What Superfoods Are and What They Do

By Marni Wasserman

Superfoods have concentrated nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and provide an intense amount of nutrition in every bite. Anyone can benefit from eating more superfoods because they’re so super!

Superfoods protect your body from free-radical damage (which contributes to the aging process), give you more energy, help your body detoxify, promote clear and bright skin, give you mental clarity, help with weight loss, and improve immunity. Some superfoods are common foods, while others are a little bit rarer.

As you venture into this new world, start out by trying some everyday superfoods and then work up to the more exotic ones. But before you run off to procure these magical treats, here’s more about what you’re looking for.

The superfoods you may already know

These are foods that you’re most likely familiar with and are hopefully consuming on a somewhat regular basis. If not, now’s your chance to get more of these items into your everyday diet:

  • Fruits: Avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, kiwis, mangos, papayas, pomegranates, and pumpkins.

  • Veggies: Kale, broccoli, spinach, beets, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Seeds and nuts: Almonds, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hempseeds, and walnuts.

  • Pseudo grains: Seeds that act like grains and are extremely high in protein, fiber, and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Quinoa and buckwheat are good examples.

The green superfoods

Green superfoods have the highest concentration of easily digestible nutrients, fat-burning compounds, and vitamins and minerals to protect your body. They contain a variety of beneficial substances, including proteins; protective phytochemicals; and healthy bacteria, which help you build stronger muscles and tissues, aid your digestive system, and more effectively protect you against disease.

Green superfoods are also rich in chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green essence. The molecular structure of chlorophyll is similar to human blood, so it helps build and cleanse our blood, providing our cells with more oxygen — which is just one of the reasons it’s so good for us!

These green superfoods are especially generous with their healthful properties:

  • Chlorella, a single-celled form of green algae.

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as dandelion, kale, Swiss chard, and collards.

  • Sea vegetables

  • Spirulina, a cyanobacteria (blue-green bacteria) that is a complete protein.

  • Sprouts, green living foods that come from seeds. Common varieties of sprouts come from buckwheat, quinoa, kamut (an ancient wheat that contains significantly more protein than modern wheat), sunflower seeds, and flax.

Watch out for alfalfa sprouts. Whether home grown or store bought, they tend to harbor fecal bacteria. This can make you sick — so pay attention to your sprouts.

The exotics

You may not be as familiar with these superfoods — which you may have a harder time finding, depending on your location.

  • Acai berries: These are boosted with an array of nutrients, from B vitamins to zinc. Not to mention, they’re loaded with healthy cell-promoting antioxidants. These are great in juice.

  • Cacao: This is chocolate in its purest state, not heat-treated. It provides antioxidants that are superior to almost anything else in nature. High in magnesium and iron, cacao is best in raw desserts, such as avocado pudding or chocolate smoothies.

  • Goji berries, mulberries, and goldenberries: These berries are full of protein and trace minerals, along with vitamin C and vitamin A, and they contain antioxidants and bioflavonoids. They also protect against chronic disease and can help reverse aging. They can be added to cereal, trail mixes, or muffins.

  • Lucuma: This fruit can be used as a low-glycemic sweetener and contains many nutrients, including beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. It has a sweet caramel flavor that is divine in smoothies, baked goods, and raw desserts.

  • Maca: This plant root is used to increase energy, balance hormones, and enhance the immune system. It can be added to smoothies, cereal, or warm drinks.