If you’ve read any health or nutrition headlines the past few years, you’ve likely seen the term “superfoods” used to describe foods that have been shown to provide significant health benefits. While there is no true definition of a “superfood,” the consensus within the food industry is that these foods are powerhouses for things like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, enzymes, and antioxidants.
If eaten often (and in combination), they can also play a critical role in stabilizing blood glucose, help to ward off other conditions like certain cancers and heart disease, and simply promote overall healthy eating habits.
Here are ten “superfoods” to consider adding into the rotation for your weekly meal plans:
1. Leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are chock-full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. Some studies have even shown leafy greens to play a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Citrus fruits like oranges are naturally low-glycemic and are rich in vitamin C to help boost the immune system. They also contain nutrients like folate and potassium, which have been shown to support healthy blood pressure.
3. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed full of healthy fats and fiber that help to protect the heart and can help in stabilizing blood sugars. They are also a good source of plant protein. Try adding a handful to your morning oatmeal or pair with a piece of a fruit for a balanced snack.
Legumes are foods that include things like black, pinto, and garbanzo beans, as well as peas and lentils. They contain an abundance of fiber and plant-based protein that can aid in healthy digestion and stable blood glucose levels.
Another great source of fiber, oatmeal has been shown to boost heart health and help people living with type 2 diabetes hit target A1C levels when eaten regularly. For the healthiest option, choose steel-cut or “old fashioned” oats that don’t contain added sugars. Sweeten yourself with a teaspoon of honey or fresh berries and add a splash of milk, nuts, or seeds for some added protein.
Eating healthy fat is paramount in promoting heart health, especially for those living with diabetes, as they are at higher risk for developing heart health conditions. The monounsaturated fats found in avocado can help to lower cholesterol, reduce overall inflammation in the body, and promote a healthy blood pressure. They also contain a decent amount of fiber that can keep blood sugars steady.
Broccoli, along with other cruciferous veggies, is loaded with antioxidants. They are also an excellent source of fiber and contain certain phytochemicals that may help in preventing certain kinds of cancer.
A key nutrient found in tomatoes is lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts heart health and lowers risk for certain types of cancer. Tomatoes are also high in Vitamin C, which has been known to lower elevated blood sugar levels and minimize blood sugar spikes after meals in those with type 2 diabetes.
9. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a starchy, root vegetable that are best known for their sweet taste and high levels of fiber, especially when compared to regular potatoes. They also provide a plant-based source of protein, which can help to keep you feel full longer between meals while keeping blood sugars stable.
A summertime favorite, cherries are low-glycemic and especially helpful in fighting inflammation. Look for tart cherries, which contain high levels of antioxidants. The best options are usually fresh or frozen since they don’t contain added sugar like many of the canned or dried varieties.
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About the Author
Anna Panzarella, RDN, CD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a background in health coaching, disease prevention and management. She has been working in the corporate wellness industry for the past 4 years and helps others to actualize their personal health goals through nutrition education, counseling and goal-setting. Anna is also an ACE Certified Health Coach and Group Fitness Instructor.