I’ve written about superfoods before in this article, and talked about how the ‘superfood’ buzzword is usually just a gimmick to sell you foods that you don’t actually need, foods that will make no difference to your body’s health, or foods that are so high in sugar that consuming them at fad-craze pace will actually harm your body. The best diet is a balanced one full of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.
With that said, there are a few famous foods that show up on the ‘super’ list that really do live up to the hype and can provide you with valuable nutrients and energy that your body needs—over and above other staples in your diet. Take a look and see what you can add to your weekly meal plan!
This leafy green is not just something that Beyoncé endorses on a sweater, it really does pack a punch. Kale is high in iron, calcium, fiber, Vitamins K and A, and can help lower cholesterol. Its high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids makes it an anti-inflammatory food, and it’s filling and nutritious but low in calories.
Kale is a delicious addition to any dish—pop it in the saucepan with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and spices and you’ve got a delicious side vegetable, or put it in a classic salad topped with the protein of your choice (like salmon, chicken, or tofu), some fruit, and a dressing.
Kale is also a perfect supplement for your blended drink of choice—add kale to any fruit juice or smoothie and you’ve just added a huge boost of nutrients but you still get the sweet taste!
With its ‘unsure-how-to-pronounce this’ name, nutty flavor, and unfamiliar texture, this one may still seem intimidating on the grocery store shelf. The quinoa grains we eat are actually the seeds of a grain-like crop that's been grown for centuries in the Andes—it’s not technically a grain because the quinoa plant is not actually a grass (whereas wheat, rice, or couscous are).
It only recently got its big break in mainstream diets but is already being hailed as a superfood because it’s perhaps the only grain-like food that is a complete protein. It contains all the amino acids that animal protein does, and is packed with phosphorous, magnesium, iron, and fiber—all essential for healthy muscles, organs, and bones—and is gluten-free and easily digestible.
You prepare quinoa much the same way as you would rice, but I recommend cooking it in vegetable broth instead of water—this adds more flavor, as many people can find quinoa bland when they first encounter it. Make sure to include lots of spices and toppings if you’d like! Eat as a main course, as a side dish, or even a salad to accompany a meal of your choice.
3. Chia Seeds
These squishy little guys are really making a name for themselves on the superfood circuit these days. Just a small, 2-tablespoon serving of chia contains as much omega-3 fatty acids as 4 ounces of salmon, so it’s a great food if you’re looking for animal-product replacements in your diet.
Small amounts are high in protein, fiber, and calcium, but they’re also high in calories, so you don’t need a lot of these bad boys to make a big difference.
Pop them dry into your favorite juice or smoothie, or soak them overnight in a non-dairy milk, add to your oatmeal, and top with fruit and nuts to make a powerful morning porridge.
4. Hemp Seeds
Although a variety of the cannabis species, the hemp seeds you can buy at the store will not get you high. With all of the same benefits as chia seeds—and the added pluses of magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E—this true superfood is great for added protein and helps your skin stay healthy.
Add them to baked goods for a fun texture, to the top of a salad, or to a smoothie for extra nutrition.
This yellow super-powder has quite the superpower—it contains curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The powder doesn’t contain a very high percentage of this compound, so you have to consume a lot of turmeric or instead take a turmeric extract, so the anti-inflammatory properties will be more potent.
Anti-inflammatories work against arthritis, allergies, chronic pain, and skin ailments, as well as many chronic digestive issues. To add more turmeric to your diet, you can try it the traditional way as part of a curry dish (turmeric is why yellow curries are yellow!) or add it to a fruit smoothie or a juice.
A balanced, nutritious diet free of excess sugar and processed foods will help with reducing fatigue, will help balance your mood, and will help you feel more energized and powerful in all your physical activities, including your yoga practice.
If you have a favorite superfood that’s really made a difference for you, or a favorite way to use one of these ingredients, let me know down in the comments. Let’s start to new year off on the right foot by adding some healthy, satisfying boosters to our meals!