Pronounced keen-wah, quinoa is an ancient grain that has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. Like barley, farro, amaranth, and other ancient grains, its popularity has risen over the years because of its many health benefits. While there are hundreds of quinoa varieties, the most common types are back, white, and red quinoa. Like buckwheat, quinoa is considered a pseudocereal. Nutritionally, quinoa is regarded as a whole grain because its grain seed remains intact. Quinoa is excellent for those with celiac disease because it’s naturally free of gluten. One cup of this whole grain is 222 calories and contains over 8 grams of protein, 5.2 grams of fiber, and a ton of nutrients. Quinoa is considered a complete protein, so it’s great for vegetarians and vegans. The high fiber content makes it an excellent food for a healthy heart and controls blood sugar levels. Compared to other gluten-free grains, this grain is one of the richest in antioxidants. Other vitamins and minerals you can get from quinoa include iron, manganese, B-2, and lysine. The easiest way to incorporate quinoa into your diet is to use it in place of rice in your favorite recipes. It works well in baked goods, salads, and as a breakfast grain.
Deriving from the plant Salvia hispanica, these tiny black seeds are related to the mint plant. They date all the way back to the time of the Mayans and Aztecs, where they were a dietary staple. In Ancient Mayan, chia means strength. In the last decade or so, the popularity of chia seeds has risen, and they are now considered a superfood. These tiny seeds are packed with nutrients. A one-ounce serving contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are naturally gluten-free and non-GMO. Loaded with antioxidants, chia seeds provide a wealth of health benefits. 90% of the carbohydrates found in chia seeds are from fiber, which is not digested by the body. Chia seeds benefit your health without raising blood sugar levels. The fiber content also makes you feel fuller longer and is suitable for the friendly bacteria in your gut. These seeds are ideal for vegetarians and vegans because of their high protein content. Enjoy chia seeds in porridge, smoothies, salads, and yogurt.
While eggs got a bad rap for a while because of their cholesterol levels, they are actually a vital part of any healthy diet. Eggs are tasty, easy to eat, and packed with vital nutrients. They contain a bit of nearly every nutrient you need. If you get pastured or enriched eggs with omega-3, they’re even healthier than regular eggs! While eggs are high in cholesterol, that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. Eating foods high in cholesterol won’t necessarily raise your blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs tend to raise HDL cholesterol, known as the right kind of cholesterol. One of the best ways to get choline into your system is by eating eggs. Most people don’t consume choline, which helps to build cell membranes. One egg provides over 100 milligrams of choline. They also contain vital antioxidants that promote good eye health. For those avoiding meat, eggs are a wonderful source of protein. Whether you like them boiled, poached, or scrambled, eggs are one of the best foods to incorporate into your diet.
Sweet potatoes aren’t just a great Thanksgiving side dish! This tasty spud is packed with vital nutrients. One medium-sized potato provides more than 400 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement. These potatoes are known as complex carbohydrates, making them better for you than regular potatoes. Because sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index scale, they are ideal for people with diabetes. Sweet potatoes won’t raise blood sugar levels like starchier foods. Potassium found in these tubers can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Vitamin C and beta-carotene in sweet potatoes can protect against cancer and give an immunity boost. Their fiber content promotes healthy digestion and regularity. Sweet potatoes are best roasted. Their naturally sweet flavor makes them taste great on their own. You can make them mashed, into fries, into chips, or even into dips.
20. Kidney beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.
Kidney beans are a variety of the bean Phaseolus vulgaris and are native to Mexico and Central America. These beans are a significant protein source around the world. Kidney beans are best eaten well cooked, Eating them raw or undercooked can be toxic. These legumes come in a wide range of colors, including black, red, purple, white, and striped. Kidney beans are a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. One serving of kidney beans contains 127 calories, 8.7 grams of protein, and 22.8 grams of carbs. Beans are considered one of the best non-meat protein sources and are commonly referred to as the “poor man’s meat.” These tasty beans are starchy, but they’re considered a slow-release carb. That means that they take longer to digest and don’t quickly raise blood sugar, making them an excellent carbohydrate choice for people with diabetes. Their high fiber content makes them ideal for aiding in digestion and weight loss. Kidney beans are a great source of vital nutrients like iron, folate, copper, potassium, and vitamin K1. Enjoy kidney beans in your favorite soups, with rice or another whole grain, or in salads.
19. Swiss chard is a leafy green full of many health benefits.
One of the healthiest leafy greens to incorporate into your diet is Swiss chard. Known as spinach beet, mangold, and silverbeet, this vegetable is packed with nutrients. Eating one cup of Swiss chard can give you more than three times the required amount of vitamin K. Swiss chard is excellent because it can be eaten raw or cooked, so it’s exceptionally versatile. Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It also has antioxidants like alpha and beta-carotene, choline, zeaxanthin, and lutein. The calcium, potassium, and magnesium levels in this green can help lower blood pressure. Chlorophyll contained in Swiss chard can hinder carcinogens in the body. Antioxidants found in this green have been known to lower glucose levels and reduce neuropathy symptoms in patients with diabetes. Swiss chard can also help to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and improve athletic performance. This tasty vegetable works well raw in salads and sandwiches. It’s also great in soups, stews, and casseroles.
Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is known as one of the healthiest veggies. It’s closely related to cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and turnips. Broccoli and its relatives are excellent sources of nutrition while being low in calories. Cruciferous vegetables are a must for any healthy diet! Studies have shown that sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, can help fight cancer. Vitamin K works to improve bone health. One cup of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily needs of vitamin K. Broccoli also has a lot of vitamin C, which can improve your skin and make you look younger. It’s also loaded with fiber, which is ideal for digestion and satiety. Broccoli can be added to pretty much any dish! Put it in salads, soups, pasta, and even on pizza. For a more simple dish, sauté it in olive oil with minced garlic.
The kiwifruit originated in northern China and arrived in New Zealand in the 20th century. Back then, it was known as the Chinese Gooseberry. To avoid high export duties charged on Chinese Gooseberries, the name was changed to kiwifruit. The name derives from New Zealand’s national symbol, the kiwi bird, brown, fuzzy, and small like a kiwifruit. Did you know that kiwis are technically a berry? Kiwis are high in nutrients but low in calories, making them great for snacking. They have a high vitamin C content, making them great for your skin and collagen production. Studies have shown that kiwis can help improve your sleep quality. Kiwis have a lot of fiber and potassium, which is essential for a healthy heart. Their potassium content also helps to lower blood pressure. Kiwis are delicious eaten by themselves or with a drizzle of honey. This fruit also works well in smoothies, with yogurt, and on salads.
Belonging to the nightshade family, bell peppers are considered fruits. They are related to tomatoes, chili peppers, and breadfruit and are native to Central and South America. These peppers are also known as sweet peppers or capsicum and are delicious raw or cooked. You can find bell peppers in various colors, including green, red, orange, and yellow. Fresh bell peppers are over 90 percent water. They are packed with vitamins and minerals. One red bell pepper can provide 169 percent of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. These peppers also include vitamin B6, which is great for red blood cell formation, and vitamin K1, which is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Bell peppers have a lot of potassium and folate, which promote good heart health. Antioxidants found in bell peppers can improve eye health and help prevent anemia. In addition to eating bell peppers raw, you can sauté them with onions, add them into soups, or stuff them with tasty whole grains.
One of the best sources of healthy fats is avocado! Avocados come from the Persea americana tree that’s native to Central America and Mexico. This fruit has a smooth, creamy texture and is packed with good monounsaturated fats. There are several different colors, shapes, and sizes of avocados, but they’re all tasty. Avocados are low in sugar, unlike most fruits. They rank low on the glycemic index scale, making them a great healthy food choice for people with diabetes. Half an avocado holds nearly 5 grams of fiber, which is a lot. Fiber is ideal for your gut and keeps you full. These tasty fruits have an abundance of oleic acid, reducing inflammation and protecting against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. You’ll find folate, potassium, copper, vitamins E, K1, C, and B6 in avocados. You can eat avocados alone or make them into guacamole. They’re also great on salads and sandwiches and can even be blended into a smoothie.
While you may not be jumping at the chance to add sardines into your diet, you may want to consider it. These fish have been eaten for centuries. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte began canning sardines to feed his army. Sardines got their name from the Italian island of Sardinia, where the tiny fish are abundant. Because they are very perishable, sardines are most often canned. Because sardines only eat plankton, they don’t have high levels of mercury like most fish. The fish are loaded with vital omega-3 fatty acids that help with heart disease prevention. You can get a lot of vitamin B-12 from sardines, boosting your energy, and keeping your cardiovascular system working smoothly. Vitamin D found in the fish promotes good bone health. You can get the necessary calcium requirements from sardines for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. Sardines can be eaten on crackers, in salads, and as a main course.
This is a tasty snack that’s healthy and free from added sugar. Edamame is from young soybeans that are harvested before they can ripen. They can be found in the pod or shelled, fresh, or frozen. These beans are common in Asian cuisine. Because they are gluten-free, low calorie, and full of protein, edamame is a perfect addition to a healthy diet. One cup of edamame is 188 calories and contains nearly 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of dietary fiber, and 98 milligrams of calcium. That’s 10 percent of an adult’s daily calcium needs! Edamame provides all of the essential amino acids the body needs to get from protein, so it’s an excellent plant-based protein source. You can also get vital omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats from these beans. Edamame helps prevent age-related mental disorders, breast and prostate cancer, depression, and heart disease. Use edamame as an alternative to peas in casseroles, soups, or salads. Of course, you can eat them right out of the pod!
One of the most popular ingredients in Middle Eastern cuisine is bulgur wheat. This cereal grain is made from dried, cracked wheat and is typically partially cooked to make it easy to prepare. After being cooked, it has a similar consistency to quinoa or couscous. Bulgur wheat is a whole grain, so it’s an excellent choice for a healthy diet. One single serving of bulgur wheat can give you 30 percent of your daily fiber needs. This whole grain is rich in iron, manganese, and magnesium and lower in calories than other whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. One cup of cooked bulgur wheat is 151 calories, 34 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. The fiber in bulgur wheat can help keep your heart healthy and regulate blood sugar. These whole grains also work to help grow good bacteria in your gut. Bulgur wheat is most commonly used in salads like tabbouleh and pilafs. You can make it into a breakfast porridge or add it to soup recipes.
11. Spinach can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways.
When you think of the top superfoods, spinach is definitely on the list! This low-calorie leafy green is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s inexpensive and easy to prepare, making it a must-have for healthy eaters. There are quite a few different types of spinach, including savoy, flat, and semi-savoy. One single serving of spinach has 28.1 micrograms of vitamin C. That’s 34 percent of an adult’s daily recommendation! There are seven calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 167 milligrams of potassium, and 0.81 grams of iron in one cup of this vegetable. That’s a ton of nutrients in just a small serving! These nutrients help your body stay healthy, and your energy remains up. The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid is plentiful in spinach and has been known to reduce blood sugar levels and instances of neuropathy in diabetics. Chlorophyll found in leafy greens like spinach has been shown to block carcinogenic effects in the body, preventing cancer growth. Spinach makes a great salad base and can be added to omelets, sandwiches, and different kinds of pasta; you can also sauté it with a bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese for a tasty side dish.
Originally from China, green tea is a lightly caffeinated beverage with a wide variety of medicinal properties. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. Although many people choose to drink green tea due to the flavor, the health benefits are a bonus. EGCG is likely what gives green tea the apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In addition to the antioxidants, the combination of catechins and caffeine in green tea has shown to be a useful tool for weight loss in some individuals.
9. Legumes are a great source of protein and fiber.
Legumes, also known as pulses, includes a plant food class made up of beans such as lentils, peas, soy, peanuts, and alfalfa. They have earned the superfood label because they are loaded with nutrients and play a role in preventing and managing various diseases. Legumes are a rich source of B vitamins, different minerals, protein, and fiber. Consumption of legumes offers many health benefits, including improved glucose control in type two diabetics and a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Eating beans and legumes regularly and consistently may also promote healthy weight maintenance due to their ability to improve fullness feelings.
8. Nuts and seeds are full of fiber and heart-healthy fats.
While nuts and seeds are a typical snack amongst people of all ages, they are consumed for their flavor and their health benefits. Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, vegetarian protein, and heart-healthy fats. They also pack various plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress. Consuming nuts and seeds can have a protective impact on heart disease. There are various standard nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds. Some nuts and seeds are calorically dense, so it is essential to eat them in moderation. Additionally, some types of nuts have been linked to weight loss when included in a balanced diet.
7. Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage that has many health benefits.
Kefir is a fermented beverage typically made from milk containing protein, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, and probiotics. While similar to yogurt, kefir has a thinner consistency and typically more probiotic strains than yogurt. Fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kefir have several associated health benefits, including reduced cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, improved digestion, and anti-inflammatory effects. While generally made from cow’s milk, it’s typically well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance due to the lactose’s fermentation by bacteria. It can also be made from non-dairy beverages such as coconut milk, rice milk, and coconut water. You can purchase kefir or choose to make it on your own. If purchasing, be mindful of any added sugar.
6. Garlic is a nutrient-rich food that has many health benefits.
A superfood that has been used for its medicinal benefits for centuries is garlic. A portion of plant food that is closely related to onions, leeks, and shallots, garlic is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and fiber. In addition to its use for medicinal purposes, garlic is a popular culinary ingredient due to its distinct flavor. Garlic may be useful in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure as well as supporting immune function. The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic also play a role in preventing certain types of cancers. Garlic promotes healthy immune function and can be enjoyed for either medicinal or flavor.
5. Ginger is used for not only its flavor but potential medicinal effects.
Coming from a flowering plant in China, ginger is utilized as both a culinary flavor enhancer and its multiple medicinal effects. Ginger root contains antioxidants, such as gingerol, that may be responsible for many reported health benefits with this food. Ginger may help manage nausea and reduce pain from both acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. This food has also been shown to potentially reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers. It is available fresh, as an oil or juice, and in dried or powdered forms. Many people will incorporate ginger into food items such as soups, stir-fries, sauces, and teas.
4. Turmeric is an increasingly popular healthy food.
This ingredient is a bright yellow spice that is closely related to ginger. Originating from India, turmeric is used for cooking and also for medicinal benefits. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. It has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and is the focus of the majority of research surrounding turmeric. Curcumin may effectively treat and prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It has also been shown to aid in the healing of wounds and also reduce pain. Curcumin is not easily absorbed. To enhance absorption, it should be paired with fats or other spices such as black pepper.
3. Seaweed is a group of healthy foods that offer many benefits.
Seaweed is a term used to describe certain nutrient-rich sea vegetables. It is most commonly consumed in Asian cuisine but is gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its nutritional value. Seaweed is packed full of multiple nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, iodine, and fiber. These ocean vegetables are a source of unique bioactive compounds that are not typically present in land vegetables. The bioactive compounds may also have antioxidant effects and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. If you have never tried any of these sea vegetables, you may want to consider adding them to your diet to take full advantage of their nutritional value.
2. Sun-dried tomatoes have a large number of nutritional benefits.
Tomatoes are packed with many health benefits. They are primarily comprised of the antioxidant lycopene, decreasing your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers. Lycopene also aids in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. Also, one cup of sun-dried tomatoes will provide you with protein, fiber, and potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. Sun-dried tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and K. You can use them as a pizza topping, tangy addition to salads, or can be snacked on out of the bag. There is sure to be a way that you can incorporate them into your meals.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber. They also contain beta-carotene, the compound that gives carrots their orange hue. Beta-carotene has been linked to a decreased risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast and lung cancer. Another related compound found in carrots is alpha-carotene, which also aids in reducing the risk of cancer. Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are carotenoids that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which is vital for immune function, maintaining healthy cells, and activating carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes. Carrots can be consumed in various ways, as a snack or as part of a meal. They can also be eaten raw or cooked.