Superfoods - we hear this term a lot being thrown around in the health and nutrition world… but what does it mean and can a food really be “super”?
First - I want to emphasize that while some foods are absolute powerhouses when it comes to their vitamin and mineral content, there is not one food that will turn your health around. Instead, prioritizing a variety of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and grains is a great way to support your health from the inside out!
Creating a routine that brings you balance and sustainability is the best approach for long-lasting health. Within this routine however, you can incorporate some of these powerhouse foods that will rev up your vitamin and minerals for the day and bring a variety of other powerful health benefits!
Before we dive into some powerhouse foods for our bodies - what makes these foods so special? Oxidative stress is a term used in the health world to describe internal stress that negatively affects our cells and body functions.6 “Superfoods” work to minimize this stress and positively affect our cells through anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and many other benefits to protect our bodies from the inside out. 6 The high amounts of vitamins and minerals in these foods, as well as how they interact with our body processes, is what makes these foods unique and a great addition to our lifestyle.
High in Vitamin K, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Vitamin K also is important for many of our internal cell functions like blood clotting and bone health.5,11,12 Try some of these foods to up your Vitamin K intake through leafy greens. Making a green smoothie loaded with fruits and these veggies is an easy and cost effective way to get your greens in without having to eat a salad! Try freezing them too for extra storage time.
High in fiber and nutrients like Vitamin A and Vitamin C. These veggies have positive effects on our gut and hormonal health due to their content and breakdown in the body. Cruciferous vegetables may also have an anticancer effect that research is working to further understand.1,5
High in fiber and phytochemicals; plant components that positively influence our body. Whole grains have anti-inflammatory effects and may be linked to impacting disease risk factors such as weight, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.5,9
These fruits may have an array of positive effects on our body from anti-inflammation, disease prevention (such as cancer and diabetes) and impacting our gut microbiome.3 This is due to polyphenols, like anthocyanin and quercetin, that have a variety of essential roles in our body function, which are found in high-concentrations in berries such as: 3,5-7
High in oleic acid (a healthy fat) and polyphenols. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil may be associated with lower risk of diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory diseases and aging.5 Try switching your cooking oil or butter for olive oil for an easy swap!
A powerful spice that contains curcumin, a polyphenol that plays a role in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms. It also may have DNA-related benefits as well.5 Make sure to include black pepper with your turmeric however to activate it in your body!
High in a variety of vitamins and minerals and also lycopene, an antioxidant that has been studied in regard to anticancer and heart disease. Lycopene can also be found in watermelon, grapes, papayas, and apricots.4,5
Plant-protein powerhouses! Legumes offer a variety of benefits from high fiber, protein, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals from B-vitamins to potassium.5,8,10 To increase your daily protein, and boost that fiber, try incorporating some of these to your next meal:
Gut-health champions. Fermented foods are a great way to support your gut microbiome and that good bacteria. They also may have a role in other health conditions such as heart health, obesity and our immune function. 2,13
Try incorporating some of these items into your weekly meals -they act as great sandwich toppings or sauce additives!
These are some great foods to integrate into your day-to-day to support your overall health and body from the inside out. Remember - no food has a super power, it is the combination of mind-body-food that really is the superpower. Happy eating :) - Emily LaBombard, MPH, RDN, LDN
Ağagündüz D, Şahin TÖ, Yılmaz B, Ekenci KD, Duyar Özer Ş, Capasso R. Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Bioactive Metabolites: from Prevention to Novel Therapies of Colorectal Cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022;2022:1534083. Published 2022 Apr 11. doi:10.1155/2022/1534083
Baruah R, Ray M, Halami PM. Preventive and therapeutic aspects of fermented foods. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2022;132(5):3476-3489. doi:10.1111/jam.15444
Bouyahya A, Omari NE, El Hachlafi N, et al. Chemical Compounds of Berry-Derived Polyphenols and Their Effects on Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Cancer. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2022;27(10):3286. doi:10.3390/molecules27103286
Cassileth B. Lycopene. Oncology (Williston Park). 2010;24(3):296.
Divella R, Daniele A, Savino E, Paradiso A. Anticancer Effects of Nutraceuticals in the Mediterranean Diet: An Epigenetic Diet Model. Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 2020;17(4):335-350. doi:10.21873/cgp.20193
Djedjibegovic J, Marjanovic A, Panieri E, Saso L. Ellagic Acid-Derived Urolithins as Modulators of Oxidative Stress. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2020;2020:1-15. doi:10.1155/2020/5194508
do Rosario VA, Chang C, Spencer J, et al. Anthocyanins attenuate vascular and inflammatory responses to a high fat high energy meal challenge in overweight older adults: A cross-over, randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2020;40(3). doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2020.09.041
Healthy food trends - beans and legumes: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000726.htm#:~:text=Beans%20and%20legumes%20are%20rich
Milesi G, Rangan A, Grafenauer S. Whole Grain Consumption and Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Literature Review of Randomized Control Trials. Nutrients. 2022;14(2):374. Published 2022 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu14020374
Mullins AP, Arjmandi BH. Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Focus on Beans in Cardiometabolic Diseases. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):519. Published 2021 Feb 5. doi:10.3390/nu13020519
Popa DS, Bigman G, Rusu ME. The Role of Vitamin K in Humans: Implication in Aging and Age-Associated Diseases. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021;10(4):566. Published 2021 Apr 6. doi:10.3390/antiox10040566
Sim M, Lewis JR, Prince RL, et al. The effects of vitamin K-rich green leafy vegetables on bone metabolism: A 4-week randomised controlled trial in middle-aged and older individuals. Bone Rep. 2020;12:100274. Published 2020 Apr 26. doi:10.1016/j.bonr.2020.100274
Weaver BJ. A fermented-food diet increases microbiome diversity and lowers inflammation, Stanford study finds. News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/07/fermented-food-diet-increases-microbiome-diversity-lowers-inflammation