Superfoods, it’s becoming one of the most overused words to sell products these days. Often they have high mark ups and tout impressive health claims, but these don’t always stack up.
You may be surprised to hear that superfoods don’t need to cost a fortune. I’ve made a list of my top 20 superfoods based on their nutritional profiles, not marketing hype. As a bonus you can find them all in your average supermarket or grocery store at an affordable price.
My Top 20 Superfoods
Spinach packs a powerful punch. It is a rich source of vitamin K, C and A, antioxidants and boasts an impressive amount of flavonoids that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Popeye was onto a good thing with this super food.
Salmon is famous for it’s omega-3 content and beneficial effects on heart health. Omega-3 rich fish is linked to a decreased risk of some cancers, improved mood and has protective benefits for joints and eyes. Salmon is also a rich source of vitamin D and selenium.
Excellent for heart health, walnuts are a rich source of the omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant based form of omega-3’s and contain impressive levels of vitamin E from gamma-tocopherol. They are a delicious way to add crunch to salads, breakfast toppings and healthy seasonings or stuffings.
A high quality source of protein that will help to keep you full, eggs are perfect additions to meals or as a snack. These small packages contain 11 vitamins and minerals (including choline, folate, iodine, vitamin A and B12) as well as omega-3’s and antioxidants. Contrary to popular belief eggs pose no threat to heart health or cholesterol levels.
Natural yoghurt is full of beneficial probiotics, is free from artificial sweeteners, thickeners, colours and preservatives. It is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a type of fat found in dairy foods that has been shown to reduce heart disease risk and reduce body fat. It is also a great source of calcium and protein.
Oats are a fantastic way to start the day. They contain a specific source of fibre called beta-glucan that helps to lower cholesterol levels. Oats also have superfood status as they are protective against heart disease and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes include kidney beans, navy beans (baked beans), soybeans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils and split peas. They are high in fibre, which is great for bowel health and have been attributed to lowering cholesterol due to their soluble fibre contents. They are a source of low GI carbohydrates so they keep you fuller for longer and give you longer lasting energy, are low in saturated fat, high in B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium and are also a source of folate and antioxidants. Legumes are a great source of protein and are also gluten free. What’s not to love?
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid. They also contain phytosterols and carotenoids with anti-inflammatory properties and are a rich source of vitamin E. Find how to pick the perfect avocado here.
These golden beauties are a low GI starchy vegetable and a rich source of carotenoids, which act as antioxidants to help protect against disease. Did you know sweet potatoes are not just orange, and are available in white and purple varieties as well.
Garlic belongs to the allium group of vegetables (other members include onions and leeks) and contains both flavonoids and sulphur containing compounds. These nutrients can help to control blood pressure and are beneficial for heart health too. Garlic also has antibacterial and antiviral benefits and can help your body to regulate its response against infections.
Capsicums are a nutrient powerhouse, they contain vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and disease fighting carotenoids and flavonoids and are also rich in sulphur containing compounds (like garlic). The perfect capsicum will have a deep colour, be firm to hold and heavy for its size.
Sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain vitamin B12 and are a rich source of vitamin D. Try including them on toast with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Milk is well known for its bone building abilities but not so much for the beneficial effects on weight. Yes, you read that right! Dairy products are beneficial for weight loss. Milk provides more than 10 essential nutrients and is a carbohydrate and high quality protein source.
An antioxidant powerhouse, blueberries contain high levels of anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidants found in blueberries help protect the body from oxidative stress, have beneficial effects on your heart, memory and eyes. When choosing blueberries look for a bright, even colour and choose berries that aren’t soft or watery.
There’s a reason behind the saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples have been found to help lower cholesterol levels due to the soluble fibre that sticks to fats in the digestive system and helps them to pass through without being absorbed. This also has benefits for a healthier heart as the soluble fibre helps prevent the build-up of plaque in your arteries. As a bonus, biting into an apple stimulates saliva in your mouth and helps reduce tooth-decay. A superfood indeed.
There is some incredible research going on involving mushrooms. They really are nature’s superfood. Exposing mushrooms to an hour of sunlight can add 10 micrograms of vitamin D per 100g serve (the recommended intake for Australians ranges from 5-10 micrograms a day). Mushrooms also have a beneficial role in lowering cancer risk with one meta-analysis showing that mushroom consumption reduced the risk of breast cancer.
Like garlic, onions are a member of the allium family. Rich in sulphur-containing compounds they have anti-inflammatory properties. Choose onions that have crisp and dry outer skins and store in a well-ventilated space at room temperature.
High intakes of red meat have been associated with some types of cancer. Lean chicken is a fantastic alternative to red meat. It is high in protein, contains all B vitamins and is a rich source of selenium. To minimise the risk of cross contamination take care handling, storing and making sure the chicken is fully cooked through before it is eaten.
Technically a seed, almonds are heart healthy and cholesterol lowering powerhouses. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Studies have shown that almonds decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar and are cardio-protective. Try including 30g of nuts like almonds as a part of your day, your heart will thank-you.
What kind of list would this be if broccoli wasn’t included? Broccoli has many anti-inflammatory benefits and is an excellent source of vitamin C. Broccoli has been shown to decrease the risk of some cancers, with the recommendation being ½ cup per day for protective benefits. Look for broccoli with bright green, firm and compact clusters, with a firm stalk. .
How many of my top 20 are your favourites?