Top 10 Superfoods List for Mind-Body Wellness
Incorporating nutrient dense foods from the top 10 superfoods list into your diet every day is a great way to support health and healing in mind and body.
There are hundreds of super foods to choose from, so you have a lot of choices. Many nutritious foods and beverages are available in your local stores and farmer's markets. For your convenience, this superfoods list is made up of categories of healthy food choices, instead of just specific foods or the exotic and expensive super food of the week.
For the most health benefits and enjoyment, incorporate a wide variety of nutrient dense foods from the superfoods list into your daily diet to meet all your nutritional needs. When cooked and prepared according to wise practices, you'll reap the rewards of better health, energy, and longevity.
What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods are first and foremost whole and wholesome foods that are minimally processed, if at all. Nutrient-dense refers to foods that supply a generous amount of high quality fats, proteins, minerals and/or antioxidants for their calorie count. Think of them as the opposite of empty calories that provide little or no nutritional value.
Claims about top foods are generally backed by solid research. Many of them support mental health, healthy aging, and immune function. A daily supply of superfoods offer protection against heart disease, various types of cancer, and inflammation.
Nutritional superstars are in ready supply at grocery and health food stores. Some are familiar and are part of your diet already. In general, they include most vegetables, seeds, legumes, nuts, fruits, and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes. Other nutritious foods, such as superfoods green powder and sea vegetables are less familiar.
Almost any naturally grown, organic, fully ripened fresh fruit or vegetable can make the superfoods list. This is also true of pastured animals raised as nature intended or wild-caught for food.
Likewise, what should be the healthiest foods lose their benefits when grown on poor soil or are overcooked and over-processed.
For example, an organic apple is a super food. Super heated dried pesticide-laden apple bits found in most muffins are not. Fresh pressed raw apple cider is a superfood. Canned pasteurized apple juice with all the fiber removed is not.
Healthy Superfoods List
Enjoy a variety of fresh and frozen berries. Healthful berries include acai, goji, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Eat them fresh and whole, or toss them into smoothies, fruit salads, with yogurt or baked into healthy desserts.
- Acai berry has received a lot of attention lately as an energy fruit rich in antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. It has an almost perfect essential amino acid complex. Its monounsaturated fatty acids are similar to those of olive oil. Acai contains heart protecting phytosterols and trace minerals. Of all fruits and vegetables it has one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scores. Lab studies show it highly protective against colon cancer and leukemia.
- Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, phytoflavonoids, potassium and Vitamin C. They help reduce inflammation, heart disease risk and protect against certain cancers.
A group of anti-oxidants called anthocyanins, puts dark blue and purple berries on the superstar superfoods list. Anthocyanin- rich foods have a multitude of health benefits:
- They the micro-vascular system, including tiny blood vessels to the eyes.
- Anthocyanins possess antiviral, anti-parasitic, antibacterial properties.
- They inhibit DNA damage and inflammatory gene expression.
- They induce cell death of certain cancers and metabolize foreign chemical substances and carcinogens
- Anthocyanins enhance glucose metabolism and reduce absorption.
- They inhibit LDL oxidation, reduce capillary permeability, boost nitric oxide and improve lipid profiles.
- Anthocyanins in blueberry juice and concord grape juice produce a well-documented neuroprotective effect in aging humans.
Other sources of this potent anti-oxidant are blue corn, cherries (especially tart cherries, pomegranates, grapes, raspberries, prunes, kale and strawberries. (Source: Life Extension magazine, July 2013)
Garlic, onions, shallots, chives, scallions and leeks are familiar culinary staples called alliums. Use your favorite alliums liberally in soups, stews and other dishes. These vegetables make the superfoods list because they are rich sources of flavonoids that stimulate the liver to produce glutathione, its most potent antioxidant for natural detoxification. Glutathione aids the elimination of carcinogens and toxins in the liver.
- Garlic lowers blood clot risk. It encourages the immune system to produce more natural killer cells to fight infections and tumors. Garlic is a anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It is best eaten raw or very lightly heated. Smash the garlic and let it sit for a few minutes before eating to activate the compounds.
- Onions are known for their heart-healthy benefits. They are a rich source of sulfur and the antioxidant quercetin.
3-Orange and Red Vegetables and Fruit
Peppers of all colors, melons, sweet potatoes, oranges, vine-ripened tomatoes and red cabbage are nutritional superstars. They provide healthful flavonoids, anti-oxidants, nutrients and fiber.
- Orange fruits and vegetables are rich sources of beta-carotene and Vitamin C.
- Lycopene is the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color. Cook the tomatoes and eat with a little olive oil or other oil, to boost bioavailability and absorption. Lycopene protects against various cancers, especially prostate cancer, diabetes. In addition to being an anti-oxidant, it facilitates cell-to-cell communication, stimulates the immune system, regulates endocrine communication pathways and regulates cell reproduction, which prevents cancer development.
Carotenoids in pumpkins, sweet potatoes and carrots help the immune system defend against cancer and aging.
4- Sea Vegetables
A variety of sea vegetables, commonly called seaweed, make the top 10 superfoods list because they are amazingly rich sources of vitamins and minerals.
Kelp is an excellent source of iodine. These vegetables hide well in soups and stews. Sprinkle in a spoonful of powder or flakes. No one will ever know. Or add a sheet of seaweed and let it cook in the stock. Remove before serving.
5- Green Superfood
When Mom said, "Eat your greens", she knew what she was talking about.
Greens are one of the first foods that pop into mind when someone asks, "What are superfoods?", and for good reason. Greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, phytonutrients and fiber.
- Barley grass and wheat grass are green all-stars. They are often sold in powdered form for drinking. If the taste is not for you, you can camouflage it in a berry smoothie. This is a good way to add more greens to your diet. Some people have pots of them growing in their homes for juicing.
- You won't get muscles like Popeye from eating spinach. It does protect your eyes from macular degeneration and your cardiovascular system from disease.
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables earn a place on the superfoods list in more than one category because they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They contain sulforaphane, which boosts liver detoxification and fights cancer because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory activity.
- Kale has become a cruciferous super food favorite, making its way into smoothies, soups and bags of chips. Kale contains high amounts of polyphenol sulforaphane, fiber and other beneficial compounds. It is a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two eye protecting carotenoids that absorb blue light. Kale stimulates production of Ig (immunoglobulin). These proteins are used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign invaders. Cooked kale is more effective than raw kale at producing IgA.
Vary your greens to get the full complement of their superfood goodness.
Limit oxalate rich greens (chard, beet, spinach, kale) if they cause you problems. Boiling and draining them first reduces the amount significantly.
Not a fan of eating lots of greens? Enjoy a daily serving of powdered greens in a smoothie or in juice or water. Lots of people (including me) think Amazing Greens tastes really good.
6- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a top 10 super food list yummy treat! An ounce or so of minimally processed dark chocolate a day is a great source of antioxidants and magnesium. High-flavanol cocoa improves blood flow to the brain, which can help cognitive function. Dark chocolate can boost your mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better - at least 70% is best. Limit consumption of sugar-laden chocolate "foods" which are not beneficial to your health. For the most benefit, buy raw cacao as the nibs or powder.
7-Fermented, Cultured Superfoods
Fermented, cultured foods make the top 10 superfoods list because they deliver healthy bacteria to the gut. Probiotics are essential to a healthy immune system and good digestion and assimilation of nutrients. These foods have a long history as dietary staples. In some traditions, a small serving of cultured vegetables is served with the daily meal.
- Yogurt and kefir are rich sources of dairy protein and calcium. They are easier on your digestion than milk because the bacteria have predigested it. Greek yogurt has become a real favorite. It is high in protein and ittle or no sugar is needed to make it taste good. Kefir is made from different cultures than yogurt and is usually a fizzy, thick, sour drink. Yogurt and kefir are easily made at home. Make sure the label says that the product contains live or active cultures without added sugar.
- Natto, raw sauerkraut and a variety of cultured vegetables are rich in vitamins, enzymes and healthy bacteria. You can make cultured vegetables at home with starter cultures. In order to get these beneficial live cultures from purchased cultured foods, you must purchase refrigerated varieties.
Goat milk kefir and homemade sauerkraut
8- Fiber-Rich, Nutritious Foods
Fiber-rich foods make the top 10 superfoods list because fiber is essential to the proper functioning of the digestive system. It helps you feel full longer after a meal, making it a weight loss ally, absorbs toxins on the way out of the body, and feeds healthy bacteria in intestines.
Soluble fiber promotes healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and bulks up stools. Your body needs both kinds. Manufacturers add inulin (mostly from chicory root) to foods as fiber. This type of fiber feeds healthy bacteria, but does not offer the same benefits as soluble and insoluble fiber.
Excellent sources of fiber include whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains properly prepared.
If you are sensitive to glutenous grains, try buckwheat. Buckwheat is a gluten-free fruit. It contains all eight essential amino acids and is a better source of complete protein than soybeans. It can be ground into flour or eaten as a hot cereal.
Many of these foods offer a multitude of health benefits in addition to fiber.
- One favorite is lentils, which have been a staple in Middle Eastern, European, African and Indian cuisine for thousands of years. Lentils are rich in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Not surprisingly, this makes it a superstar for lowering risk of certain cancers, metabolic syndrome and diabetes when eaten at least twice a week in place of high glycemic carbohydrates. Need ideas for cooking lentils? Here are some recipes to try.
- Mung beans are a superfoods list superstar with a generous supply of protein, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phenols. These nutrients plus resistant starch and soluble and insoluble fiber makes them a great health ally against premature aging, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. One cup of cooked beans provides a whopping 15.4 mg of dietary fiber. Like other high-fiber beans, they combat overeating by keeping you feeling full longer. Mung beans have been shown to inhibit LDL oxidation and high blood pressure, lower triglycerides and blood glucose levels, and inhibit inflammation and the formation of advanced glycation end products.
- Avocados are chock-full of beneficial fiber and healthy fats that keep you satisfied. The USDA National Nutrient Database notes that 100 grams, or half of an average-sized avocado, contains 14.6 g of fat, 6.7 g of fiber, and 0.66 g of total sugars, and a whopping 485 mg of potassium along with other essential micronutrients and phytochemicals. If you eat the standard Western diet, eating avocados can favorably affect your body's insulin and glucose responses. Avocado can be enjoyed in many ways, such as in smoothies, pudding, on sandwiches and wraps, and at breakfast as an accompaniment for eggs.
- Chia seeds make the superfoods list because they are rich in insoluble fiber, soluble fiber and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in seeds. Chia seeds provide you with complete protein, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc and other vitamins and minerals. Both chia and flax seeds make a good thickener when added to food and beverages and can replace eggs in some baking recipes. To make a flax or chia egg, mix one tablespoon ground seeds with three tablespoons of water. Let sit and thicken for 15 minutes before adding to the recipe in place of eggs.
Did you know? 8th-century King Charles the Great passed a law requiring all his subjects to eat flax seeds because they are so healthy.
9-Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make the superfoods list because they are a good source of protein, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants.
- Pistachios contain cholesterol lowering plant sterols.
- Brazil nuts contain selenium for cancer protection. They are a good source of calming magnesium and zinc.
- Walnuts are a rich source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and mood-boosting, energy-enhancing B vitamins.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in prostate-protecting zinc.
- Pomegranate seeds are noted for keeping LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.
- Ground Flax seeds can be added to baked goods, smoothies and cereal. They are a rich source of fiber, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and antioxidant lignans, which makes them a superfoods list powerhouse. They have been shown to lower blood pressure, LDL and total cholesterol, inflammation, cancer risk and insulin resistance. A tablespoon or so of ground seeds with plenty of water helps relieve constipation. One caveat - make sure you grind the seeds so they don't pass through whole and make sure you store ground seeds in the freezer or refrigerator (up to a week or so). The oil gets rancid within 20 minutes otherwise.
Eat one ounce of nuts a day to enjoy their benefits, including appetite control. A small handful makes a great snack.
If nuts feel too heavy in your stomach, soak them overnight in water, then dry them in a dehydrator or the lowest setting of your oven. This enhances taste and digestibility. Delicious!
Protein makes the superfoods list because it is the essential nutrient used in building and repairing body tissues. It is a building block of enzymes and hormones.
Tradition often dictates that animal proteins be eaten raw. This is not always practical or safe in modern times. If you do eat raw meat or fish, freeze it for at least two weeks to kill any parasites. To protect proteins from damage, cook meats for longer periods at low heat, preferably below 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The much maligned egg has finely re-earned its place on the superfoods list. Eggs contain twelve vitamins and minerals including choline for memory and brain development. Hard-boiled eggs make a nutritious snack.
- Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are good sources of quality protein and essential Omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, and depression.
- Chicken and turkey are lean sources of protein. Find anti-biotic free, humanely sources
- Grass-fed beef, buffalo and venison are naturally low in saturated fats. Grain fed beef is unnaturally high in saturated fats.
Many plant foods contain good quality protein. It is not necessary to eat meat if you prefer not to, although for good health, some people must include small amounts of fish or meat in their diet. Animal protein is acid-forming, so it is best to limit your portions to a few small servings a week. 3-5 ounces at a time is plenty.
Include a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the top 10 superfoods list in each meal as part of your daily diet. It is especially easy to include these foods in your diet when you drink some of them. Nutritious drinks such as berry superfood smoothies and green tea add a real boost of healthy nutrients and are tasty too.
For more ways to improve your well-being, visit the Healthy Living Guide.
Top 10 Superfoods List updated 10/2020
Sources: Food Data Central: Avocados
Life Extension Magazine: The Mighty Mung Bean
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