a great resistant starch.

7b. Yogurt. Like milk, it’s an excellent source of  calcium, phosphorus, and protein. Unlike milk, yogurt contains probiotics – the good bacteria your digestive system needs to process and benefit from food you eat. Also helps stave off hunger by keeping blood sugar levels steady.

7c. Avocado. The monounsaturated fat in avocados is oleic acid which is a good fat that helps lower cholesterol and helps prevent cancer. Avocados are high in fiber and lutein, and ounce for ounce top the charts for folate, Vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium (twice the amount found in a banana) which helps guard against heart disease and stroke.

7d. Green Tea. Green tea tops the list for antioxidants that inhibit the growth of cancer and its ability to lower cholesterol. It’s full of a metabolism-boosting compound called EGCG which prevents damage to heart muscles, stimulates the body to burn calories and decrease body fat – all helping in fighting the effects of aging.

8. Pomegranate. Pomegranates are phytochemical superstars with anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to lower blood pressure, fight atherosclerosis, and improve cardiovascular health by reducing oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They’re loaded with folate, too. How to eat it though?! To get to the seeds of a whole pomegranate (they’re ripe in the fall), cut the top of the fruit and cut the rind vertically (from top to bottom) in about four places. Then put the fruit in a bowl of water or a clean water-filled sink. Peel away the sections of the fruit, releasing the seeds from the bitter white membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the water and the remaining part of the fruit will float. You can then use the seeds as a snack, in salads or salsa, or put them in a blender or food processor to make juice. If you don’t want to bother with that, POM pomegranate juice is a great choice – add ice and sparkling water and it’s great to sip. (Note: cranberry juice is high in phytochemicals, too.)

9a. Eggs. Free-range, cage-free eggs are best. One egg contains 9 amino acids, protein, lutein and zeaxanthin (for your eyes), choline (for your brain, nervous- and cardiovascular systems), and naturally occurring B12.

9b. Cinnamon. It has been elevated to Super Spice because it contains one of the highest antioxidant levels of all herbs and spices and has anti-inflammatory properties. Because of it’s positive effect on blood glucose levels, it seems to help people with Type II diabetes. In one study, arthritis patients experienced noticeable relief ingesting 1/2 tsp every day.

9c. Honey. We all know honey soothes sore throats. But’s it’s also an excellent antioxidant (the darker the honey, the more antioxidants) and can treat gastrointestinal problems – it contains oligosaccharides which increase the good bacteria in your colon.

10a. Pumpkin/Pumpkin Seeds. Pumpkin contains beta-carotene and potassium. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps rejuvenate skin, protect your vision, and may even reduce the risk of arthritis. Potassium is a mineral involved in lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy bones. Use fresh or canned (no-sugar-added) pumpkin in stews, soups, pies, or pureed as a side dish — or add a scoop to some nonfat vanilla yogurt for a yummy snack. Pumpkin seeds lead the nuts and seeds category in containing phytosterols – a natural compound that lowers cholesterol. Also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

10b. Olive Oil. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Remember from the previous posting that it is best to use in dressings and drizzling as heating changes the fats in to less healthy fats.

10c. Tomatoes. Lycopene in tomatoes makes them a powerful antioxidant to help decrease the risk of prostate, breast, lung, and stomach cancers. Even the yellow jelly around the seeds has the benefit of  keeping blood cells from clumping. Interestingly, canned tomatoes contain more lycopene than those off the vine.

10d. Seaweed. Seaweed does not absorb the toxins and pollutants that contaminate fish. Its large concentration of minerals help boost energy and strengthen the immune system. Also, it’s loaded with compounds that help lower blood pressure, thin the blood, kill bacteria, and help cure ulcers. Seaweed is part of the “Caveman Diet” that Dr. Wahl (“Minding Your Mitochondria”) ate that helped “cure” her M.S. Some types of seaweed include hijiki, wakame, kelp, and nori.

10e. Soy (tofu, etc.) Studies indicate that eating soy daily may reduce your risk of osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, and kidney disease. This excellent protein also lowers cholesterol.

11a. Spices (ginger, cayenne, black pepper, oregano, turmeric, tarragon). Sources say spices boost metabolism. Oregano is the top spice with its levels of antioxidants. Turmeric, a primary ingredient in curry, is an excellent digestive aid and anti-inflammatory which helps arthritis. Also, turmeric is being studied for treatment of Alzheimer’s – it may support the immune system to clear the amyloid protein which clogs up the brain. Tarragon can be used in place of salt if you are watching your sodium intake.

11b. Coconut Oil.  It’s labeled “Virgin Coconut Oil,” but maybe it should be called “Miracle Oil!” The next posting I’m going to do will be about Virgin Coconut Oil. Here’s a little taste of what you’ll learn about coconut oil: Half of the fat content in coconut oil is lauric acid (found in breast milk). Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.

11c. Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables to eat because they are high fiber and high in beta-carotene, Vitamins A, C, and B6, potassium, manganese, and anti-oxidants. Their anti-inflammatory properties help improve asthma, allergies, and arthritis.

11d. Red Wine. Yay! Red wine is loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants that protect against cancer, heart disease, and age-related memory loss. Resveratrol in red wine helps stop fat storage.

11e. Chile Peppers. These peppers are full of compounds called capsaicinoids, the source of their spicy heat, which have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer, and heart-healthy qualities. Studies have been shown them to be an effective treatment for inflammation such as arthritis.

11f. Other Vegetables (red bell peppers, beets, plaintains, dried superfruits, rhubarb, cabbage, potato, cauliflower). Plaintains provide “resistant starch” and are a great source of fiber and vitamins C and A. They are also high in vitamin B6, magnesium and folate. Cabbage and cauliflower are in the cruciferous family of  vegetables (kale, broccoli, etc.) and are rich in phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

One List Wonders

Popcorn – This whole grain snack contains antioxidants and is rich in polyphenols. Of course you have to be careful what you add to this otherwise dry snack.

Whey Protein Concentrate – A by-product of milk and cheese, it was only mentioned on one list, but it’s a pretty powerful Superfood. It’s a high-quality protein that helps insulin work better, preserves lean body tissue, supports the immune system, helps with blood pressure, and is a rich source of amino acids. Also maximizes your glutathione levels – your body’s most powerful antioxidant and is in every cell in your body. A high-quality whey protein must be cold-pressed, derived from grass-fed cows, hormone- and chemical-free, and no artificial sweeteners and sugar.

Organic grass-fed butter – Discussed oils and fats in the previous blog, but butter is a healthy fat as opposed to butter substitutes.

Miso – Excellent source of low-calorie protein, it also contains vitamin B12 and zinc.

Borage Oil – Comes from the borage seed and contains gamma-linolenic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties.


Caratenoid – very simply, plant-based, and scavenge free radicals. Flavonoid – plant-based antioxidant with cancer-fighting properties. Polyphenol – condensed tannin found in all families of plants with antioxidant properties. Glutathione – a molecule (cysteine, glycine and glutamine) found in every cell in the body, critical for detoxification and keeping the immune system strong. Phytochemical – a group that includes antioxidants, flavonoids, flavones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, isothiocyanates, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.




2 responses

12 07 2012
Jud Collier

Extremely insightful Debbie! I was consuming most of these by chance. Now, thanks to you I can falsely claim intuitive intelligence.
My love to all the Dawsons!

20 07 2012
Superfoods are Superduper! « healthdiscoveryjourney | Health Body Image

[…] the original post: Superfoods are Superduper! « healthdiscoveryjourney ← Complete List of Most Common Carrier Oils Part […]

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