“Superfoods” are generally foods that have a lot of nutrients. These include large amounts of:
- healthy fats
Superfoods are good for your health. They are usually “whole” or “real” foods. This means they are in their original form and are not processed. There isn’t a specific list of superfoods. There are no standard criteria that define what a superfood is. Scientists and dieticians don’t use the term. It is a term that is mostly used by marketers to sell their products.
People tend to think they’re being healthy by eating superfoods. Most foods considered “super” are very healthy. But nutritionists say the best way to eat them is to make them part of an overall healthy diet. This is a diet that’s balanced in lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats.
Path to improved health
The key to a healthy diet is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods in the right quantities. You’ll find many lists of superfoods in magazines or on the internet. Many times, they are grouped together to help a certain part of your body. This includes your brain, your skin, or your gut. They also may be listed as helping with inflammation. But you don’t have to eat specific foods for specific areas of the body. An overall healthy diet will take care of everything.
The following are common foods on superfood lists. Include these in your diet, and you’ll be on your way to eating right.
Berries – These are full of vitamins, soluble fiber, and phytonutrients. These are nutrients in plants that offer many benefits. Blueberries are popular superfoods, but strawberries and cranberries are also very healthy. Snack on them throughout the day or put some on your morning oatmeal.
Beans – These are good sources of low-fat protein and fiber, plus vitamins and minerals. Try them in salads, pastas, or as a replacement for meat in some dishes.
Fermented foods – Yogurt is king of this category, but other food are drawing interest. Sauerkraut, specifically, is being touted as a popular superfood. Fermented foods are an easy way to add beneficial bacteria to your body. Doing so promotes gut health. Low-fat or nonfat yogurt provides calcium, vitamin D, and lots of protein. Greek yogurt is thicker and has more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. Eat unsweetened regular or Greek yogurt with berries for a healthy snack. You can also substitute yogurt for sour cream or other fats in recipes.
Kale – Kale is very popular on superfood lists. It is chock full of vitamins A, C, and K. It also has fiber, calcium, and other minerals. It’s a great addition to any meal for a nutrient punch. Other green cruciferous vegetables fit the bill, too. These include Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens, spinach, cabbages, and broccoli.
Sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin – Any of these are great sources of fiber, vitamin A, and other minerals. They are low in calories, and they are naturally a little sweeter than other vegetables. So you don’t have to add as much butter, sugar, or salt to them.
Salmon – This fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These appear to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Other fatty fish that offer the same benefits include tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Try to eat fish at least twice a week for good health.
Soy – Soy is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat. It is a good replacement for other high-fat proteins in your diet. Substitute tofu for chicken or soymilk for cow’s milk to up your nutritional values.
Whole grains – These grains are not stripped of their bran and germ during processing. These are where the nutrients are found. They contain lots of fiber and are complex carbohydrates, which your body uses for fuel. A popular whole grain on superfood lists is quinoa. It’s not actually a grain, but it cooks like one. It is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Swap it for rice in your cooking.
Things to consider
Just because a food is considered healthy or a superfood doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want. You can still gain weight by eating too much of healthy foods. The key is to eat everything in moderation. But you need to be extra careful about some foods. The following are often considered superfoods. But they have extra fat or calories that you need to watch out for.
- Dark chocolate – Dark (not milk) chocolate is high in flavonoids (a group of phytonutrients). But it’s high in fat and calories, too. Just a square or two is all you need.
- Avocado – This is a great source of healthy fat, but it comes with calories. One serving is only about 1/5 of an avocado. Just a few slices will do the trick.
- Nuts and seeds – These are good sources of protein and healthy fats when eaten in moderation. Unsalted almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are good choices.
- Wine – Red wine in moderation could have some health benefits. It contains antioxidants that could be helpful to your heart. But the benefits don’t justify overindulging. It is high in calories and can be bad for your health if you drink too much. Limit your intake to 2 glasses a day for men, and 1 glass a day for women, for a little health boost.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What are the best types of foods I should eat?
- Can I eat superfoods as much as I want?
- What is a healthy serving size?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.