Whoever thought up the term "superfood" should probably get a raise. There's something about the buzzy word that immediately connotes good health, nutrient-dense food, and benefits like more energy and a boosted immune system. There's just one problem: There's no real definition for a "superfood."
"The term 'superfood' has no established scientific or regulatory definition, but it has been used to describe foods that may provide unique health benefits," explains Kris Sollid, RD, the senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council. In fact, the term can sometimes do real damage. A product labeled as a "superfood" may simply be using marketing jargon that obscures the fact that no scientific evidence is available to back up its claims. There's another reason Sollid says we should be critical of packaging with the "superfood" moniker: "Some 'superfoods' may be significantly more expensive than alternatives that are just as good for you," he says.
Instead, Sollid recommends a well-rounded diet, rather than a magic-bullet superfood, for good health and if you are looking for nutrient-dense food that can help you get some of the benefits you may want from superfoods, like increased energy. These foods for energy can be found at any grocery store and, eaten together, create a diet that can fuel your days. And they're not crazy powders derived from rare mushrooms harvested from a remote forest. Consider giving them a permanent spot on your grocery list.
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Good news for your brunch: Avocados are a great source of B vitamins like folate, which play a key role in your energy levels and brain function. Sollid also notes they're a source of healthy monounsaturated fats (that's one of the healthy fats!) and fiber.
Berries are a naturally sweet treat that packs a nutritional punch. Sollid says they're a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Many berries are also rich in vitamin C, which plays a key role in the body's healing process and can boost your immunity.
3. Fermented Foods and Beverages
The lowly gut can do so many things: a healthy gut can contribute to heart and brain health, better sleep, and a stronger immune system. And eating some fermented foods can be beneficial to your gut health, says Sollid.
"Look for the phrase 'contains live and active cultures' on the label and the names of bacteria in the ingredients list to be sure that the food or drink you’re consuming contains probiotics," he says. Many fermented foods also tout other benefits. For example, yogurt, one of the most popular probiotic-rich foods, is a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
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"Fish are sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)," says Sollid. "EPA and DHA are the marine forms of omega-3s, commonly found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel." Omega-3s boast all kinds of health benefits, like promoting better sleep and improving your skin.
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Consider all the goodness each little nut can pack: healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There's a reason these powerhouses are in trail mix. They are compact sources of fuel you can take on the go. Almonds, explains Sollid, contain vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese and are a good source of fiber, copper, phosphorous, and riboflavin.
Like nuts, seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and nutrients. Flaxseeds, for example, are a great source of manganese, omega-3 fat, and thiamine.
As it turns out, "put an egg on it" is great advice. Despite a lingering bad reputation, eggs won't actually raise your cholesterol. Instead, they're a nutrient-rich food packed with protein and healthy fats that will keep you full. That sounds like a good reason to eat them any time of day.
8. Sweet Potatoes
This subtly sweet, versatile tuber definitely deserves a regular spot in your meal-planning routine. Besides packing a whopping amount of vitamin A, which plays a key role in immune and eye health, sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber.
"Water is the ultimate 'superfood' because it is essential for human life," says Sollid. That's because it's involved in every biochemical reaction in our bodies. You'll never look at a humble glass of tap water the same way again.