12 superfoods for a healthy diet

While no single food offers all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and prevent diseases, superfoods are nutrient-rich natural foods that can promote a healthier lifestyle. Some superfoods are associated with heart health, while others can help improve your immune system, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, or prevent cancer. If you’re looking for foods with exceptional nutrient density that may deliver health benefits, here are a dozen superfoods to add to your grocery list.

What is a superfood?

From a scientific standpoint, there is no such thing as a superfood. Long ago, marketers created the term to describe highly nutritious foods that are good for your health. However, most foods that fall into this category contain phytochemicals that offer many health benefits. These plant-produced compounds include carotenoids, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

Carotenoids are anti-inflammatory compounds that protect against certain types of cancer, promote good eyesight, and support skin health.

Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, protect your body from harmful free radicals that can lead to cancer.

Flavonoids reduce inflammation and may also slow cancer growth.

The best way to get a variety of phytochemicals is to eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits. And, at each meal, try to cover two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods that contain healthy fiber.

List of the best superfoods

  1. Spinach. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and fiber. They also contain high levels of folate, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

    Add spinach to salads, soups, pastas, sandwiches, and stews, or sauté it in olive oil with crushed garlic.

    Dark, leafy greens also include arugula, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, and mustard greens.

  2. Broccoli. As a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K, iron, and potassium, broccoli contains antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and promote a healthy heart.

    There are many ways to serve broccoli—steamed, oven-roasted, or stir-fried with olive oil and herbs.

    Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains potent phytochemicals. Other vegetables in this group include cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

  3. Salmon. It’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease. Salmon is also packed with protein, B vitamins, potassium, and selenium.

    When it comes to wild salmon vs. farmed salmon, choose wild if you have the option, as farmed salmon may contain more saturated fat and unsafe contaminants.

    The American Heart Association recommends you eat two servings of fish each week, so be sure to try other fish high in omega-3s, including tuna steaks, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines.

  4. Blueberries. Highly nutritious blueberries contain antioxidants that have been shown to limit the growth of cancerous cells in the colon and fight diseases. In addition to being a good source of vitamins and minerals, all berries are naturally sweet and high in fiber.

    Add blueberries to yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, and smoothies—or eat them plain for a snack. When fresh berries are not in season, frozen varieties are just as nutritious.

  5. Steel-cut oats. While all oats contain fiber that can help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, steel-cut oats take longer to digest than instant oats and make you to feel full longer.

    Like other whole grains—including bulgur, quinoa, brown rice, and bread made with 100% whole wheat flour—oats contain B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

  6. Almonds. Protein-rich almonds are an excellent source of plant protein and contain heart-healthy fats that can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Whether you eat almonds as a snack or toss them into a salad, remember that all nuts contain a lot of calories, so it’s best to limit yourself to a small handful at a time.

    Other healthy nuts include hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts (which are technically a legume).

  7. Tomatoes. Rich in vitamins C and K, tomatoes contain high amounts of a substance called lycopene, which gives them their bright red color and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

    A medium-sized tomato contains just 22 calories and is packed with potassium and folate.

    Toss fresh tomatoes into a green salad or add diced tomatoes to pasta sauce, soups, and chili.

  8. Yogurt. As a good source of protein and calcium, yogurt contains live active cultures, or probiotics, that promote gut health and protect your body from harmful bacteria.

    Many flavored yogurts contain high levels of added sugar, so choose plain yogurt and add your own fruit. Greek yogurt is much higher in protein compared to regular yogurt and is a good source of B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.

    Use yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream in sauces and dips.

  9. Sweet potatoes. These starchy vegetables are loaded with nutrients—including vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium—that promote digestion and support eye health. They’re also a rich source of fiber and beta carotene, essential parts of a heart-healthy diet.

    Despite the sweet flavor, sweet potatoes can actually help control your blood sugar levels.

  10. Avocados. In addition to having a low glycemic index, avocados are rich in heart-healthy fats, which may play a role in reducing inflammation in the body and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

    These versatile fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and more potassium than a banana, and they’re loaded with fiber.

    For the perfect avocado toast, you just need five ingredients: avocado, sourdough bread, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasoning.

  11. Garlic. People have relied on the medicinal benefits of garlic for centuries. As a popular culinary ingredient with a distinct flavor, garlic is a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and fiber.

    Adding garlic to your diet can boost your immune system, reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, and help prevent certain types of cancer.

    Oven-roasted garlic is an easy way to add deep, mellow flavors to many dishes.

  12. Ginger. Available fresh or as an oil, juice, or in dried form, ginger root contains magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C.

    The popular spice also contains antioxidants that can treat nausea, reduce pain and inflammation, and prevent certain chronic diseases.

    Used as a flavor enhancer, it’s easy to incorporate ginger into soups, stir-fries, sauces, and teas.

  13. Superfoods are part of a healthy diet

    While superfoods can deliver impressive health benefits, experts encourage everyone to eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Rather than focusing on a particular food, the best way to protect your health is to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day.