25 Greatist Superfoods and Why They're Super

773

Here’s a great excuse to gorge on pumpkin pie, blueberry cobbler, apple streusel, and chocolate-covered strawberries! Well, kind of. Yep, they're all Greatist superfoods— just hold the sugar to get the most benefits. Here are the reasons these fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy products have made our list of the world's best superfoods.

 

1. Greek Yogurt
Regular yogurt’s thicker, creamier cousin is chock-full of protein and probiotics. It fills the belly, improves digestion, and bolsters the immune system. Plus, it's a great healthy recipe substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, and even mayonnaise!

2. Quinoa
This teeny-tiny, grain-like seed packs some serious nutritional prowess. With a mild, nutty flavor and a texture similar to rice or couscous, quinoa is one of the only grains or seeds that provides all nine essential amino acids our bodies can't produce themselves [1]. And it's filled with protein— eight grams per one-cup serving, to be exact!

3. Blueberries
Don’t worry; these berries won't cause an oompa-loompa-like reaction. In fact, they're nutritional superstars, filled with fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds. [2] And studies suggest blueberries may even improve memory [3]!

4. Kale
This rough and tough green beats out all the rest in terms of nutrition, providing more antioxidants than most other fruits and veggies! It's also a fantastic source of fiber, calcium, and iron. Prepare it virtually any way, from boiled or steamed to roasted (try it as a chip!) or stewed.

5. Chia
Ch-ch-ch-chia! Yep, this little seed is the same as those adorable little ceramic animal planters of the 90s! But don’t worry, the nutritious part is not the clay pot. Chia seeds are actually loaded with the most essential fatty acids of any known plant! Plus, one serving of the stuff is loaded with magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium.

6. Oatmeal
High in fiber, antioxidants, and tons of other nutrients, this breakfast staple has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, aid in digestion, and even improve metabolism [4]. And it's downright delicious— especially when flavored like pumpkin pie!

7. Green Tea
This ages-old health secret has been used as a natural remedy for everything from cancer to heart disease [5]! The secret to this delicious drink? Antioxidants! The main superhero here is Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a phytochemical that slows irregular cell growth, which could potentially help prevent the growth of some cancers [6].

8. Broccoli
This lean, mean, green machine is packed with vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting compounds, and the fiber essential in any diet. Though all members of the cruciferous vegetable family are super-duper healthy, broccoli stands out for its exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and folate (which can reduce risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke) [7].

9. Strawberries
Vitamin C is the superstar of this superfood. Just one cup of these red beauties satisfies the daily requirement for vitamin C (74 milligrams per day for women, 90 for men)! Studies suggest the antioxidant helps build and repair the body's tissues, boosts immunity, and fights excess free radical damage. And the vitamin C in strawberries could help promote healthy eye function [8].

10. Salmon
This heart-healthy fish is packed with protein and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies suggest may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. And bonus points: Salmon may also protect skin from the sun and the damaging effects of UV rays [9] [10].

11. Watermelon
Low in sugar and high in vitamins A and C, this summer treat is the prefect fresh, low-calorie snack. Studies suggest watermelon could also potentially lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease [11] [12]. And the lycopene in watermelon could help protect the body from UV rays and cancer [13] [14].

12. Spinach
Antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins that promote vision and bone health are what make this little ol' green so super [15] [16] [17]. And those bones will be thanking spinach, too! Just one cup of the stuff packs up to 12 percent of the recommended daily dose of calcium and enough vitamin K to help prevent bone loss [17].

13. Pistachios
These lil' nuts are hiding lots of protein and fiber behind their earthy flavor and nutty crunch. Plus, they're naturally cholesterol-free. A one-ounce serving of these nuts has almost as much potassium as one small banana.

14. Eggs
A relatively inexpensive protein source loaded with nutrients, eggs certainly earn their superfood status. A single large egg is just about 70 calories and offers six grams of protein. Eggs are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for normal body function and heart health [19].

15. Almonds
Surprise! Almonds are the most nutritionally dense nut, meaning they offer the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie per ounce. For just 191 calories, a one-ounce serving provides 3.4 grams of fiber (that's about 14 percent of the daily recommended value) and a healthy dose of potassium, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. Plus, you can eat them as BUTTER!

16. Ginger
Slightly spicy but oh-so-enjoyable, ginger has been used for years as a delicious flavoring and an all-natural remedy for everything from an upset stomach to unwanted inflammation.

17. Beets
This all-star veggie contains tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight disease and strengthen vital organs. And their purple hue may be the secret to their healthy success— some studies suggest betalains, the purple pigments in these veggies, may help ward off cancer and other degenerative diseases [20] [21].

18. Beans
High in protein and low in cholesterol, beans of any variety can add a healthy twist to any dish (even brownies!). They're also loaded with fiber, folate, and magnesium, and studies have shown that legumes (like beans) can actually help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers (at least in rats…) [22] [23].

19. Pumpkin
Loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, these gourds aren't just for carving (or making into pie). The star nutrient here is beta-carotene, a provitamin that the body converts to vitamin A, which is known for its immune boosting powers and essential role in eye health [24].

20. Apples
Say it with us, people: "Fiber is good." And apples are a great low-calorie source. (A medium-sized apple weighs in at under 100 calories.) Plus, upping apple intake has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and asthma [25].

21. Cranberries
It's time to work these fall favorites into dishes year-round. Whether it's in the shape of a can or fresh off the stove, cranberries have a handful of health benefits and disease-fighting powers [26]. These bacteria-busting berries can help fight inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve oral health, help prevent ulcers and yeast infections, and may even inhibit the growth of some human cancer cells [27] [28] [29].

22. Garlic
Yes, it might leave breath less-than-desirable, but these cloves can do more than flavor— they've been used for centuries as food and medicine. These days, garlic is used to treat anything from high blood pressure and heart disease to certain types of cancer. Plus, studies suggest garlic extract can be used to treat yeast infections in women and prostate issues in men [30] [31].

23. Cauliflower
While all the vitamins and minerals are a great bonus, the real star here is cauliflower's cancer-fighting compounds, glucosinolates. These phytochemicals are responsible for cauliflower's sometimes-bitter flavor, but they have also been shown to prevent damage to the lugs and stomach by carcinogens, potentially protecting agiainst those cancers [32] [33] [34]. And thanks to interactions with estrogen, cauliflower may also help prevent hormone-driven cancers like breast, uterine, and cervical [35].

24. Leeks
Leeks owe many of their anti-cancer superpowers to their organosulphur compounds. These nutrients have been credited with everything from kicking cancer to boosting immunity [36]. Studies also suggest leeks could help protect the digestive system from stomach and gastric cancers [37] [38].

25. Lentils
They're pretty cheap, easy to prepare, and high in protein, iron and other essential nutrients. Need we say more? The iron may help fight off anemia (a condition that’s especially common among vegetarians and vegans), and they're low on the glycemic index, too. That means they cause blood sugar to spike less quickly than other starches, so our energy lasts longer [39].

Help Us Win A Webby Award!

About the Author
Kate Morin
Health and food—and how they're related—have always interested me. I’ve been cooking since I could walk (literally). After spending years...

Works Cited

  1. Nutritional Quality of the Protein in Quinoa Seeds. Nair, BM., Raules, J. Foods for Human Nutrition Jan. 1992; 42(1): 1-11.
  2. Blueberry phytochemicals inhibit growth and metastatic potential of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Adams, LS., Phung, S., Yee, N., et al. Division of Tumor Cell Biology, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, California 91010, USA. Cancer Research 2010 May 1;70(9):3594-605. Epub 2010 Apr 13.
  3. Towards a unifying, systems biology understanding of large-scale cellular death and destruction caused by poorly liganded iron. Kell, DB. School of Chemistry and the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, The University of Manchester, Manchester M1 7DN, UK. Archives of Toxicology 2010 Nov;84(11):825-89.
  4. Can dietary oats promote health? Welch, RW, Human Nutrition Research Group, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK. British Journal of biomedical science, 1994 Sep;51(3):260-70.
  5. Beneficial effects of green tea – a review. Cabera, C., Artacho, R., Giénez, R. Departamento de Nutrición y Bromatología, Facultad de Farmacia, Campus Universitario de Granada, Granada, Spain. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2006 Apr;25(2):79-99.
  6. A comparison of the morphological changes associated with conventional and sustained treatment with pigallocatechin3gallate, thymoquinone, and tannic acid on lncap cells. Richards, L.R., Jones, P., Beghuzzi, H., et a. University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi. Biomedical Sciences Instrumentation. 2008;44:465-70.
  7. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Verhoeven, D.T., Goldbohm, R.A., van Poppel, G., Verhagen, H., and van den Brandt, P.A. Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 1996 Sep;5(9):733-48.
  8. Eye Sensitivity and Vitamin C. McIntosh, EN. American Journal of Public Health 1982 Dec; 72(12): 1412-1413
  9. Eicosapentaenoic acid inhibits UV-induced MMP-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts. Kim, H.H., Shin, C.M., Park, C.H., et al. Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. Journal of Lipid Research. 2005 august; 46(8): 1712 – 1720.
  10. Fatty fish, marine omega-3 fatty acids, and incidence of heart failure. Levitan, E.B., Wolk, A., Mittleman, M.A. Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Public Health, Birmingham, AL. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 un;64(6):587-94.
  11. Determination of citrulline in watermelon rind. Romando, A.M., Perkins-Veaize, P.M. US Department of Agriculture, Mississippi. Journal of Chromatography 2005 June; 1078 (1-2): 196-200.
  12. Effects of watermelon supplementation on aortic blood pressure and wave reflection in individuals with prehypertension: a pilot study. Figueroa, A., Sanches-Gonzalez, M.A., Perkins-Veazie, P.M., et al. Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, Florida State Univewrsity, Tallahassee, FL. American Journal of Hypertension. 2011 Jan; 24(1): 40-44.
  13. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. Stahl, W., Heinrich, U., Wiseman, S., et al. Institut für Physiologische Chemie I and Biologisch-Medizinisches Forschungszentrum, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany. The Journal of Nutrition 2001 May;131(5):1449-51.
  14. Nutraceutical properties of lycopene. Waliszewski, K.N., Blasco, G. Unidad de Investigación y Desarrollo en Alimentos. Veracruz, Mexico. Salud Publica de Mexico. 2010 May; 52(3): 254-265.
  15. Galactolipids as potential health promoting compounds in vegetable foods. Christensen, L. P. Institute of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Environmental Technology, Faculty of Engineering, University of Southern Denmark, Odense M, Denmark. Recent patents on food, nutrition and agriculture 2009; 1(1): 50-58.
  16. Impact of eating habits on macular pathology assessed by macular pigment optical density measure. Cohen SY, Mauget-Faysse M, Oubraham H, Algan M, Conrath J, Roquet W. Centre Ophtalmologique d’Imagerie et de Laser, Paris, France. Journal français d’opthalmologie 2010; 33(4): 234-240.
  17. Daily intake of green and yellow vegetables is effective for maintaining bone mass in young women. Fujii, H., Noda, T., Sairenchi, T., Muto, T. Department of Public Health, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Shimotsuga, Tochigi, Japan. The Tohuko Journal of Experimental Medicine 2009; 218(2): 149-54.
  18. Daily intake of green and yellow vegetables is effective for maintaining bone mass in young women. Fujii, H., Noda, T., Sairenchi, T., Muto, T. Department of Public Health, Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine, Shimotsuga, Tochigi, Japan. The Tohuko Journal of Experimental Medicine 2009; 218(2): 149-54.
  19. Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Ruxton, C. Nursing Standard. 2004 Aug 11-17;18(48):38-42.
  20. Betalains–a new class of dietary cationized antioxidants. Kanner J, Harel S, Granit R. Department of Food Science, Institute of Technology and Storage of Agricultural Products, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov; 49(11):5178-85.
  21. Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington DC. Pharmacol Res. 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8
  22. The cholesterol-lowering effect of black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris, L.) without hulls in hypercholesterolemic rats. Rosa, CO, Costa, NM, Leal, PF, et al. Departamento de Nutrição e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Brasil. Archivos latinoamericanos de nutricion 1998;48(4):299-305.
  23. Consumption of black beans and navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) reduced azoxymethane-induced colon cancer in rats. Hangen, L, Bennick, MR. Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Nutrition and Cancer 2002; 44(1):60-5.
  24. Nutrition and retinal degenerations. Berson, E.L, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA. International Ophthalmology Clinics, 2000 Fall;40(4):93-111.
  25. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Boyer, J., Liu, R.H. Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Nutrition Journal, 2004 May 12;3:5.
  26. Bioactive compounds in cranberries and their biological properties. Côté, J., Caillet, S., Doyon, G., et. al. Research Laboratory in Sciences Applied to Food, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Quebec, Canada. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2010 Aug; 50 (7): 666-79.
  27. Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and cardiovascular disease risk factors. McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrition Reviews, 2007 Nov; 65 (11): 490-502.
  28. Potential oral health benefits of cranberry. Bodet, C., Grenier, D., Chandad, F., et al. Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Buccale, Faculte de Medecine Dentaire, Universite Laval, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Critical Reviews In Food Science and Nutrition, 2008 Aug; 48 (7): 672-80.
  29. Cranberries: Ripe for more cancer research? Neto, C.C. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2011 Oct; 91 (13): 2303-7.
  30. Antifungal effect in selected natural compounds and probiotics and their possible use in prophylaxis of vulvovaginitis. Hronek, M., Vachtlová, D., Kudlácková, Z., et al. Katedra biologických a lékarských vĕd Farmaceutické fakulty v Hradci Králové, LF UK, Praha. Ceska Gynekologie, 2005 Sep;70(5):395-9.
  31. Onion and garlic intake and the odds of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Galeone, C., Pelucchi, C., Talamini, R., et al. Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Milan, Italy. Urology, 2007 Oct;70(4):672-6.
  32. Chemoprevention of tobacco-related lung cancer by cruciferous vegetable. Balcerek, M. Katedra i Zakład Farmakognozji, Collegium Medicum UMK w Bydgoszczy, Poland. Przeglad Lekarski, 2007;64(10):903-5.
  33. Effects of cruciferous vegetable consumption on urinary metabolites of the tobacco-specific lung carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone in singapore chinese. Hecht, S.S., Carmella, S.G., Kenney, P.M., et al. University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Minneapolis, MN. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2004 Jun;13(6):997-1004.
  34. Effects of cruciferous vegetables and their constituents on drug metabolizing enzymes involved in the bioactivation of DNA-reactive dietary carcinogens. Steinkellner, H., Rabot, S., Freywald, C., et al. Institute of Cancer Research, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Mutation Research, 2001 Sep 1;480-481:285-97.
  35. Indole-3-carbinol is a negative regulator of estrogen. Auborn, K.J., Fan, S., Rosen, E.M., et al. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Research Institute, Manhasset, NY. The Journal of Nutrition, 2003 Jul;133(7 Suppl):2470S-2475S.
  36. Composition and properties of biologically active pectic polysaccharides from leek (Allium porrum). Kratchanova, M., Nikolova, M., Pavlova, E., et al. Institute of Organic Chemistry with Center of Phytochemistry, Laboratory of Biologically Active Substances, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2010 Sep;90(12):2046-51.
  37. Consumption of large amounts of Allium vegetables reduces risk for gastric cancer in a meta-analysis. Zhou, Y., Zhuang, W., Hu, W., et al. Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China. Gastroenterology, 2011 Jul;141(1):80-9.
  38. Allium vegetables and stomach cancer risk in China. Setiawan, V.W., Yu, G.P., Lu, Q.Y., et al. Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2005 Jul-Sep;6(3):387-95.
  39. Carbohydrate fractions of legumes: uses in human nutrition and potential for health. Guillon, F., Champ, M.M. URPOI & UFDNH, National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), Rue de la Géraudière, BP 71627, 44316 Nantes Cedex, 03, France. The British Journal of Nutrition, 2002 Dec;88 Suppl 3:S293-306.

Latest Greatist