You've probably heard the term "superfood" thrown around here and there. The idea of a superfood might be a little misleading at times, especially if you imagine it to be one item that can entirely change your life and knock you into higher and higher levels of wellness.
The truth is that there isn't any single food that can do that for you. That doesn't mean that there isn't truth to the idea that there are dietary changes and specific foods out there that can really send you toward a better state of health.
We're going to answer the question "what are superfoods" in this article, giving you an idea of what these nutrient-packed options are and how they might be able to help you achieve your health goals.
Are Superfoods a Myth?
Yes, and no. According to the the National Health Service (NHS) which serves the United Kingdom (UK) as the nationalized healthcare system, the European Union (EU) does not allow the term "superfood" to be used in marketing products unless back by clinically backed research .
The problem with term superfood, is there exists very little evidence that any particular food correlates directly to remarkable health benefits. Any and all claims that can be made typically come from a concernment of many elements that don't quite make the marketing copy. Below we discuss a classic example -
The Green Tea Superfood Study
To put this in perspective, we have all heard the excellent benefits of drinking green tea. Green tea indeed contains a very healthy amount of polyphenols and phytonutrients, but how super is it?
A study completed years ago concluded that green tea consumption could reduce the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. The study determined that men who drink five cups of green tea every day are fifty percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who drink only a single cup.
The study did not under-sample but instead obtained data on more than 66,000 men for nearly 15 years. The results were incredible and allowed the green tea market to explode with excitement around this powerful superfood's ability to prevent prostate cancer.
The study's problem stemmed from the fact that the men observed were all Japanese and failed to highlight the robust correlation between men who drink green tea with men who partake in traditional Japanese diets and lifestyle.
The traditional Japanese diet includes many fresh fruits, vegetables, miso broths, and fish. The conventional Japanese lifestyle also yields a very well-balanced fitness regime with low-stress levels. However, the control group that consumes a single cup of green tea daily is much more likely to live a more western lifestyle.
The takeaway is that the hype around green tea as being a superfood has since abated. The panacea for prostate cancer prevention has yet to be determined definitively. However, green tea is very healthy and tends to be popular among the fittest people globally; thus, we are fans, regardless of the inconclusive superfood studies.
What Are Superfoods?
As we noted above, it's important to shake the idea that you can eat just one "superfood" for a few months and see any kind of results. A true shift in your health and wellness requires the change toward healthier, more natural dietary options that provide you with the nutrients you need.
No amount of superfoods will help you unless you lay the foundation with the rest of the nutrients in your diet. Now, once you do have that foundation of nutrient-rich ingredients and stick to it for a while, you'll be able to experience the actual benefits of superfoods and more importantly a critical element of a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you're looking for more energy, clarity, or something else, there are numerous foods that we'll discuss which can help you move toward those things.
The most important thing, though, is that you're not selecting one superfood to incorporate into an otherwise unhealthy diet. To yield the results of upper echelon wellness sustaining a system of good choices will always serve you best.
Before we explore our superfood list, let's take a look at what constitutes the foundation of a good diet.
What are the Benefits of Superfoods?
This is a question that will give you some argument at the holiday dinner table if you're not careful who you talk to! There are a lot of different ideas about what a healthy diet is and what you need to consume in order to stay healthy. The search for that amazingly healthy diet is really what the term superfood is all about.
Some individuals swear that meat is the key to staying strong and healthy, while others are adamant that the vegan diet is the answer to dozens of chronic health problems .
Maybe you are familiar with blue zones and the people of Sardinia, who represent one of five communities in the world where the average lifespan is close to being over 100 years old. These blue zone communities believe that a diet of beans, vegetables, and carbohydrates with very modest protein is the fountain of youth.
The recipe for healthy living is across the board and hinges upon personal opinion. That isn't to say that people who claim the benefits of specific diets are or aren't correct. There are many ways to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy, and many factors not related to diet that matter critically.
That said, some clear dietary staples fall outside contestation. Certain things are essential to consume, and there are other things that you absolutely should avoid whenever possible.
How to Get the Most From Superfoods
Without getting too far into counting calories or focusing on your macros, let's take a look at some general principles that you can use before you start adding superfoods to the mix.
The first and most important thing is to include a variety of natural foods in your diet. It sounds simple, but it's a fact that a variety of foods that aren't processed are likely to contain most of the nutrients that you need to stay healthy.
As you look for that variety, be sure to include grains, vegetables, fruits, and sources of protein. When you're browsing protein options, look for meat that is certified organic and, when possible, opt for verified grass-fed options.
There are many excellent protein supplement options that you can work with to boost your diet in that respect.
Drinking the appropriate amount of water represents one of the most underrated habits you can adopt daily to ensure optimal body function. A rule of thumb to follow in determining how much water you need per day at a minimum is to take half of your body weight in pounds and drink that much water in ounces . It seems like a lot of fluid, and it is, but our bodies operate best when adequate clean water is available.
Another critical piece of getting the most out of a superfood is the ability to digest and absorb its nutrients. Having a good grasp of probiotics and prebiotics and their application within your diet will pay dividends in health impact.
Are All Natural Foods Superfoods?
There are different factors that might play into things you need in your diet, but the fact is that it's generally as simple as eating a variety of natural foods. Although all superfoods are natural, all natural foods are not superfoods.
Natural ingredients contain a myriad of nutrients and elements that work perfectly together with our bodies to keep us healthy. Stark contrast to natural foods are foods that are processed or stripped of those essential nutrients and hardly provide any value to our diets at all.
Processed Foods are Not Superfoods?
In general, processed foods do not contribute to our most significant health potential . Anything that contains an artificial or synthetic ingredient, including colorant or sweetener, is considered processed by the FDA.
Processed foods exist as a result of culture. There have been decades of demand for optimizing foods for taste and speed in the western hemisphere rather than nutrition density.
As a leader in the high-quality grassfed dairy protein, AGN Roots' existence results from combatting the awful precedent set by the plastic tub powdered protein industry.
Sweets like cakes and pastries or even french-fries that you'd buy at a drive-thru window all get scientifically crafted to hit your brain right in the dopamine receptors.
There is no difference between engineering donuts with zero nutritional value and the flavor houses tasked with masking low-grade CAFO powdered protein in your local nutrition store. There is a reason why many protein powders taste like cake and cookie dough, and it's not because the whey protein in that tub is of any caliber of quality deserving of the price tag.
Learn More: What is a CAFO?
Processed foods, by design were not to engineer out heart disease, obesity, mental health issues, chronic pain, and a laundry list of the other worst illnesses known to man. If anything processed foods contribute to illness.
Now that we've got the foundations out of the way, let's start looking at the sort of foods that you can incorporate into your diet regime to make progress toward your health goals.
Printable Top 100 Superfood List -
There's no reason that all of the foods below can't fit into your variety of foods to incorporate into a healthy diet. In fact, these are all nutrient-dense options that should be present whenever you need a snack or want to think up a meal.
Let's take a look at the most powerful superfoods and the kinds of things that they might be able to do for you.
Are Berries a Superfood?
Berries are excellent options to add to your diet. They're jammed with natural vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. Dietary fiber is a great way to counteract any excess of carbs that you might have eaten that day as well.
You don't have to go looking for a bunch of strange berries in the grocery store to get the nutrients you need either. All of the most common options are sure to be good enough when it comes to nutrition.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries are the most common options, and they're all going to do the trick. If you can, get as much of a variety as possible and try to work them into smoothies every day or two.
You can also find ways to fit berries into many meals, even if you end up just having them as a side dish.
Are Greens a Superfood?
Yes, greens are a superfood if dark and leafy. Dark, leafy greens are some of the most potent superfoods out there. They're dense with nutrients, and they contribute to several positive health outcomes if you keep them in your diet as part of a lifestyle routine.
Another thing that's nice about these superfoods is that you don't have to know too much about them to make the right choice. It's typically true that the darker the leafy vegetable, the more nutrient-dense.
The relationship between dark green and nutrient density isn't genuine for all vegetables, of course, but it is in terms of most of the options that you'd see in the grocery store. For example, kale, chard, and spinach are all excellent places to start.
If you happen to see other options like collard or turnip greens, they are worth a shot, especially if you end up enjoying them.
To reap the benefits of a green diet, it's more about consistent exposure to the superfood that matters most. Studies suggest that a routine diet of green can help prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Below is a popular list of dark green superfoods.
|Matcha Green Tea||Antioxidants - Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), Minerals (Vitamins A, C, E, K, B-Complex), L-Theanine (Brain Health)|
|Seaweed||Iodine & Tyrosine, Omega-3s (Thyroid Health)|
|Spirulina||Beta-Carotene, Cysteine, Antioxidants, Anti-Inflammatory (Cardiovascular Health)|
|Wheatgrass||Chlorophyll (Anti-Inflammatory Benefits)|
|Barley Grass||Chlorophyll, Antioxidants, Vitamin C (Digestive & Immune Health)|
|Chlorella||Chelation Benefits (A Cleansing Process)|
|Moringa||Anti-Inflammatory (Body Composition Benefits)|
|Broccoli Sprouts||Glucoraphanin (Neurological Health)|
Are Beans a Superfood?
Beans, indeed, are a magical fruit. They're jam-packed with nutrients, and they're affordable to boot.
One thing you'll notice about a lot of superfoods is that they're affordable and straightforward. We imagine that superfoods will cost at least $5 for a small bag of seeds, but that doesn't have to be the case.
It's often in the produce aisle that you'll find these foods, and they tend to be some of the cheapest items in the store.
Beans are no exception to that. You can explore the options of beans that make your taste buds the happiest. All of them will provide you with
- B vitamins
They're also filling, which could help you reduce the amount of food you eat if you're looking for weight loss benefits.
All of those benefits sitting on top of the fact that legumes can help a person reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and manage type 2 diabetes.
Are Seeds and Nuts a Superfood?
Sprinkling various seeds and nuts into your diet is an excellent way to keep yourself rich with healthy fats, protein, and dietary fiber.
Nuts and seeds offer a lot of the dietary ingredients that people have the most challenging time getting. Healthy fats can be pretty hard to come by, but they're essential for several health outcomes.
Similarly, protein is something that many individuals are hard-pressed for, especially if they're vegetarians or vegans. Nuts and seeds provide an excellent option for anyone looking to boost those pieces of their diet.
Plus, they're a universal topping that applies to most meals without dominating the meal or flavors; most consumers would recognize a handful of seeds or nuts on their bread or salads.
They're an unintrusive food widely known for magically disappearing when left in a glass bowl on the coffee table. One option for nutrient-dense seeds like chia seeds or flax seeds is to put them in a grinder and turn them into powder.
Fattier, oilier seeds might not work very well in this regard, but dry seeds, legumes, and drupes can be ground and sprinkled onto meals when you need a nutrient boost.
The flavor is minimal, and you'll get the benefits of nuts and seeds without having to force-fit them into a meal.
Here is a short table of super-seeds, super-nuts, superfoods and their super powers:
|Almonds||Vitamin E, Antioxidants, Magnesium (Skin Health)|
|Chia Seeds||Fiber, Omega-3s Alpha-linoleic acid (ALAs), Protein Dense, Minerals (Cardiovascular & Brain Health)|
|Flaxseeds||Fiber, Lignans, Omega-3s Alpha-linoleic acid (ALAs) (Reproductive Health)|
|Walnuts||Fiber, Antioxidants, Anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids (Gut Health - Digestive Enzymes)|
|Coconut||Medium-Chain Triglycerides fatty acids (MCT), Electrolytes & Minerals (Metabolic Health)|
|Macadamia Nuts||Monounsaturated Fats both - Palmitoleic & Oleic Acids|
|Chickpeas||Protein Rich, Fiber, Choline & Selenium|
|Pistachios||Lutein & Zeaxanthin (Vision Health)|
|Beans||Minerals, Fiber (Bone Health)|
|Lentils||Fiber, Antioxidants, Minerals (Manganese)|
|Popcorn||Polyphenols & Fiber|
|Cashews||Fiber, Antioxidants (Cardioprotective), Minerals (Copper & Iron)|
|Pecans||Fiber, Vitamin E (Gamma-Tocopherols) (Heart Health)|
Is Fish a Superfood?
Yes, however, with the small caveat that the fish must not be factory farmed. Although it pains us to write this, most fish are incredibly nutritious and quickly meet any superfood definition out there. The fish you may be consuming from your local grocery store is most likely not what you think it is.
When naturally raised, the proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is no more than 4:1. Although fish represent one of the most impactful natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fish raised in factory farms are notoriously high in the omega-6 fatty acid (pro-inflammation), creating ratios closer to the likes of 15:1; nowhere near the optimal balance of 4:1 defined by mother nature herself.
The value of eating wild fish with the desired omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio can lead to improvements related to,
- Brain Functions
- Eye Health
- Heart Disease Risk Factors
- HDL Cholesterol
- Joint & Bone Health
and also reductions in the following -
- Feelings of sadness and depression
- Plaque and artery build up
- Blood clots
- Symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Fat deposits on the liver
It's tough to get omega-3 fatty acids without taking supplements or eating fish. Salmon is an excellent source and it's packed with B vitamins, potassium, and protein as well .
You don't need to consume too much salmon to get enough omega-3s, either. A few servings a week will keep you flush with nutrients. If you're having a hard time eating that much fish or disagree with fish in general, you can try to work on an omega-3 supplement.
What are the Most Popular Superfoods?
So, what are superfoods? In many cases, they're just natural foods that people have been eating for thousands of thousands of years. It's kind of a shame that the raw diet is unusual in this day and age, considering processed foods' health hazards.
We're here to help you move in the natural direction, though. Please explore our best grass-fed whey recipes; a recent recipe we just posted goes into deep on the benefits of consuming pee pollen!