“Superfood” is a trendy term that refers to foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. Some are thought to potentially reduce the risk factors for diseases, including certain types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. While certain characteristics and benefits of superfoods are widely acknowledged, it is important to note that the term "superfood" does not have a specific accepted medical definition.
Still scratching your head? We’ve compiled this overview of some popular superfood groups—all of which can be found at your local supermarket—and their health benefits.
Leafy green vegetables. Popular green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and bok choy are great sources of vitamins C, E, K and folate. Since they are also high in fiber, they may help to reduce the risk of colon cancer. These greens also contain glucosinolate, which some studies suggest may have cancer-fighting effects. Eating plenty of leafy greens can also aid in digestion and boost the immune system.
Fresh fruit. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are fiber-rich and high in both water and antioxidants, so they act as natural digestive cleansers and promote colon health. Pears, apples and bananas (a good source of magnesium) are also great-tasting, high-fiber fruits that promote good digestion and colon health. Citrus fruit, melons and kiwi are also considered superfoods due to their high concentration of vitamins and other nutrients.
Sweet potatoes and squash. With their subtly sweet flavors and similar nutritional profiles, sweet potatoes and squash are fiber-rich and contain beta carotene, vitamins C and E and manganese, all of which work to reduce toxins in the colon. Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in phytosterols, which may help to reduce the risks associated with colon cancer.
Beans and whole grains. Beans of all shapes, sizes and colors—including lentils, navy, garbanzo, kidney, fava, pinto, red and black beans—are a great source of low-fat protein and contain soluble fiber, which can help to lower cholesterol. Beans are also brimming with vitamins and antioxidants, and they contain both magnesium and iron. And, because they are low on the glycemic index, they can reduce the risk for diabetes as part of a healthy overall nutrition plan.
Whole grain foods including whole wheat bread, oat and wheat bran, brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur all have similar nutritional value as beans, but are not as high in protein.
Nuts and seeds. You have only to look as far as the snack aisle of your favorite supermarket to find a variety of nuts and seeds high in fiber and loaded with minerals and healthy fats, which are good for heart health. A small handful of shelled nuts and seeds is only about 100 calories and makes for a perfect superfood snack.
Oily fish. Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and smelt are an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which research suggests can reduce the overall risk of heart disease and stroke.