here is no official definition for superfood. In general any food with a high concentration of nutrients that supports health and well-being is called a superfood. These nutrient-dense foods have featured in the human diet for thousands of years, but there nutrient composition and associated health benefits have been evaluated in the recent years. The nutrient rich healing foods are distributed across the globe. In the ancient medicinal systems they were used for their healing properties. It is believed that superfoods fill the gap between food and herbal medicines. Apart from nourishing the vital body organs, superfoods are known to correct imbalances. [1]

The term superfood is being used since the late 20th century primarily as a marketing tool by producers of certain foods and dietary supplements. From 2004, superfruits as a subclass of superfoods have entered the popular vocabulary. Despite the specific health benefits of specific foods, a diet focusing exclusively on superfoods is not supported by dietitians and health experts. Instead a diet based on diverse foods that includes superfoods is considered to be the best for the overall health. [2]

Banana is believed to be the first food to be regarded as a superfood. In the early 20th century, the United Fruit Company used the term in their advertizing campaign to encourage consumption of banana, which was their major import. Due to the popularity of the term in the media, it has been included in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Here it is defined as a food rich in beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, fatty acids or fibers that are good for health. [3]

Following the aforementioned definition, here is a list of foods that are considered as “super-foods”.

1. Blueberry

A number of in vitro and in vivo studies have revealed the beneficial effects of consuming blueberries on human health. Researchers have attributed the health benefits of this superfood to its high antioxidant content. It is a rich source of potent antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonols and proanthocyanidins. However, the exact composition of antioxidant compounds and their quantities depend upon the blueberry genotype. Wild or low bush blueberries are known to be the richest source of antioxidants among the different genotypes. Antioxidants help in inhibiting oxidative stress-induced damage to the body cells. Consuming blueberries is believed to maintain healthy cholesterol level, protect neurological functions, and support healthy function of the urinary tract and lower risk of age-related vision loss. [4]

2. Acai Berry

Acai berry is native to the Brazilian rainforests. To the indigenous people of the region, acai is a prominent source of nutrition during famine. It is a source of complete protein. By consuming acai berries you will get all the essential amino acids that your body cannot synthesize. In addition, the berries are a rich source of the omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. The antioxidant content of acai berry is twice that of blueberry. Adding acai berry to the daily diet could help fight premature aging and reduce risk of chronic ailments that are induced by free radical damage. It is believed that acai intake supports weight loss, maintains health of the digestive system, helps lower elevated cholesterol level, combats arthritis, improves skin appearance, helps to relieve erectile dysfunction and assists in detoxification. [5][6]

3. Goji Berry

Goji berry is indigenous to China. In the traditional medicinal systems of Asia, it is valued for generations for its healing properties. It is believed that consuming goji berries helps in delaying the aging process and increases longevity. Hence, it is often referred to as the fountain of youth. The nutrient rich goji berry is known to combat high blood pressure, diabetes, age-related vision impairment and fever. Some studies suggest that drinking goji berry juice could help improve athletic performance, promote calmness, improve sleep and support weight loss. However, goji berry may interact with medications used for managing diabetes and high blood pressure and blood thinners. If you are on any of these drugs, consult your doctor before increasing goji berry intake. [7]

4. Mangosteen

This exotic tropical fruit is best known as a source of vitamin C, all the nine vitamins of the vitamin B complex family and a number of minerals such as magnesium, manganese and copper. Per 100 g serving of the superfood provides almost 12% of the daily value of vitamin C. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, mangosteen contains over 40 biologically active chemical compounds known as xanthones. Despite similarity in the molecular structures, each xanthone molecule has a unique chemical composition that is responsible for its specific effect on the human health. Among the different types of mangosteen xanthones, alpha mangostin is known as a powerful antioxidant, gamma mangostin is recognized for its potent anti-inflammatory effect and garcinone E is known to exhibit powerful anti-tumor activity. Mangosteen is traditionally used for activating the immune system, improving mental health and fighting infections including urinary tract infection, tuberculosis, thrush and intestinal infections. The tannins present in the mangosteen fruit rind are believed to help in relieving diarrhea. [8][9][10]

5. Wheatgrass

The grass that grows from sprouted wheat berries is known as wheatgrass. It contains a number of vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin B12 and other B vitamins and vitamin E. It is a good source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It is also known to contain all the 20 amino acids. Moreover, it is rich in antioxidant enzymes including superoxide dismutase, cytochrome oxidase and 30 other enzymes known for their antioxidant activities. However, the high chlorophyll content of wheatgrass is believed to be primarily responsible for most of its health benefits. Chlorophyll comprises almost 70% of the wheatgrass blade. Ingesting chlorophyll rich wheatgrass juice is known to increase oxygen circulation in the body cells, assist in flushing out toxins from the liver and other organs and protect the body from carcinogens. Wheatgrass juice could help in lowering high blood pressure. It supports the health and function of the blood cells, bones, muscles, liver, kidneys and spleen. [11][12]

6. Chia Seeds

Chia was the staple of the ancient Native Americans. In the Mayan language, the word ‘chia’ means ‘strength’. Chia seed enriched diet helped in keeping the Native Americans energized throughout the day. The energy boosting property of chia has made it a popular constituent of the diet for individuals engaged in strength training and endurance running. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Incorporating these seeds in the diet helps in restoring the normal omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid balance. Chia seeds also contain several minerals including calcium and zinc. Adding chia seeds to the diet can help in fighting obesity, diabetes and heart disease. [13]

7. Pomegranate

Pomegranate is known for its tremendous health benefits especially on the health of the cardiovascular system. A 100 g serving of the juicy pomegranate seeds provide 12% of the daily value of vitamin C, 10% of the daily value of folate and 16% of the daily value of vitamin K. They are also a good source of dietary fiber. However, most of the health benefits of pomegranate are due to its soluble polyphenols and anthocyanins. Studies have shown that regular intake of 240 ml pomegranate juice helps in keeping the heart healthy. Pomegranate juice intake is known to inhibit an enzyme that stimulates vascular contraction. Hence, pomegranate helps in lowering the systolic blood pressure. Furthermore, pomegranate intake helps in averting plague formation in the arteries and reduces hardening of arteries. [14]

8. Seaweed

Seaweed is a generic term for sea vegetables such as nori, wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame. They are mineral powerhouses. In seaweed you will find almost all minerals found in ocean. By adding seaweed to your diet, you could get the minerals essential for supporting the health and function of the organs. Research suggests that seaweed has anti-inflammatory property that helps in combating inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, asthma, celiac disease and obesity. It is also rich in antioxidants. Consuming seaweed is believed to relieve PMS symptoms and reduce risk of breast cancer. [15]

9. Cacao

The beans of Theobroma cacao tree, commonly known as cocoa or cacao, are among the richest sources of phenolic antioxidants. Historically, cacao was used as medicine by the Native Americans. Even in Europe where it was first introduced in the 16th century, it was used for a remedy for ailments up to the 20th century. The most common medicinal uses of cacao were to induce weight gain in undernourished individuals, improve digestion and detoxification and stimulate the nervous system. The major antioxidant flavonoids in cacao that are responsible for most of its health benefits are catechin, procyanidins and epicatechin. Moreover, the cacao flavonoids are also known for their anti-inflammatory activity. Cocoa consumption could help in improving cardiovascular function, reduce insulin resistance, decrease risk of nerve injury and inflammation and promote cognitive function and mood. It is known to boost satiety. Moderate cacao or dark chocolate consumption can provide these benefits. [16]

10. Kefir

Kefir is produced by fermenting milk by using kefir grains as the fermentation starter. Kefir grains have a unique complex microbial composition comprising of acetic-acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. Kefir contains carbohydrate, proteins and a number of minerals and vitamins. Its beneficial effects on health are primarily due to the lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, organic acids, polysaccharides, bioactive peptides and antioxidants. Recent studies suggest that it is one of the best foods for combating osteoporosis. Furthermore, kefir is believed to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic and immune-modulating properties. [17]


Almond is regarded as a superfood because of its high vitamin E, protein and cholesterol-reducing fiber content. By eating a handful of almonds, you’ll get about 6 grams of protein and 3.4 grams of fiber. It could meet about one-third of your body’s daily vitamin E need. Almonds also contain most of the B vitamins and calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. Flavonoids and plant sterols found in almond are responsible for a number of its health benefits. Studies suggest that consuming almonds could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disorders by lowering the total cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol and regulating the blood pressure level. [18]

12. Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient protein rich grain considered sacred by the Incas. It is one of the few plant-based protein foods that contain all the nine essential amino acids. The protein profile of quinoa is similar to milk. It is also a good source of B vitamins, especially riboflavin and folate. It also contains antioxidant phytonutrients. Quinoa is known to help in regulating blood sugar and helps fight inflammation. It is good for the muscles and the brain. [19]

13. Citrus Fruits

There are hundreds of citrus species. Among the major citrus fruits lemon and lime are native to India; orange, pomelo and tangerine are believed to be indigenous to China and South-East Asia; and grapefruit originated in the Caribbean. Citrus fruits are considered as superfood because of their high concentration of bioactive compounds. The major constituents of citrus fruits are vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, pectin, flavonoids and limonoids and pigments including chlorophyll, anthocyanins and carotenoids. Fresh citrus fruits are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fruits. The constituents of citrus fruits are known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-cancer activities. Regular intake of citrus fruits is known to reduce risks of arthritis, cardiovascular disease and obesity. [20][21]

14. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are a popular choice for superfoods. The vegetables of the cabbage family including cauliflower, broccoli and kale are loaded with nutrients. Broccoli contains plenty of antioxidant carotene, dietary fats and calcium. Studies suggest that broccoli is a source of potent anti-cancer compounds. Cauliflower is a good source of potassium and it is low in sodium, fat and calorie. It too contains the anti-cancer compounds called indoles. Kale is rich in antioxidant carotenes called zeaxanthin and lutein. It is also a good source of vitamin C and a number of B vitamins. [22]

15. Salmon

While majority of superfoods are of plant origin, salmon is an animal product. Salmon is best known as one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in inhibiting low grade inflammation, which is responsible for development of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disorders, cognitive impairment and certain cancers. In addition, salmon provides carotenoids, vitamin D and lean protein. [23]

Leave a Reply