And how superfoods can benefit your health
They say we are what we eat, so what if we regularly consumed the healthiest superfoods available?
What if you could enjoy highly-nutritious foods every day without having to stock up on a bunch of supplements? Yes, nature is full of wholesome goodness, waiting for us to tap into.
While most natural, whole foods are good for us, some options are packed so full of goodness that they’ve been dubbed “superfoods”.
While the term “superfood” is pretty much a marketing term used to boost sales on certain foods, we can’t deny the nutritional benefits that these 12 foods have to offer.
12 of the healthiest superfoods to add to your diet:
1. Leafy, dark green vegetables
Dark leafy greens provide rich amounts of vitamin K and help to protect the body against inflammation. Studies in South Africa and across the world suggest certain foods could have cancer-fighting properties.
Leafy green veggies are low in fat but high in fibre, which is excellent for those who are weight-conscious. They also provide lutein and zeaxanthin which are essential for the health of the eyes. These components protect the eyes from extremely bright light.
Examples of healthy green veggies include:
- Romaine lettuce
Green leafy vegetables are a great addition to many food options.
Some ideas include:
- Salads – build the base of your salad with varieties of lettuce and spinach. Add some colour with tomatoes, carrot shavings, olives and a protein like chicken or beef strips
- Stir fry – Leafy green veg is a great addition to stir-fry
- Wraps – You can’t go wrong with making a tasty veggie wrap
- Steamed – When steaming vegetables never overdo it. Just steam them until tender enough to eat
Salmon is a fatty fish high in omega-3 and provides healthy fats required for optimal brain function. When eating salmon you also get a high dose of protein, just what your muscles need to stay healthy.
Omega 3 also benefits your hair, skin and nails, which is perfect for those aiming to look younger for longer.
The vitamin B in salmon promotes increased energy levels and uplifts the mood by increasing serotonin.
Food ideas with salmon:
- Grilled – Grill your fish in a splash of olive oil or a small amount of butter. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Dress with freshly squeezed lemon juice and serve with crisp veggies
- A salad – Your choice of salmon added to a salad comprising of grapefruit, lentils, chickpeas, and some watercress
- Roasted – Roast your fish with baby potatoes, red peppers, fresh broccoli, and carrots
Nuts are a fabulous source of healthy oils and fats which makes it a must, every day. It’s low in cholesterol and because of the polyunsaturated fats, your heart will love it too. It’s excellent as a supplement for your dietary fibre needs plus you’ll benefit due to all the minerals and vitamins.
Some nut varieties include:
While nuts are considered healthy, be mindful that they are packed full of calories too. So best to eat them in small quantities.
Food ideas with nuts:
- Salad – Shaved almonds tossed over a veggie salad
- Roasted – Roasting nuts will enhance their flavour
- Something sweet – Nuts are delicious over ice-cream, or in a pastry or cake.
- With yoghurt – Nuts can also be eaten with yoghurt and you could get creative adding a few fresh berries to the mix.
Just like nuts, seeds are also high in polyunsaturated fats. They aid digestion and help keep the gut healthy since they are rich in fibre. When it comes to seeds, you’ll get a dose of protein, vitamin B, manganese omega-3 and 6.
Seeds are also regarded as the healthiest superfood because they’re good for heart health. Seeds are a good alternative for people who don’t eat nuts or have a nut allergy.
In addition, seeds are often much cheaper than nuts.
Some options are:
Like nuts, seeds are high in calories and should be eaten in small quantities.
Food ideas with seeds:
- Salads – sprinkle some seeds over your salads
- Roasted – Similar to nuts, you can also go ahead and lightly roast your seeds for a healthy snack
- In baked goods – Seeds are tasty in baked goods like bread and sweet pastries
- Stir fry – You can jazz up your stir fry with a sprinkle of seeds, especially toasted sesame seed
5. Herbal teas
According to The Republic of Tea, herbal teas are “an infusion or blend of various leaves, fruits, bark, roots, or flowers belonging to almost any edible, non-tea plant.”
A wonderful option for those looking to cut down on coffee, herbal teas have a host of benefits for your body.
They are high in flavonoids (improves heart health), reduces inflammation and could help to reduce plaque build-up in arteries.
Some tea varieties include:
Because most herbal teas contain zero caffeine, they hydrate rather than dehydrate.
Various teas have different effects on the body. For example, chamomile helps to calm, while peppermint is more invigorating.
Matcha green tea has so many health benefits, we wrote a separate blog about it! You can view it here.
Drink ideas with tea:
- Spruce up your tea by adding a slice of lemon, some honey, mint leaves, and/or ginger.
- Make an iced tea – prepare your tea and allow to cool. Pour over crushed ice for a refreshing drink.
Eggs might seem like the most boring item on a list of exciting superfoods, however, the humble egg is a powerhouse of protein.
This makes it an excellent choice for the first meal of the day, as the protein will satiate your hunger.
Eggs also provide choline which is important for brain function. And it’s a great option for vegetarians who consume eggs, but not meat.
Food ideas with eggs:
- Salad – add boiled egg halves to a salad for extra protein.
- Veggie scramble: add grated baby marrow, slides of red peppers and pre-fried onion to your scramble for a delicious savoury breakfast
7. Fermented food
Fermented food has been overrated for decades but is finally getting the attention it deserves. It might seem old fashioned and something from our grandparents days, but now more than ever we need to be consuming fermented foods.
These foods are beneficial for our gut health, which is also getting more attention in health circles these days.
According to Healthline: “Fermentation is a natural process through which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs — such as starch and sugar — into alcohol or acids. The alcohol or acids act as a natural preservative and give fermented foods a distinct zest and tartness.”
When buying fermented food, ensure that it is actually fermented and not just pickled in vinegar – there’s a huge difference between the two!
Various foods can be fermented, including wine, cheese, sauerkraut, yoghurt, and kombucha.
In South Africa, you can buy various authentically fermented foods from Che Gourmet, an online shop that can deliver your fermented foods to your door.
It might be stinky, but garlic is one of the healthiest superfoods you can add to your diet. Garlic has potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is low in calories and perfect for weight-conscious folks.
Food ideas using garlic:
- Roasted – Add some garlic cloves to your roast chicken, lamb, or vegetables
- Seafood – garlic is delicious when added to pan-fried shrimp or line fish
- With bread – Garlic and bread make for a tasty combination. Roast or bake garlic bread over hot coals, add fresh herbs and enjoy the mouth-watering flavour.
Turmeric is a spice from the turmeric root. It’s been relied upon for centuries for its medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s a popular food ingredient throughout Eastern countries and has an array of health benefits. Since it has strong anti-inflammatory features, turmeric may help to fight and prevent cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Food and beverage ideas using turmeric
- Add it to rice – To change the colour to a rich oriental yellow, add some turmeric spice to plain white rice then boil.
- Curries – Turmeric is a staple ingredient in most curries alongside curry powder. These are both fragrant and delicious.
- Turmeric tea – enjoy the health benefits of turmeric by sipping on some turmeric tea
Just like garlic and turmeric, ginger also possesses exceptional anti-inflammatory properties.
During high-flu season, adding additional ginger to your diet can support your immune system. Ginger is known for reducing nausea, as well as other stomach discomforts.
Food and beverage ideas using ginger:
- Beverages – Ginger is the perfect addition to herbal teas, or even in plain water with a dash of lemon juice
- Food – Add ginger into your food, not only is this good for health but also mouth-watering in flavour
- Drinks – There are many uses for ginger in beverages like tea and even added to water.
These fleshy and edible fungi are amazing for good health. They contain riboflavin which supports growth in children and aids overall good health. Mushrooms also have folate which is needed for processing carbohydrates into energy and is extremely important for pregnant women.
Here are some varieties of mushrooms:
- Lion’s Mane
Mushrooms are not only versatile and delicious but are one of the healthiest superfoods you can add to your diet.
Food ideas with mushrooms:
- Baked or fried – add garlic for a delicious tasting mushroom side-dish
- Soup – creamy mushroom soup is perfect during winter
- Crumbed – crumbled button mushrooms make for a tasty starter or snack
- With pizza and pasta – Mushrooms pair well with various pasta dishes and are great on pizza too
Berries are juicy and delicious but also packed full of micronutrients.
They are one of the healthiest superfoods because they are rich in fibre, vitamin C, and folate. They can help reduce bad cholesterol and their high levels of antioxidants fight the signs of ageing.
Food ideas with berries:
- Sauce – Make a blueberry sauce, excellent for glazing and delicious over vanilla ice-cream
- Baking – Add berries to various baked goods, such as muffins, pancakes and biscuits
- Snack – a small handful of berries make for a low-calorie, low-sugar snack
- Smoothies – Add berries to your smoothies
- Breakfast – Muesli, blueberries and yoghurt is a treat
Closing thoughts on the healthiest superfoods
Unless you’re allergic to any of these foods, or unless they interfere negatively with your diet, you can enjoy these foods regularly.
These 12 options are by no means all the superfoods available, so check out our Superfoods Pinterest board if you want more superfood inspiration.
Eating a diet that’s low in sugar and processed foods is the first step to combating lifestyle-related diseases.
Choosing natural, whole food options, like these 12 superfoods, will go a long way to promote health, wellness and vitality for you and your family.