We all want to get the most bang for our buck when it comes to pretty much anything we buy, but it’s also important to get the most bang for your calories when it comes to the food you eat. Nutrient-dense superfoods are high-quality foods that are packed with nutrients and offer health benefits, like immune system protection or anti-inflammatory properties, to their nutritional value. Although many superfoods are low calorie and good for weight loss, including fruits and vegetables, the caloric value of a food does not define its status as a superfood. The benefits are far more important! Nutrient-dense superfoods are important to our diets because, in all honesty, most people are not great at getting the amount of nutrients they need each day. After all, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables feels overwhelming for people who struggle to eat one. If you can add superfoods into your diet more often, you stand a better chance of getting the nutrition your body needs because their nutrient density is much higher than other foods. Not sure what a nutrient-dense superfood is? Here are a few of our favorites.
Dark Leafy Greens
The term dark leafy greens refer to a variety of different vegetables, including kale, arugula, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, and other leafy greens, and you can’t go wrong in choosing to eat any of these options as part of a healthy diet. Leafy greens are low in calories and make a great salad base or addition to any meal because they’re loaded with essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin A, iron, vitamin C, calcium, folate, magnesium, nitrates, vitamin K, and lutein. It’s important to distinguish dark leafy greens from other leafy greens, like iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce, because dark leafy greens have a much higher nutritional value. Consuming dark leafy greens has been found to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and they also have high levels of carotenoids, which are believed to protect against certain kinds of cancer. You can even combine them with fruity superfoods like acai berries to make an amazing superfood smoothie!
Eggs may have gotten a bad rap in the 90s, but we now have a much clearer understanding of how eggs are an important factor within a healthy diet. Fears about eggs historically centered around a perceived link between egg consumption and high cholesterol, but eating up to two eggs per day has been found to have no increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. Eggs are packed with six grams of protein and contain two antioxidants associated with eye health, zeaxanthin and lutein. They also are chock full of vitamins like B vitamins, selenium, iron, vitamins A, and phosphorus.
What would a list of superfoods be without at least one fatty fish mentioned? Fatty fish like salmon provide omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart and brain health, as well as vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and selenium. Salmon is an excellent source of protein and is low in saturated fat, and eating fatty fish between one and three times per week has been found to reduce the risk of dying from heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. People with high blood pressure, high heart rate, high levels of inflammation, and high triglyceride levels can also see these measurements lowered by consuming fatty fish.
Are you cooking with olive oil? You should be! This heart-healthy source of fat is one of the major components of the Mediterranean diet, which is renowned for its healthy effects and impacts on longevity. Olive oil is packed with high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenolic compounds; consuming it can help lower inflammation as well as reduce your risk of experiencing heart disease or diabetes. Olive oil also contains vitamin K and vitamin E, two powerful antioxidants that help reduce damage caused by free radicals and protect the body against oxidative stress.
If you’re not sure how to find nutrient-dense superfoods in the grocery store, look for nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables that are extremely colorful, such as blueberries. Blueberries provide a powerhouse of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, that protect the body against damage caused by free radicals and prevent the effects of oxidative stress. Blueberries have been found to improve memory in older adults and may also lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol in obese people. Blueberries may even be instrumental in fighting and preventing certain types of cancer.
Although many of us treat avocado like a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit and one of the healthiest sources of fat on the planet. Like olive oil, avocado is packed with monounsaturated fats, which are the healthiest type of fats we can consume. There are several types of monounsaturated fats, and avocado is full of oleic acid, which has been shown to reduce signs of inflammation in the body. In addition to being delicious, avocado also contains fiber, minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats, and it can even reduce your risk of contracting certain types of cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.