The Complete Superfood Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Superfoods
by Vickie Chin on Feb 24, 2023
In the age of over-processed goods, having healthy foods you love is essential.
Yet, how many of us can say we eat our fair share of healthy meals?
Only around 30% of Canadians aged 12 or older eat the recommended amount of four to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Households meeting this quota often had higher incomes, suggesting that part of the problem lies in the accessibility of healthy foods like fresh produce.
With a clear need for more healthy foods in the average person’s diet, finding foods that pack a hefty nutritional punch is key. Enter superfoods — food items that are nutritionally dense and offer many potential health benefits per serving.
In this guide, we are diving into the world of superfoods to discover what they are, why they are so important, and how to incorporate them into your daily diet.
Keep reading to find out why you should be eating more superfoods and how to begin!
What is a Superfood?
A superfood is a food that is nutritionally dense, meaning it contains high levels of a particular ingredient that is good for your health. This can include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibre.
The origin of the word superfood dates back to World War I, when the U.S. began importing bananas to be sold domestically. At the time, bananas were not a well-known food, requiring the U.S. to come up with clever marketing to increase banana sales — namely, by promoting the health benefits of bananas.
Thus, the word “superfood” was created to convey just how densely packed with nutrients bananas were.
As the modern health industry has continued to evolve and expand, a renewed focus on superfoods has come about in both the subculture and mainstream media.
In some health circles, superfoods are treated like miracle foods that can both solve and prevent a multitude of health problems. This has led to superfoods gaining a somewhat unrealistic expectation among health fanatics and criticism from health professionals.
The reality of superfoods is this: Superfoods are simply naturally-occurring foods that have higher levels of nutrients than other similar foods. These higher nutrient levels can provide key benefits within a person’s diet, helping them to create more balanced and nutritionally-sound dietary habits.
Superfoods are not a quick fix for weight loss or a cure-all for any and all health problems. When incorporated into a balanced diet, however, superfoods can help to enhance a person’s overall health and ensure they are receiving their essential nutrients on a daily basis.
The Different Types of Superfoods
Superfoods can be categorized in a variety of different ways.
For instance, you could categorize superfoods according to what food group they belong to, such as fruits and vegetables or bread and grains. Alternatively, you could categorize superfoods according to what types of nutrients they offer, such as antioxidants or vitamins.
The best way to categorize superfoods is to account for both the food group to which a superfood belongs and what types of nutrients that food has to offer. By doing so, you can more easily plan meals and snacks that provide you with a balance of different food groups and nutrients.
In general, most superfoods can be sorted into one of the following categories:
Fruits & Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables can be some of the best sources of dietary fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins. These foods are also a major source of carbohydrates, which help keep your body active, focused, and energized throughout the day.
Nuts & Grains: Superfoods in the nuts and grains category pack a powerful nutritional punch. These foods can contain a wide variety of nutrients, including protein, dietary fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Herbs & Spices: Herbs and spices are regularly used in culinary settings to customize the flavor profile of a meal. However, herbs and spices also bring health advantages to the table such as the ability to reduce inflammation in the body and provide key antioxidants.
Lean Proteins: For your daily dose of iron, zinc, and vitamins, look no further than lean proteins. Ensuring you consume enough protein while striving to build a healthier diet is essential and lean proteins can be a source of many key nutrients your body needs.
- Healthy Fats: Several foods can fall into the “healthy fats” category due to their higher fat content, such as olive oil and dark chocolate. Though fats are often demonized in the health industry, many fats are actually quite healthy and can help reduce your risk of disease.
The 3 Key Health Benefits of Superfoods
Before we begin discussing the actual superfoods themselves, let’s quickly cover the key health benefits of superfoods that make them worthy of being added to your daily menu.
Here are three vital health advantages of eating superfoods regularly:
1. Boosted Immune Health
Superfoods are packed full of nutrients that are crucial for maintaining the health of your immune system, such as antioxidants and vitamins. Keeping your immune system in good shape is incredibly important, as this can significantly impact your ability to recover from illnesses and diseases.
Likewise, eating a balanced diet with many superfoods can help to prevent a disease from developing.
According to one study on the health benefits of flavonoids — a type of naturally-occurring compound commonly found in fruits and vegetables. The study states that:
“Many flavonoids are shown to have antioxidative activity, free-radical scavenging capacity, coronary heart disease prevention, and anticancer activity, while some flavonoids exhibit potential for anti-human immunodeficiency virus functions. As such research progresses further achievements will undoubtedly lead to a new era of flavonoids in either foods or pharmaceutical supplements.”
2. Improved Gut Function
Your gut health can have a substantial influence on your overall health.
According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, roughly 70% of the body’s immune system is found within the gut. This makes maintaining proper gut health especially important for keeping your body in great working shape and preventing health issues.
Eating superfoods regularly helps to ensure your body has the right nutrients it needs to maintain a healthily-functioning gut.
3. Healthier Skin & Hair
Many of us highly value the appearance of our hair and skin, as these physical characteristics are often some of the first features people notice about us.
To keep your hair and skin looking and feeling healthy, it is critically important to eat a diet packed with vitamins, carbohydrates, and protein. Additionally, hair and skin can be massively impacted by your hydration levels, making it all the more important to make sure you are properly hydrated as well.
With as densely packed with vitamins and nutrients as superfoods are, finding the right superfoods for supporting your skin and hair health can simplify your hair and skin care processes.
11 of the Most Commonly Accessible Superfoods
Now that we have covered what superfoods are, what types of superfoods exist, and several of the key health benefits of superfoods, let’s dive deeper into which of these foods you should be eating.
As we discussed earlier, one of the biggest barriers preventing people from eating sufficient healthy foods is the price of these foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be pricey, especially if they are out of season or if the incoming supply of these foods is lower than usual.
Despite the bad reputation that superfoods sometimes get for being expensive and inaccessible, however, there are plenty of superfood options that are commonly available and affordable.
Here are eleven of the most commonly accessible superfoods:
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are a major source of dietary fibre, as well as vitamins A, C, and K. Additionally, leafy greens include powerful antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein, which can help to promote eye vision health. Other nutrients found in leafy greens include folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Examples of easy-to-find leafy greens include:
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are the more hearty vegetables that offer a great volume of food without a high calorie count. These vegetables provide many essential nutrients including antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and other minerals. They are also a great source of dietary fibre.
Examples of common cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels Sprouts
Check out Organic Traditions line of Organic Green Powders
Legumes cover a wide range of different foods including all types of beans, lentils, and nuts. These superfoods are rich in plant protein and dietary fibre, as well as being a great source of B-vitamins, iron, folate, zinc, calcium, and potassium.
Commonly available legumes include:
- Black Beans
- Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas
- Pinto Beans
- Peanuts & Soybeans
Oats are a favoured carbohydrate in the health and wellness space, as they offer high levels of dietary fibre, iron, and calcium. This superfood is also thought to help you feel full for longer, making it a popular choice at breakfast time to build up your energy for the day.
The difference in types of oats mainly comes down to how they are processed. Popular types of oats that can be found at most supermarkets include:
- Steel-Cut Oats
- Rolled Oats
- Quick Oats
- Instant Oats
5. Whole Grains & Brown Rice
Along with being incredibly rich in dietary fibre, whole grains and brown rice are excellent sources of B-vitamins, antioxidants, and magnesium. The high fibre content makes these superfoods a staple in weight loss diets, as they can help you to feel more satiated after a meal.
Aside from brown rice, other commonly available whole grains include:
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Whole-Grain Pasta
- Red or Purple Rice
- Whole-Grain Cereals
Avocado is a specific type of fruit that is widely available and beloved as a superfood. Many vitamins are found in avocados, including vitamins C, E, K, and B6. This superfood is also a fantastic source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Though you may not realize it when you stop by the grocery store, avocados actually come in several different types. The most commonly available types include:
- Hass Avocados
- Choquette Avocados
- Lula Avocados
- Reed Avocados
- Pinkerton Avocados
Blueberries have long been the poster child of superfoods. Known for their high nutrient levels, blueberries are a source of more than 9,000 variations of antioxidants. The most important antioxidant in blueberries is anthocyanin, which according to one study possesses “antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-obesity effects, as well as prevention of cardiovascular diseases.”
Coconuts are tropical stone fruits that produce both a drinkable milk and soft edible interior flesh. These superfoods are one of the best sources of healthy fats, as well as serving as a source of manganese. Other nutrients found in coconuts include copper, iron, and selenium.
While coconuts can be split open and eaten raw, many people prefer to eat the dried version of the coconut meat. This can be made at home by preparing the dried coconut yourself or can be purchased pre-prepared at most large grocery stores.
Enhance the benefits of Coconut in your diet with our
Organic Coconut Superfood blends and products.
9. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are a popular type of seed to add on top of soups, salads, smoothies, and other meals and snacks. These seeds are incredibly nutrient-packed for their small size, providing high levels of the amino acid arginine. Hemp seeds are also thought to be beneficial for reducing bodily inflammation.
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another popular type of superfood seed that can be found in most grocery stores. These seeds have a long history of medicinal use and are an excellent source of dietary fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin B1, and vitamin B3.
For more, learn about Organic Traditions' Superfood Grains and Seeds
11. Dark Chocolate
What’s a great shopping list without something for dessert?
Dark chocolate is widely considered a superfood due to its high levels of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. It is also thought to provide additional benefits from the cacao found in dark chocolate’s ingredients list, which is known for providing anti-inflammatory properties.
What are Superfood Supplements & How are They Beneficial?
For some people, getting access to the right superfoods throughout the day and week can be difficult.
In some cases, a person may live in a region that does not have consistent access to fresh produce and healthy foods. Alternatively, a person may have the access to the foods they need but lack the free time in their schedule to prepare these foods at home on a regular basis.
Scenarios such as these require an innovative approach to eating superfoods.
Superfood supplements offer this innovation by providing you with all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. These supplements generally come in either pill or powder form, with the powder form used as an ingredient in recipes for smoothies, soups, and other meals.
Though it is great to be able to get your nutrients from the source itself — the whole superfoods — superfood supplements offer a safe and effective alternative that can save you time and ensure you are consuming the ideal levels of nutrients for your health needs.
How to Implement Superfood Supplements into Your Diet
Integrating superfood supplements into your diet can be incredibly convenient and easy.
One of the best recipes for adding a powder supplement to is a smoothie. Smoothies incorporate a blend of different flavors, making them the perfect drink for masking the flavor and texture of a powder. Plus, many supplement powders are even designed to enhance the flavor of smoothies!
Supplement powders are best added to any recipe that involves blending or mixing of ingredients, as these recipes can easily be adjusted for the inclusion of the powder.
5 Great Superfood Recipes and Meal Ideas
If you are just getting started on your journey to building a healthier diet packed with superfoods, you may need some help finding your new favourite recipes.
Here are 5 awesome recipes for meals, snacks, and smoothies using superfoods:
1. Summer Arugula & Basil Pasta Salad
Preparation time: 30 minutes to 1 hour prep time, 30 to 45 minutes chill time
What you’ll need:
- 1 package of whole-grain pasta
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1/2 tbsp of flaxseed cooking oil for pasta
- 3 handfuls of baby arugula
- 1 small shallot
- 1 tbsp fresh basil
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Dash of chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tbsp flaxseed oil (for dressing)
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (for dressing)
- Salt and pepper to taste
2. Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Preparation time: 15 minutes prep time, 20 to 25 minutes bake time
What you’ll need:
- 1 medium zucchini
- 5 cups of gluten-free flour
- 2 tbsp sprouted chia flax (with 6 tbsp water OR 2 eggs)
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
3. Probiotic Berry Basil Smoothie
Preparation time: 5 minutes
What you’ll need:
- 12 oz coconut water OR 12 oz water with 1/2 cup frozen coconut meat
- Small bunch of fresh basil
- 1 cup of frozen raspberries
- 1 tsp probiotic cranberry supreme
- 1 tsp sprouted chia/flax
- 2 tbsp lucuma powder
4. Keto Acai Smoothie Bowl
Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes
What you’ll need:
- 5 cups steamed and frozen cauliflower
- 3 ice cubes
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries
- 5 tbsp Organic Traditions Cashew Milk Powder
- 2 tbsp Organic Traditions Acai Berri Powder
- 1 tbsp Organic Traditions Yacon Syrup
- 1 tbsp Natural Traditions Keto C8
- MCT Powder
5. Green Dragon Smoothie
Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup water or coconut water
- 1 cup water or Miracle Mylk
- 1 cup loosely packed spinach or kale
- 1 tsp Chlorella Powder
- 1 tsp Spirulina Powder
- 1 to 2 tbsp of sprouted flax or sprouted chia powder
- 1 tsp Acai powder
- 1 frozen banana
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
4 of the Best Superfood Brands to Buy From
Depending on where in the world you live, you may not know which superfood brands are best.
Here are four of the best superfood brands and where to find them:
Disclaimer, we obviously stand behind our products at Organic Traditions and believe, as one of the first Canadian Superfood companies, we offer our customer an incredibly wide variety of superfood blends.
More than high-quality superfood products, we help you cut through the confusion around superfoods and make it easier for you and your loved ones to benefit from the healthiest foods in the world every day.
Some of our top selling Superfood products are:
- Organic Chocolate Latte with Ashwagandha and Probiotics
- Focus Fuel Coffee
- Supergreens with Turmeric and Probiotics
- Organic Maca for Women
ADM (short for the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company) is a U.S.-based food processing company that sells a wide variety of human nutrition products, including alternative proteins, sweeteners, and seeds.
Super Nutrients is a UK-based company that offers wholesale and bulk superfood orders for businesses. Products include items like coconut flakes, flax seed powder, spirulina tablets, and much more.
Sunfood is another U.S.-based company that sells premium superfoods, including a wide variety of supplement powders.
Key Takeaways: Start Adding More Superfoods to Your Diet Today
Whether it’s easier for you to buy and prepare whole foods or opt for superfood blends, the key to improving your diet is simply to get started.
Remember that dietary change can take time and your body may go through changes as it adjusts.
What’s most important is to listen to what your body is trying to communicate to you, be that hunger, thirst, or any other possible message it may be trying to send.
Once you start eating superfoods, you’ll never want to go back!