Super foods — nutrient dense whole foods that generally have special abilities to fight illness and/or promote good health — are foods we should all include more of in our diets. Most items that earn the super food label are high in antioxdants (which help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis) as well as other essential nutrients, as well as those that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. No listing can ever be definitive there is always some disagreement over which foods should make the list but here are some that show up on virtually all lists, as well as some delicious ways to incorporate them into your family’s daily diet.
Tomatoes 1 of 13Lycopene (pronounced LIKE-oh-peen) makes tomatoes red. It's a member of the carotenoid family (like beta-carotene), but of all carotenoids, lycopene has the highest antioxidant power, helping reduce the risk of several types of cancer. Adding a small amount of fat (like olive oil in tomato sauce) makes the lycopene more easily absorbed by the body. Tomatoes are also very low in calories, and very versatile - besides fresh, try using more tomato sauce, tomato juice and tomato paste.
Make some fresh tomato sauce!
Garlic 2 of 13Low in calories and easy to add to other dishes, garlic acts as a powerful anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and studies show garlic can lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Make a pot of roasted garlic bisque!
Nuts 3 of 13Nuts of all kinds are an excellent source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats. They're inexpensive and versatile - sprinkle nuts on salads, cereal, stir into yogurt, snack on them plain, make trail mix with dried berries and a few chocolate chips, make nutty granola, stir into baked goods of all kinds.
Make your own nut butter!
Salmon 4 of 13Because your body can't produce them on its own, omega-3s must be obtained from food, and salmon is a great source. It's the ultimate fast food - fresh salmon cooks in only 10 minutes per inch of thickness!
Make salmon and asparagus tacos!
Spinach 5 of 13Low in calories and packed with fiber, vitamin B and beta-carotene, spinach and other dark leafy greens (like kale and chard) are among the best foods you can eat. Remember: when you cook spinach it wilts, which makes it easy to eat more of it!
Make spinach and ricotta stuffed portobello mushrooms!
Quinoa 6 of 13Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is gluten-free with a light, fluffy texture and mild flavor. It contains a complete set of amino acids, making it a complete protein on its own. (In fact, the World Health Organization claims that quinoa contains a better protein balance than any grain, being at least equal to milk in terms of protein quality.)
How to cook quinoa!
Flax Seed 7 of 13Flax seeds are an incredibly good source of soluble and insoluble fiber; both kinds protect your heart, and soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Flax oil also contains high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent heart disease and boost immune function.
Make a stack of flaxseed pancakes!
Berries 8 of 13One of the best sources of antioxidants, berries are low in calories and nutrient-dense, providing a healthy dose of fiber, too. Try them fresh or frozen on oatmeal, granola or yogurt, or whiz into a smoothie with yogurt and a banana.
For a special indulgence, try fresh berries with caramelized cream!
Cabbage 9 of 13A cruciferous vegetable, cabbage (and their cousins, Brussels sprouts) is low in calories, high in fiber, and contains glucosinolates, which are said to prevent certain types of cancers.
Make a pot of cabbage, white bean & bacon soup!
Beans 10 of 13All kinds of legumes - lentils, kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas - are excellent sources of protein, fiber and other essential nutrients, and can help reduce risk of heart disease.
Make a perfect batch of hummus!
Whole Grains 11 of 13Swapping refined grains for whole grains - including whole wheat, oats, rice, barley and other grains that include the bran and germ - boosts fiber and essential nutrients, and helps you feel satiated longer.
Bake a whole wheat blackberry buttermilk cake!
Brown Rice 12 of 13Making the switch from white to brown rice not only boosts fiber, but zinc, niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, which are all factors in energy metabolism and tissue formation.
Bake a simple, fluffy brown rice pilaf!
Sweet Potatoes 13 of 13Also known as yams, sweet potatoes - particularly the dark-fleshed kind - are low in calories and high in beta-carotene, which protects against cancer and heart disease. Sweet potatoes can be eaten the same way as regular potatoes can baked, roasted, turned into fries or mashed.
Upgrade to mashed sweet potatoes!