Top 25 Superfoods
By Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD
Here’s a list of my top 25 foods that taste great and provide an abundance of nutrients sans preservatives, saturated and trans fat, and sodium. Many more foods could just as easily have made it on this list, but these are my personal favorites.
1. Almonds- Almonds lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) effectively decreasing overall risk for heart attack. Portion control is key as almonds, like all nuts, are calorie dense.
2. Basil- This aromatic herb has long been used in India for its anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial properties. Its flavorful taste makes a great addition to any sandwich, pasta sauce, or salad. Plus, it’s very inexpensive and easy to grow on a sunny windowsill.
3. Blueberries- This nutrient powerhouse contains high levels of antioxidants and may even help to stave off cognitive decline.
4. Bok Choy- Very low cal (a half-cup serving has only 10 calories) and nutrient-dense (rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium), this Chinese cabbage is a must have for any asian-style meal.
5. Cantaloupe- Summertime means sweet, fresh delicious cantaloupe. Like other orange fruits and vegetables, its loaded in vitamins A and C.
6. Cherry Tomatoes- Sweet and delicious, cherry tomatoes are a great snack with loads of nutrients and next to no calories.
7. Dark Chocolate- Healthy chocolate seems like a misnomer, and while all chocolate does contain sugar and fat, dark chocolate (ie chocolate that has a high percentage of cacao) has health benefits which include lowering blood pressure.
8. Eggs- Eggs are one of those foods that have been touted for their health benefits and criticized for their health risks. While egg yolks do contain cholesterol, they also are high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids which are important in heart disease prevention and brain development. Overall, eggs are cheap, easy to prepare, and versatile.
9. Zen Bakery’s Fiber Mini Cakes from Trader Joe’s- Trader Joes gets it right with these “mini cakes”. With only 80 calories, zero saturated fat, 51% of your daily fiber (a whopping 13g), and 15% of recommended daily iron intake, these are definite a superfood.
10. Garlic- Garlic is a must-have herb to add to almost any dish. In addition to giving your meal a little kick, garlic may also help fend off any number of diseases including the common cold and heart disease.
11. Grapefruit- Low in calories, high in taste and nutrients, and possibly containing a unique compound that aids in weight loss, grapefruit is a great addition to any breakfast.
12. Lentils- Lentils are low in calories and high in protein, iron, and fiber. This makes for a super-healthy snack or addition to any salad, soup, or meal.
13. Luna Bars- These vitamin- and mineral-loaded bars are perfect for breakfast on the run. Containing only about 180 calories and less than 2 grams of saturated fat, the bars are a great way to start the day off right, or to refuel after a hard workout.
14. Oatmeal- Very high in fiber, oatmeal is key to helping remove bad cholesterol from the blood stream and will also help to clean out the GI tract for anyone suffering from constipation.
15. Olive Oil- A key ingredient to the Mediterranean Diet, the well-established healthiest diet around, olive oil is a potent disease-fighting agent. Because it is very calorie dense, it should be used in moderation for weight control.
16. Orange- This citrus fruit is tasty, widely available, relatively inexpensive, easy to transport, and a low-calorie but filling snack that also happens to be loaded with vitamins and minerals.
17. Persimmon- If you’re tired of the same-old fruits, try a persimmon for a sweet and delicious snack which is also high in fiber and natural carbohydrates.
18. Pomegranate- Compared to other antioxidant-rich fruits and dietary substances such as red wine and green tea, pomegranate has the highest concentration of antioxidants. Plus, its rich color, sweet-tart taste, and enchanting history dating back to 1000BC make the fruit a perfect addition to a meal, party, or drab day.
19. Salmon- Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are key for heart disease prevention and brain development in babies, toddlers and kids (and developing fetuses).
20. Skim Milk- High in calcium and a high-quality complete protein, skim milk helps build strong bones and muscles.
21. Spinach- The epitome of health food, you can get a good dousing of many of the vitamins and minerals you need with a large spinach salad.
22. String Cheese- Individually wrapped, fun to eat, and a good source of protein, string cheese is great on-the-run snack for adults and kids of all ages.
23. Sweet Potatoes- If only sweet potatoes were the most consumed vegetable in the U.S. rather than their ugly step-sister the white potato. A sweet potato contains twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, almost half of the recommend daily amount of vitamin C, and, if you eat the skin, even more fiber than oatmeal.
24. Tabouli Salad- This mediterranean mix of parsley, tomatoes, bulgur wheat, olive oil, and lemon juice is easy to make, tastes amazing, and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, folic acid, manganese and several potent antioxidants .
25. Tuna- Eating a can of water-packed tuna is a low-cal way to get loads of lean protein, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, selenium, and vitamin D. Tuna is a great way to get in the recommended minimum of two servings per week of fish.
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD is a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and pediatrics resident at UCLA Medical Center. She is currently writing a book “‘Eat Your Vegetables!’ and Other Mistakes Parents Make” that aims to help parents inspire kids to embrace fruits, vegetables, and myriad other healthful foods without constant mealtime battles, bribes, and downright coercion, to be published by Healthy Learning publishers in 2011. Readers can get more information and join the discussion on strategies to raising healthier eaters at webhealthykids.com