Superfoods are what they sound like: superfoods — they’re super healthy and contain a lot of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Common ones include avocados and berries, although there are several more surprising superfoods you’re likely not eating — but should. Yes, it’s probably much easier to reach for that juicy burger than it is a kale salad, but there are several fun, off-the-radar (and appetizing) foods out there, not to mention easy ways to incorporate them into your diet.
“Superfoods are generally foods that are high in nutrients and give you ‘good bang for your buck,’ so to speak,” Christina Laboni, registered dietician, tells TZR in an email. “Eating a variety of these foods is the best way to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. No one food is perfect and meets all your nutritional needs, but some foods definitely contain more nutrition than others.” Let’s think about that juicy burger again — sprouts can be the superfood you add to it, though, overall, it’s best to focus on eating sprouts more so than burgers.
Ari Whitten a functional health practitioner, founder of The Energy Blueprint, and author of the forthcoming book Eat for Energy: How to beat Fatigue, Supercharge Your Mitochondria, and Unlock All-Day Energy, elaborates. “Food is fuel — and some choices are like ‘super’ fuel in their health-promoting abilities,” he tells TZR in an email. He says that not only do some people not consume superfoods, but they’re also probably not even aware of certain ones, like spirulina (which we’ll get more into below), that can really do the body good.
To give you a crash course on superfoods, ahead, some more surprising ones to add to your grocery list, stat.
Whitten says spirulina (which comes in green and blue forms) is a superfood you’re likely skipping. This nutritional wonder is a form of algae that’s been consumed for centuries. “It contains an incredibly potent phytochemical [a bioactive nutrient plant chemical] called C-phycocyanin, which mimics the structure of the bilirubin we naturally make [which breaks down red blood cells],” he says. “Therefore, it has similar physiological effects, including potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”
There is also substantial evidence that spirulina improves metabolic health and endurance exercise performance, as well as reduces fatigue in both recreational athletes and the average person looking to improve their health through exercise. Additionally, research has found that it can also help increase the duration that you can exercise.
Michelle Razavi and Nikki Elliott, Equinox fitness instructors and founders of ELAVI, agree that adding spirulina to your diet is a great way to boost your health game. “It is one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet that most people aren't incorporating into their wellness routines,” Elliott tells TZR in an email. “Derived from blue-green algae, the blue form has a vibrant blue hue which is as beautiful as it is good for you with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and brain-protective properties. In addition to its nutritional benefits, spirulina is proven to improve memory and cognitive focus, and protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).
As far as how much to consume, Whitten says to aim for using about one to two teaspoons of the nutrient in powder form. The only thing is, most people find spirulina to be unappetizing in flavor and smell, but that’s what you get with a cyanobacteria superfood, he explains. “It’s easiest to consume mixed into a protein shake, smoothie, or some other dish that can mask the taste,” he says. “There are also tablets you can buy and take like any other Sprouts
Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Sugar and Get Off Your Acid, says superfoods should be incorporated into your diet on a daily basis. “They will boost your energy, strengthen your immune system, and have a positive impact on your ability to manage stress and overall health,” he tells TZR in an email. “My favorite way to incorporate superfoods is in a smoothie. Every morning, I add a handful of sprouts, plant-based protein powder, chia seeds, and coconut oil to unsweetened almond milk. It’s an easy and powerful way to get these superfoods into your body.” Sprouts, in particular, are “super” since they’re chock full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, and antioxidants. And chia seeds are superfoods, too — probably one of the smallest ones out there — but with big benefits. They have plenty of fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
And, speaking of sprouts, they come in all kinds of varieties, from alfalfa to radish to broccoli. Whitten is a big fan of broccoli sprouts. “These can be easily purchased and eaten as a garnish to any dish — salads make it particularly easy,” he says. “And they are the richest source of sulforaphane [a natural plant compound] in the world.” This compound helps protect your cells from inflammation, as well as several types of diseases. Broccoli sprouts have also been found to help with digestion and heart health.