We’re getting smarter about food — checking labels, researching their effects on our bodies and sharing our discoveries — always trying to get the most benefit out of each calorie. This collective effort has led to the rise of superfoods: fruits, vegetables and grains that provide an abundance of essential nutrients, offer dietary variety and flexibility, and serve as healthy alternatives for vegetarians and people with food sensitivities.
Let’s take a closer look at five superfoods you should add to your grocery list, with the help of Susannah Schneider, a registered dietitian at OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center.
1. Leafy Greens
When it comes to leafy greens, the darker the better. “Leafy greens, particularly kale and spinach, are a great way to get some calcium in our diet outside of dairy products,” Schneider said.
Kale is filled with lots of nutrients, including vitamins A, K and C and spinach contains vitamins K and A, manganese and folate. If you don’t love the taste of these, you can sneak them into other foods, like soups or smoothies. While Schneider recommended kale and spinach in particular, there are plenty of other leafy greens to choose from.
If you’re looking to get the most nutritional value out of the fruits you eat, berries are your best bet. In fact, in a survey of 1,000 registered dietitians on what they thought the top superfoods of the year would be, they agreed blueberries were in the top.
Blueberries are full of vitamin K1, vitamin C and manganese. They’re also packed with antioxidants, which protect your body from diseases and cancer, and can help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease and protect against urinary tract infections.
Walnuts are not only full of nutrients, but can also help with overall wellness. Because walnuts have tons of antioxidants and plant compounds, they can help prevent heart disease and cancer and increase brain function. Walnuts are a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, folic acid, manganese, omega-3 and more.
“Leafy greens, berries and walnuts are some of the foods encouraged in the MIND diet, which is a diet combining the Mediterranean and DASH diet, which has been shown to reduce the decline in brain health as we age,” Schneider said.
Whether you’re eating avocados as a part of your main dish or using them a substitute, they’re a great way to incorporate some healthy fat into your diet – these fats can help raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. Avocados contain 20 vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins K, C, B5 and B6, antioxidants and have more potassium than bananas. They’re beneficial in helping your eye health, relieving arthritis symptoms and preventing cancer.
5. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods may not sound very appealing, but they could already be a part of your diet and a food you definitely want to eat more of! Some fermented foods to add to your diet include probiotic yogurts, kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir.
“One easy way to incorporate kefir, a type of fermented milk drink, in your diet is in a smoothie or using it as a liquid in overnight oats. Just make sure to get the plain kefir at the store as the flavored ones have a lot of added sugar,” Schneider said. “Not only will kefir give you lots of probiotics, it also is a great source of protein, calcium and low in lactose for those lactose intolerant.”
While each of these foods do contain powerful properties, Schneider says to be mindful of the use of the word “superfood.” “The term superfood was first used as a marketing ploy to help increase sales and it does not necessarily mean it is a cure all food,” Schneider said.
She mentioned the importance of having a super plate, “meaning no single food is going to have all your nutrition but when you can fit these individual foods into a balanced meal you will truly see positive changes in your health and energy.”
Schneider says if you’re planning to introduce new foods or make changes in your diet, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor or nutritionist beforehand. “You’ll get a better understanding of how these superfoods may impact your health or interact with your medications, and how to get the most benefit out of them.”
Hungry to know more? Check out our nutrition page!