Avocado is a key component to a modern-day brunch staple, avocado toast, and contains a bevy of nutrients worth celebrating. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ½ an avocado provides 29 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, or about 7 percent of the DV. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and magnesium deficiency is associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Avocado also provides fiber (6.75 mg per ½ fruit, offering 24 percent of DV), along with heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. An advisory published by the American Heart Association in the June 2017 issue of Circulation noted that replacing saturated fat (from sources such as butter) with the fats found in foods such as avocado can help reduce the risk for heart disease.
It’s a bit strange to think of fruit as trendy, but if you’ve noticed the explosion of “bowl foods” in cafes and restaurants, you’ll know exotic fruits like acai berries, dragon fruit, mango, and pomegranate are definitely on trend. Exotic fruits have long been revered as superfoods for their nutritional content and medicinal properties. Research shows that pomegranates, for example, may bolster heart health, and make a good candidate for dietary supplements that could prevent cardiovascular disease, according to a May 2018 article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Blueberries are at the top of almost every superfood list, but just about any edible berry is worthy of superfood status. While all differing in nutritional value, blackberries, cranberries (the fresh, not dried, variety), strawberries, and raspberries, to name a few, are low-calorie, high in fiber, and packed full of antioxidants that help fight against cancer-causing free radicals, notes a study published in March 2018 in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Named after the cross-like appearance of their petals, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cruciferous vegetables are heralded for health benefits such as lowering the risk of cancer, and preventing heart attacks and stroke. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, and maca (a Peruvian plant popular in North America as an energy booster, per research) are all types of cruciferous veggies that are full of fiber. Not only is fiber good for you, but it makes you feel full longer, which could help with weight loss, according to past research.
Unlike many animal products high in saturated fats, such as red meat and processed meats, that can raise the risk of heart disease, fish is full of protein and rich in healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids — namely the type you get from seafood including fish — are particularly beneficial to our bodies, notes the NIH. These types, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are used more efficiently than the third type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which comes from plant sources such as flaxseed and nuts, past research has shown. Overall, omega-3s can help play a role in reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke, alleviating depression, and aiding infant development, according to the NIH.
They may be pungent (some even bring us to tears), but allium vegetables — chives, onions, garlic, leeks, and the like — deliver potent health benefits. Plus, they’re delicious. Once used to ward off the evil eye, garlic also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, according to an article published in April 2018 in Scientific Reports.
For centuries, mushrooms have been considered a superfood and are still used in traditional Chinese medicine to cleanse the body and promote longevity. Researchers have long studied the antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms, and mycotherapy — the use of mushrooms as medicine — is used as a complementary treatment for breast cancer. While clinical research is lacking, lab and animal research has yielded promising data on the use of mushrooms to help prevent and treat breast cancer, according to a study published in May 2018 in the journal Oncotarget. More studies in humans are needed.
Wellness gurus tout different superpowers for each nut — almonds for heart health, cashews for cognition, Brazil nuts for cancer — but all are a great source fat, fiber, and protein (ones encased in sugar or salt are on the less healthy side), notes the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
Generally, nutritionists like Wolfram say the darker the color of a vegetable, the more nutrients it contains. Dark, leafy greens like arugula, kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard get their vibrant colors from chlorophyll, which keeps plants healthy, and the dietary fiber found in dark greens can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Carotenoids, another type of plant pigment, also act as antioxidants that fight off potentially cancer-causing free radicals in the body, notes Harvard Medical School.
Like superfoods, ancient grains are another buzzword that markets certain grains and seeds — like buckwheat, farro, and quinoa — as more nutritious than modern crops. The Whole Grains Council notes that grains that have been “largely unchanged over the last several hundred years” are considered ancient grains.