Superfoods not only give you superior nutrition but they are also great-tasting staples that you can turn into delicious fast meals when your fridge, pantry, and countertops are stocked.
Follow this basic super shopping guide to stock up on the top foods and learn just a bit about why they are must-haves in your kitchen.
Not all superfoods are listed here, but you can start with these easy-to-find ones and mix-and-match to build your own weekly shopping list with tasty meal ingredients.
1. Stock Your Refrigerator
Must-Have Meal-Time Veggies
- Kale (any kind) is king of the superfood kingdom, read about its many health benefits.
- Spinach — preferably pre-washed for ease of use — is the queen of the superfood kingdom, rich in a long list of nutrients including vitamin A, C, K, iron, folate, fiber, and many more. Along with kale, spinach should be “top drawer” in your fridge.
- Romaine lettuce, rich in vitamin A and a great sub for low nutrition iceburg lettuce, works equally well when crisped the day before in your fridge, just rinse the leaves in cold water, shake, wrap in paper towels, and store in a zipper lock bag in your crisper.
- Watercress, a tender cruciferous green that’s equally rich in both vitamin A and C, makes refreshing salads and soups. Just like kale and Brussels sprout, watercress is rich in glucosinolates (cancer fighting compounds).
- Asparagus is rich in inulin, making a potent prebiotic food that feeds beneficial bacteria keeping your colon healthy, your digestion on track and your immune system strong.
- Artichokes — like asparagus — are a prebiotic food that also happens to be bursting with fiber helping us feel full and control blood sugar levels. Artichokes rank higher than blueberries in antioxidant load and are just as versatile. Go for salt-free frozen artichokes, defrost and toss into salads, soups or chop and stir into sandwich spreads and sprinkle over pizza.
- Broccoli outranks oranges when it comes to vitamin C, while providing a good dose of soluble fiber as well. Mild-tasting broccoli can be chopped, sauteed, enjoyed raw in salads, and lightly steamed — making it a superfood veggie that’s easy-to-love.
- Broccolini is broccoli’s little sister, with longer stalks and less florets. It’s high in vitamin C and fiber just like broccoli and is delicious sauteed with olive oil and garlic. For a flavor boost, add a little low sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.
- Brussels Sprouts can be your best friend when it comes to detoxifying your body. These tasty orbs can rid your body of toxins because they are rich in a host of compounds that stop inflammation and build up liver capacity. Avoid steaming your Brussels as they can get slimy, but try roasting them for tastiest results.
- Cauliflower is particularly high in folate, and an important nutrient for your nervous system and for pregnant women to protect their growing babies. If you’re a wine lover, be sure to get plenty of folate on your non-drinking days since the liver uses this vital B vitamin (B9) to process alcohol. Learn all the wonderful ways you can cook cauliflower.
- Fresh Ginger Root is spicy and fragrant, great in teas, smoothies and stir-frys. It contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that can help lessen the pain of arthritis and also has anti-bacterial properties.
- Garlic is a delicious aromatic that’s used in cooking traditions throughout the world. It’s high in antimicrobial compounds and has a calming effect on blood pressure. Minced, sliced, crushed — it’s tasty any way you slice it.
- Hot chilies like jalapeno, habanero, serrano and cayenne all have slightly different flavor profiles, from fruity to herbacious — but all contain the same healing compounds. Chili peppers are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E. They are rich in folate and potassium, low in sodium, and contain no carbohydrates. Because they contain capsaicin, they have been studied for their ability to stimulate circulation and as a potential medication for arthritis sufferers.
- Mushrooms (at only 19 calories per cup) rank alongside meat and milk in nutritive value and considerably higher than most vegetables that aren’t superfoods — plus they are high in vitamin D, B vitamins, and many minerals like potassium and zinc. Learn to cook and clean mushrooms to bring out their savoriness.
- Onions, red or white, are a in any soup, stew, sauce or salsa. They are high in vitamin B6, contain fiber, and sweeten in flavor as they cook. Onions contain a sulfur molecule that has anti-inflammatory effects important for arthritis sufferers.
- Red Bell Pepper is a vitamin C explosion, at only 46 calories a cup. Sweet red bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A and are delicious when paired with beef.
- Apples are surprisingly high in a long list of anti-oxidants, including quercetin which some health professionals believe may cleanse plaque from your arteries, and has long lasting health effects on the heart.
- Blueberries and Raspberries (fresh or frozen) contain high levels of anthocyanins, resveratrol, cyanidins, quercetin, and many other beneficial ones — latching onto free radicals that attack cells and would otherwise wreak havoc inside the body.
- Blackberries (fresh or frozen) are also antioxidant rich and provide plenty of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folic acid.
- Cherries (fresh or frozen) are delicious in sweet and savory dishes. They are high in phytonutrients, and particularly high in anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that protects the liver according to folk medicine (and is being currently studied for its potential to lower hypertension, protect the heart, and slow DNA damage).
- Kiwi contains plenty of vitamin C, a crucial nutrient that your liver needs to detoxify your blood and keep a myriad of other bodily functions moving along smoothly. Kiwis are the perfect travel food — no knife required because you can eat the skin and its fury exterior softens as soon as you start to chew. Save your empty yogurt containers, they are the perfect travel case for kiwis.
- Ground turkey, one the highest lean protein sources out there, can be turned easily into tasty everyday meals. Just be sure to use it quickly after purchasing or buy turkey cutlets and grind them in your food processor.
- Skinless chicken breasts are low in saturated fat and a blank canvas for wonderful flavorings like spices, citrus and fresh herbs. Buy them in bulk and freeze individually in sandwich bags. Chicken is also high in a host of B vitamins, including B3, B6, and B12, important for a wide range of functions in the body from building blood cells to controlling cholesterol levels.
- Frozen or fresh, shrimp (cooked or raw) are a great source of iodine, a mineral essential for proper thyroid function. Shrimp also contain interesting anti-inflammatory compounds like astaxanthin that can stop oxidation in fat cells.
- Lean beef such as flank steak, stew meat, or filet (grass-fed whenever possible) is an excellent source of heme iron, which is more readily absorbed in your body compared to non-heme iron (that you find in vegetable sources like beans and lentils.
- Pasture-raised eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and you can consider eggs in general as a treasure chest of nutrients (including all 8 essential amino acids and choline, a B vitamin that protects our nervous system).
- Grass-fed dairy like butter and milk in moderation (because they are high in calories). If you can tolerate lactose, dairy can be a surprising way to stock up on omega-3’s.
- Kefir, dairy based and good quality Parmesan cheese, low in lactose for those who don’t do well with fresh dairy.
- Nuts whichever ones you fancy — almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, walnuts, or cashews. Roasted and unsalted (or salted if you’re not on a low-sodium diet) is your ticket, but all nuts should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness.
- Ground flax seeds and chia seeds are not only good ways to add protein to your meals, but they are both excellent sources of plant based omega-3’s and fiber.
2. Stock Your Pantry
- Quinoa, red or white, is a nutritious seed that is high in protein, fiber, and many heart-healthy minerals like manganese and magnesium. Look for “prewashed” quinoa to save a cooking step, or rinse your quinoa well to wash off “saponin” (the seed’s protective bitter coating).
- Old Fashioned Oatmeal is a great way to eat this prebiotic whole grain that is also a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
- Short-grain brown rice (not the medium or long grain) — short grain has a superior taste and texture and is high in selenium (for hair growth) and copper (for healthy collagen production).
- 100% Whole Grain Pastas in any shape — but check the ingredient label to be sure the first word is “100% whole wheat” (or whatever grain the pasta is made from: wheat, brown rice, quinoa, kamut, or buckwheat just to name a few). Whole grain pasta is a good source of fiber and many minerals.
- Light canned tuna and/or salmon packed in water are lighter in calories compared to tuna packed in oil and lowest in mercury count.
- Canned beans (chick peas, pinto, black, kidney, any variety) — go for low-sodium if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet. All beans are superfoods high in fiber but beans with dark skins happen to have high levels of anti-oxidants, not far off from the anti-oxidant levels you’ll find in fresh berries.
3. Superfood Oils and Superfood Seasonings and Condiments
- Hot sauces like Tabasco contain the active ingredient capsaicum (because they are made from spicy chilies). Most are low in calories, but not ideal for low-sodium diets.
- Balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar taste great on salads and help to balance blood sugar. They are low in calories and big with flavor!
- Healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and cooking spray made from olive oil or canola — don’t forget to keep oils out of the sun, in a cool cupboard, to keep them from going rancid.
- 70% Dark Chocolate — think Hershey’s Kisses or a bar of really good 70 percent cocoa chocolate.
- Natural nut butters — almond, peanut, cashew, or try this delectable chocolate peanut butter for a new flavor option.
- Turmeric, the uber-spice of the superfood world is being evaluated for its ability to soothe skin disorders like psoriasis, calm the nervous system and PMS, and even fight cancer because of its active ingredient curcumin, which works as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Its stringent taste may be hard to swallow, but when you add it in pinchfuls to your favorite dishes it’s easy to enjoy. Try adding 1/4 teaspoon turmeric to your hot coco, fried rice or even your beef stew.
- Medium to hot chili powder, much like turmeric, has healing properties because of its active compound capsaicin. Bring on a little heat to fight inflammation in the body and even raise your metabolic rate for up to 1 hour after you eat it.
- Garlic powder and garlic cloves are a great tasting anti-fungal and anti-bacterial flavoring. So stock up on both fresh and powdered varieties.
4. Stock Your Countertop
- Nuts across the board are superfoods rich in fiber, minerals, and good quality fats. New studies say that eating nuts may even help to extend your life while improving the taste of your meals!
- Seeds, chia and flax are fiber, protein, and omega-3 powerhouses. Great in smoothies, tossed into salads and perfect for breadcrumb mixes. Keep a small container on the counter for everyday use — but for longterm storage (more than a week) store in the fridge.
- Avocados, rich and creamy, contain high levels of pantothenic acid or vitamin B5. According to George Mateljan, a biologist and author of “World’s Healthiest Foods,” vitamin B5 aids the breakdown of fat. There is also research out there on how pantothenic acid may help clear acne. Set out on the countertop for 2 to 3 days to ripen, then store refrigerated for up to a week.
- Juicy low-cal grapefruit can help maintain your glowing complexion, protect gums for a gorgeous smile and help lower cholesterol. But if you are taking prescription medication, talk to your doctor before eating grapefruit — some citrus fruits (like grapefruit) can impede the breakdown of prescription medications.
- Sweet potatoes are an incredibly rich source of vitamin A, a good source of Vitamin C and potassium. Bake them for creamy stuffed potatoes or cut into fries. Store them away from direct sunlight in a basket or under the sink.
- Coffee beans (if you drink coffee) have a dense load of antioxidants, but only the caffeinated variety. Studies also say that coffee may improve memory.
- An assortment of teas — green, black and redbush — serve as a great calorie-free drink that also boosts your daily antioxidant load.