The term ‘superfood’ tends to get used a lot, so to start off let’s clear up exactly what it means; a superfood is basically a food that is packed with nutrients.
This idea gets a confused, so if you see someone referring to an ingredient as a superfood, it may not be as nutrient rich as you’d expect. Kale is an example of this because it’s often lauded as a superfood but in reality, its antioxidant content is good but not really in the stratosphere, whereas something like red leaf lettuce has almost twice the antioxidant content as kale. Because of this misunderstanding, we thought we’d put together a list of ten foods that really do deserve the name ‘superfood’. But don’t think of this as a top ten, these are just ten good options that won’t let you down when it comes to nutrition content. So, whether you’re looking to lose weight, tone up or gain muscle, add these to your meal and you’ll be sure to feel the benefit. All ingredients are gluten free, vegan friendly and can be obtained raw.
Sumac is a bit of a secret in the West but it’s incredibly popular in the Middle East. It has an antioxidant rating of over 170 times greater than kale, making it the most antioxidant-rich food available. However, it also happens to be a spice, so it might be difficult to eat it by the teaspoon, but where its nutrient level is so high, a little can go a long way. All you need to do is put some on your salads or pasta and it will add a salty taste to your meal.
Cocoa is pretty common but it’s also pretty great. It has an ‘oxygen radical absorbance capacity’ (ORAC) of over 50k when raw, which is massive, especially when compared to kale at 1.7k. The ORAC is a way to scientifically measure the antioxidant capacity of a food, so the higher the better. This rating is for raw cocoa rather than the processed cocoa that you’d find in a chocolate bar, which has lost a lot of its potency through processing. However, dark chocolate bars offer greater benefit than milk chocolate and if you’re really after the benefits you could try raw cacao nibs although you won’t find them quite as sweet.
Acai is often touted as a superfood, so we’re in luck with Indian gooseberries which have twice the level of antioxidants as acai. They’re harder to get hold of than acai, which might be why less is said about them. However, it is possible, so they’d be a great addition to a fruit salad.
There’s a very high level of antioxidants in regular cinnamon, known as cassia cinnamon, but regular cinnamon also has a level of liver toxicity. It affects some people more than others and generally isn’t too harmful in moderation, however, Ceylon cinnamon has the same antioxidant benefits but without the same level of liver-harming ingredient, known as coumarin.
Pecans are fairly common so they’re not often touted as a superfood in the way hard-to-get ingredients might be. However, they’re really up there in terms of nutrition value because they’re the most effective nut when it comes to antioxidants. For example, the ever-popular cashew nut has an ORAC rating of just under 2k whereas the pecan has almost 18k. However, it’s worth remembering that pecans have a lot of calories so while there are definite health benefits, it might not be the food to turn to if you’re looking to lose weight.
Turmeric is a classic and has an ORAC rating of nearly 130k, which makes it a real powerhouse when it comes to fighting antioxidants. As well as this, the active ingredient, curcumin, is full of benefits for your health, particularly when it comes to cellular inflammation. It’s believed to be beneficial when warding off neurodegenerative conditions, cancer and heart disease.
Fruit travels a long way nowadays, which is lucky for us because the Baobab fruit grows on trees that are native to Africa, and is a popular ingredient in traditional native meals there. It has an ORAC of 140k, six times the level of vitamin C compared to oranges, twice the calcium of milk and it’s even a good source of potassium. It’s high in fibre, so might be best enjoyed in moderation because it has a mild laxative effect.
Chia is higher in omega 3 than even salmon, so it’s a great addition to your plate. It’s particularly popular with endurance athletes as it helps keep you hydrated. When they’re growing, these seeds will absorb over 25 times their own weight in water and as your body digests these seeds slowly, it means they’re a great way to stay hydrated over a long period of time.
Yet another superfood from African soil, sorghum is similar to cereals in nature. However, it’s a great alternative because it’s gluten-free, far fewer people are allergic to it and to top it off it’s also a good choice for vegans who are looking for protein. The red and black varieties of sorghum have an ORAC value that’s in excess of 14k and 21k respectively, which means they’re great if you’re seeking an antioxidant.
Perhaps the strangest-looking on this list is purple corn, which is a real stand-out in any salad. Corn is generally a good food but purple corn is even better because it has over 10x the antioxidant property due to an ingredient called anthocyanin. Purple corn has been popular in South America since the time of Mesoamerican empires although has only made its way to north America within the last decade.
There are lots of options when it comes to superfoods and you can find antioxidant properties in some surprising places. Next time you’re looking for something a little different, we hope you’ll have these options a try.