Certain vibrant, nutritionally dense foods have become known as “superfoods,” and they have become a big part of today’s health food lingo. While there is no scientific guideline as to what defines a “superfood,” these foods are packed with:
- antioxidants and other phytochemicals
These are all nutrients that are important for cell development and renewal, heart health, and muscle repair. Well-known superfood lists often include avocados, blueberries, and almonds. But what else is out there? Consider adding these super-nutritious, lesser-known foods to your diet for maximum health benefits!
The dried seeds of the cacao tree are known as cacao beans, which can eventually be made into chocolate. While dark chocolate has been reported to have some health benefits, antioxidants are better preserved in raw cacao. In this case “raw” means that they have been gently dried at a low temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, cacao is higher in antioxidants than black tea, green tea, and red wine. Also called flavonoids, these antioxidant compounds can help decrease bad cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) oxidation. This in turn may prevent formation of plaque in your arteries.
Get a dose of cacao by snacking on cacao nibs or adding a scoop of raw cacao powder to a smoothie that calls for chocolate. Cacao has a much more intense flavor than processed cocoa, so a little goes a long way!
This root is part of the radish family and is native to Peru. Maca is best known for its micronutrient power. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous — all of which are known to increase bone strength. It also contains potassium, sulfur, sodium, and iron, and is rich in antioxidants and vitamins B-1, B-2, B-12, C, and E.
The high B-vitamin content makes this superfood popular with athletes or for those who look for a natural pre-workout boost. According to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, maca has also been used to improve sexual health and boost sperm count in men.
In the United States, maca is most often sold in powder form. Add maca to your diet by adding a scoop of powder to a smoothie, sprinkled on hot or cold cereal, or stirred into your favorite juice.
3. Goji Berries
Also known as the wolfberry, the goji berry has long been used as a medicinal plant in China and the Himalayas. These sweet, tart berries contain vitamin A, iron, and antioxidants that protect cells against damage from free radicals.
They are also high in fiber. A small handful of these berries can help provide a feeling of fullness and stave off hunger. According to Food Research International, goji berries are also said to help lower blood pressure, manage blood sugar, and possibly alleviate inflammation from arthritis.
Get goji berries into your diet by simply snacking on them throughout the day, or sprinkle them on your oatmeal, yogurt, or salads. They will add a little zing along with all those nutrients!
Wheatgrass is packed with energy, high levels of nutrients, and live enzymes that aid digestion of the grass when consumed. This allows nutrients to enter the bloodstream more quickly. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, 8 grams of protein in each ounce, and is loaded with chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals.
Chlorophyll in particular has been identified as a possible cancer fighter. When chlorophyll enters the bloodstream, it boosts hemoglobin and enriches the body’s cells with oxygen. According to Cancer Prevention Research, this cleans them out of potentially harmful substances like BPA and a variety of carcinogens that can enter the body through food, polluted air, or impure drinking water.
Try a wheatgrass shot the next time you’re at a juice/smoothie bar!
5. Raw Pumpkin Seeds
Sometimes known as pepitas, these delicious seeds contain:
- vitamin E
- vitamin B complex
- zinc (a mineral essential for prostate health, wound healing, and skin health)
These green seeds are high in fat (14 grams per ounce) and relatively low in fiber (2 grams). But they also provide nearly 10 grams of protein and a healthy dose of additional minerals, including half or more of the recommended daily doses of copper, manganese, and phosphorous. According to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to relieve symptoms caused by an overactive bladder.
To get some of this goodness into your diet, you can eat raw pumpkin seeds by the handful, sprinkled on a salad, or added to your granola. Or you can use them to make pesto (substitute them for pine nuts), or find pumpkin seed butter to use in place of peanut butter.
While there is no such thing as a “perfect” food, you can certainly boost your diet by including nutrition-rich foods such as these to your daily routine. Many of these foods are meant to be consumed in small amounts, so you don’t need much to get a good dose of valuable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!