There’s no magic bullet when it comes to being healthy, but there are small steps you can take each day that will eventually add up to big benefits. If you want to live a long, healthy life and achieve a healthy weight in the process, eating the right foods is the most important thing you can do! Here I outline the top ten superfoods I think everyone should incorporate into their daily diets for optimum health.
Including walnuts in your diet can do wonders for your health, because they’re packed full of healthy unsaturated fats. Walnuts are the only nuts that contain a high amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are important building blocks for the brain in both children and adults, and can help improve cognitive function and enhance overall mood. (If you don’t obtain enough omega-3s in your diet, you may start to suffer from depression and decreased brain function.) The omega-3s in walnuts are also known to help relieve inflammation throughout the body, boost memory, and support healthy blood sugar levels. Plus, their high fat content and convenient form make them a perfect snack for satisfying hunger on the go. You don’t have to go nuts when consuming these nutrient-packed gems. Just a ¼ cup per day will allow you to reap their amazing health benefits!
Recommended Amount: ¼ cup daily
Most people consider almonds to be a nut, but they’re actually the seeds from the fruit of the almond tree. And what powerful little seeds they are! Almonds are a must for anyone who wants to lose weight, balance their cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Like walnuts, almonds contain fat, but 78% of the calories come from healthy, monounsaturated fats that help build strong cells and keep arteries flexible. If you’re looking for a way to lose a few extra pounds, turn to almonds for a healthy snack option. One study found that overweight people on a low-calorie diet who ate 2.5 ounces of almonds daily lost 62% more weight, 50% more belly fat, and reduced their blood pressure by 11 points compared to the control group!
Recommended Amount: ¼ cup daily
I follow a ketogenic diet which doesn’t allow for many fruits and vegetables, but I make an exception for a few foods, like blueberries. Why? Because for me, the benefits of blueberries far outweigh the small amount of carbohydrates they contain. Blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants available on the planet. They are full of anthocyanins which have the ability to neutralize free radicals in the body. While blueberries are tasty, high-fiber treats, they’re also tiny, disease-fighting nutrient bombs that have the ability to protect cells from cancer and boost cardiovascular health. Blueberries are a great way to meet your daily fiber needs, which also means they promote regularity and healthy digestive function. As always, eat organic blueberries. Conventional berries are heavily treated with harmful pesticides.
Recommended Amount: ½ – 1 cup daily
If you still avoid eggs because of the “eggs give you high cholesterol” rumor that spread like wildfire in the seventies, it’s time to embrace the times and add them back into your breakfast routine. I’m talking yolks and all. Not only are eggs a low-calorie, excellent source of protein, they’re also chock full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats your body requires on a daily basis. Eggs are a source of all nine amino acids, which help your body build muscle, relieve stress, resist anxiety and depression, and strengthen immune function. And remember, don’t skip the yolks. Egg yolks contain choline, a water-soluble nutrient that’s crucial for the optimal functioning of every cell in your body, and is especially vital to the brain, liver, and nervous system. Some experts consider eggs to be a near-perfect food because they deliver a little bit of almost every nutrient necessary to sustain good health.
Recommended Amount: 2 – 3 whole eggs daily
This Mediterranean diet staple is one my favorite indulgences. Not only does a high quality olive oil taste terrific, but it can also benefit your health in amazing ways due to its high amount of monounsaturated fats. Research has repeatedly shown that olive oil can lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, including reducing the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and oxidized LDL cholesterol. When choosing olive oil, go for taste over price. You want something that tastes slightly sweet and fruity at first, but then leaves a bit of a peppery taste in your throat. Look for an extra virgin olive oil, which refers to the way the oil was extracted from the olives. Choose olive oils that come in dark-colored glass bottles and store them away from heat and light to ensure they retain their health-promoting nutrients.
Recommended Amount: 1 – 3 tablespoons daily
Grapes are another nutrient-packed fruit I’d recommend every day. The skins of grapes are loaded with valuable nutrients, including resveratrol and other health-supporting polyphenols and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (also known as OPCs). OPCs protect cells from oxidative stress, and have been researched for their ability to fight cancer cells, inhibit tumor formation, and detoxify the liver. When it comes to cardiovascular health in particular, grapes improve blood flow, which helps lower blood pressure and supports healthy cholesterol levels. When adding grapes to your daily diet, remember that grapes are one of the most highly sprayed crops, so eating organic grapes is best. If organic grapes are hard to come by, another natural alternative is organic grape juice. Juice is very concentrated, so you can keep your intake small (about 4 – 6 ounces a day) for excellent cardiovascular health.
Recommended Amount: Approximately one cup of grapes or 4 – 6 oz of grape juice daily
Cold water fish, including salmon, is one of the healthiest things you can eat. Salmon is a great source of lean protein, and is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic) and DHA (docosahexaenoic). The benefits of omega-3s are outstanding: they keep your heart healthy, relieve pain through anti-inflammatory action, enhance immunity, elevate mood, and alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, diabetes, skin diseases, menstrual pain, and more. Salmon also delivers an excellent variety of B vitamins, which helps maintain optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that gives the fish its pinkish hue. Astaxanthin keeps your blood vessels strong and healthy, provides critical DNA support, can boost athletic performance, and preserve vision health. The healthiest type of salmon to eat is wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
Recommended Amount: 3 – 6 oz, 2 – 3 times per week
Ok, so curcumin isn’t exactly classified as a food, but it’s so important for your health that I’m including it here anyway. Curcumin is the essential compound from turmeric, which has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. (Turmeric is a primary ingredient in curry, and accounts for the bright orange color of the dish.) While turmeric is quite flavorful, it isn’t able to deliver near the health benefits of curcumin. The continuous research and findings on the benefits of curcumin never cease to amaze me. It’s been credited with the ability to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent the formation of tumors, protect the liver, and fight Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The reason curcumin can do so much is because it’s an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory. Almost all diseases stem from destructive inflammation in the body, so curcumin’s ability to fight inflammation makes it a powerful disease-fighting nutrient. I encourage everyone to consider supplementing with a high absorption curcumin extract daily.
Recommended Amount: 1 – 3 grams daily
You read that right! I consider chocolate one of the Top Ten Super Foods. The flavonoid compounds in dark chocolate are strong antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. They lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and help prevent the formation of blood clots. According to recent research, the polyphenols in dark chocolate prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and even reduce stress in the brain when participants are asked to solve complex problems. So if you feel like chocolate relaxes you, you’re definitely on to something!
Just remember, not all chocolate is created equally—you need a certain type in order to reap significant health benefits. Chocolate retains its healthiest components when it is the least processed. Look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. It will have a distinctively different flavor than the over-sweetened milk chocolate variety that we all grew up with, but its rich flavor means that smaller amounts of chocolate will satisfy more, too.
Recommended Amount: 1 – 2 oz daily
Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are tiny but mighty when it comes to their nutritional value. This is another antioxidant-rich food that can help reduce inflammation and protect your body from free radicals. Pumpkin seeds also contain iron, zinc, magnesium, and other minerals known to support healthy blood pressure, cardiovascular health, bone health, and more! One of the biggest claims to fame for pumpkin seeds, however, is their ability to support bladder and prostate health. There are several studies that have shown they are able to reduce symptoms associated with both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and overactive bladder. Like blueberries, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of fiber which means they also support regularity and digestive health.
Recommended Amount: ¼ cup daily
BONUS SUPERFOOD: Coffee
Let’s add one more to the list! Though experts continue to debate the pros and cons of this beloved beverage, I truly believe that the benefits of coffee far outweigh the risks. Aside from the obvious help in waking us up in the morning or preventing an afternoon slump, there are some fascinating studies that show caffeine can support overall mood and enhance cognitive benefits. It also has the ability to reduce inflammation, stop pain, and possibly increase longevity. Aside from the benefits of caffeine, coffee is swimming in disease-fighting antioxidants and is believed to protect against a variety of health concerns including cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, liver disease, and diabetes.
Recommended Amount: 3 – 6 cups daily