What do bok choy, acai berries, edamame, mustard greens, and flaxseed have in common? They’re all “superfoods”: foods that are extra-dense in beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re also not available everywhere you look.
Attaining superfood status may increase a food’s name-recognition; thanks to a popular Bud Light commercial, we now know that quinoa is pronounced “keen-wah” not “queen-oh.” Though it may not make it any easier to find at the supermarket closest to you.
But you don’t have to go all the way to Superman’s home planet, or even to the gourmet market three towns over, to find plenty of superfoods to feed you and your family. Look for the eight superfoods below just about anywhere groceries are sold:
A study by researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that certain flavonoids—a naturally occurring chemical that abounds in fruits and vegetables—can be highly beneficial for weight control. Apples are rich in these flavonoids. Enjoy them raw, with the peel on, for the biggest benefit.
The same study found common berries such as blueberries and strawberries to be rich in fat-controlling flavonoids. Blueberries and blackberries are also high in cancer-preventing antioxidants, as well as immune-boosting vitamin C. As with apples, uncooked berries give you the biggest nutritional boost.
If your parents were always trying to get you to eat your broccoli, there’s a good reason. Broccoli is high in fiber, but low in digestible carbohydrates. That’s good for your gut, and the belly around it. It’s high in vitamins and minerals—including vitamin K1, folate, potassium, manganese, and iron—and beneficial antioxidants, especially sulforaphane. If you cook your broccoli (it’s also delicious raw, on its own or in a salad), steam it only until bright green for the best nutritive value.
Eaten in moderation, dark chocolate (60% or higher cacao content) contains powerful antioxidants, can help lower blood pressure, and is a potent mood booster. To treat yourself is human, and a little bit of bittersweet chocolate can be a healthy way to indulge from time to time.
Green Tea (and Black Tea, Too)
Both black tea and green tea have antioxidant power, but if you can find green tea, a flavonol called ECGC with powerful antioxidant properties is at its highest levels there. Another tea ingredient, L-theanine, can help you relax without causing drowsiness.
In their whole-fruit form, oranges are an excellent source of several vitamins and antioxidants such as carotenoids and phenolics. They help prevent kidney stones and boost absorption of iron from the digestive tract. Orange juice is often thought of as a health drink, but tends to be higher in sugar and lower in fiber than its whole-fruit counterpart, so don’t overdo it on the juice.
These days, you’ll find spinach in just about any market, but it’s believed to have been imported to Europe from Persia some centuries before the Renaissance. Regardless of its origin, spinach is a rich source of many vitamins—including K, A, C, and folate—and minerals like manganese, magnesium, and iron. Its chlorophyll and carotenoids give spinach antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Like most fruits and veggies, it’s healthiest uncooked. Raw spinach makes a great addition to a salad or sandwich.
You may not want to go nuts with nuts—though their fat is of the heart-healthy variety, it’s worth watching how much you consume. And nut allergies, for those who have them, can be fairly severe. But for those who can enjoy nuts, they are a fantastic snack high in protein and fiber. And when it comes to antioxidants, walnuts are at the top of the health tree. Eat them raw when you can, and enjoy them on a salad or chopped up on pasta with pesto.
Eight is Just a Start
These eight really are extraordinary foods, all well worth making a regular part of your weekly diet. But recent research shows that eating a large variety of healthy foods—especially fruits and vegetables, of all colors—is the path to healthy nutrition. There are plenty more superfoods—common and uncommon—that didn’t make our list, and they all make great dinner guests. Even quinoa.