11 Superfoods to Boost Your Health

Your guide to nature’s nutritional wonders

Jul 9, 2013

Illustrative photo by Flickr user Lawrence OP

We've all heard the buzz about "superfoods" in recent years, but do you know how much of them you need to eat to get benefits, or what they actually do for you? Superfoods are usually classed as those high in antioxidants – molecules which prevent oxidization and can prevent damage to healthy cells. But these 11 super-superfoods all have additional benefits, and are tasty to boot! So have a read, then hit your local health food, market or supermarket to stock up.

1. BLUEBERRIES
WHAT'S IN IT?
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C, and also constitute a good source of fiber.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Fiber normalizes bowel movements, lower cholesterol and helps control blood sugar levels, while antioxidants help guard against a range of cancers, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer's and age-related neurological diseases.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Just eat 'em! You can also add them to fruit salads, sprinkle on yogurt or porridge or bake them. Keep a bag in the freezer, so you always have some handy.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? One small handful a day will do wonders.

Photo by Flickr user maira.gall

2. BROCCOLI
WHAT'S IN IT? Broccoli is a fantastic source of vitamins K and C, as well as folic acid, calcium and fiber.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Vitamin K keeps your blood healthy and free from clots, while vitamin C fights cancer. Folic acid is highly recommended for pregnant  women and nursing mothers, while calcium strengthens bones and fiber keeps you regular.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Stir fry it with other colorful veggies, or eat it raw with hummus or any other low-fat dip.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? One cup a day, either raw or cooked.

Photo by Flickr user churl

3. BLACK TEA
WHAT'S IN IT? Lots of antioxidants and not much else – tea is completely calorie-free.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Tea lowers blood pressure, helps prevent cancer and osteoporosis, lowers risk for stroke, promotes heart health, contributes to your daily fluid needs and possibly even plays a role in preventing sunlight damage to the skin. How's that for the old cuppa?
HOW DO I EAT IT? Brew tea for at least three minutes, unless you're extremely sensitive to caffeine, and add a wedge of lemon or lime and honey to taste.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? The sky's the limit! Just try not to overdo it with the caffeine.

Photo by Flickr user Flооd

4. SPINACH
WHAT'S IN IT? Spinach is high in protein, vitamins A and K, folic acid and is also fiber-rich.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Spinach makes the heart strong, protects against age-related memory loss, and helps with development of unborn babies (great for pregnant women!), among many other benefits.
HOW DO I EAT IT? You can get the benefits of spinach if it's cooked or raw, so chuck it in your favorite salad or whip up a super spinach lasagna.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Again, one cup will do the trick

Photo by Flickr user I Believe I Can Fry

5. WALNUTS
WHAT'S IN IT? Walnuts have more antioxidants than any other nut, and are also brimming with vitamin E. On top of that, they're rich in plant serums and omega 3 oils, and have a very high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats.
WHAT DOES IT DO? The antioxidants in walnuts provide protection against cancer, while vitamin E is good for heart health and the serums and oils work to lower cholesterol. On top of that, walnuts can help guard against both diabetes and depression. Nuts!
HOW DO I EAT IT? If munching on raw walnuts isn't quite your thing, sprinkle crushed nuts on a salad or on top of tasty pesto pasta.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Certainly not a whole cup full! Just eight shelled walnuts every other day will give you all these benefits.

Photo by Flickr user elana's pantry

6. EDAMAME (aka Soy beans)
WHAT'S IN IT? Soybeans are one of the best plant sources of protein, as well as having plenty of fiber and a hefty dose of antioxidants.
WHAT DOES IT DO? The humble soybean can improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, while antioxidants protect us against cancer.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Boil, drain and serve sprinkled with sea salt and lemon, or give traditional hummus a fun twist by replacing the chickpeas with edamame.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? A mere half-cup of these legumes provides a whopping nine grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein plus a hefty dose of antioxidants, for just 120 calories.

Photo by Flickr user massdistraction

7. BANANAS
WHAT'S IN IT? Bananas are filled with energy-fueling carbohydrates, antioxidants, potassium and vitamin B6.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Perfect for refueling before, during or after exercise, bananas protect cells against damage from free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer, help lower blood pressure, and promote healthy skin and hair.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Just peel and munch away!
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? As many as you want really, just make sure they're ripe.

Photo by Flickr user ralph and jenny

8. BRAZIL NUTS
WHAT'S IN IT? Brazil nuts are one of the few good sources of selenium, and are also full of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.
WHAT DOES IT DO? These tasty treats protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer's disease.
HOW DO I EAT IT? If raw Brazil nuts aren't quite your taste, chop them up and sprinkle on your morning cereal, or grind and add to your favorite salad dressing.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Two or three nuts a day is enough, without adding unnecessary fat to your diet.

Photo by Flickr user Celine Massa

9. KIWI FRUIT
WHAT'S IN IT? Among the most nutritionally dense fruits, Kiwi is full of antioxidants, as well as potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and E.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Kiwis neutralize the free radicals that damage cells, reducing inflammation and the many connected disease processes. They may also reduce the likelihood of developing asthma and colon cancer, and promote heart health by lowering triglycerides levels and reducing platelet hyperactivity.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Peel and eat as is, or slice into a summer salad.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Just one kiwi a day will help keep the doctor away!

Photo by Flickr user Davi Ozolin

10. FLAXSEED (aka Linseed)
WHAT'S IN IT?
The humble Flaxseed is packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants.
WHAT DOES IT DO? Flaxseed fights cancer, and promotes brain food; it's one of the only non-animal sources of Omega-3, and certainly the easiest to digest.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Sprinkle on your morning cereal or yoghurt, or add to salad dressings and pasta sauces.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? Just two teaspoons a day will help you benefit from these tiny nutritional powerhouses. Make sure you grind the seeds so your body can absorb the goodness.

Photo by Flickr user Yvonne L Sweden

And last but certainly not least...

11.   DARK CHOCOLATE
WHAT'S IN IT? According to recent research, chocolate contains more antioxidants, gram-for-gram, than most fruit juices.
WHAT DOES IT DO? The antioxidants protect the body from diseases such as cancer, and help prevent heart conditions. It also increases blood flow to the brain, and let’s not forget - it’s a natural mood-booster.
HOW DO I EAT IT? Enjoy dark chocolate as is for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or use in (healthy!) baking.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED? This superfood should be eaten in moderation – just one or two squares a day is enough.

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