The Top 16 Superfoods to Incorporate into Your Diet

by Eric Madrid MD

Superfoods are a group of foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and plant-based nutrients with antioxidant properties called phytonutrients. Corporate food companies have gone to great lengths to create and market foods that have little to no nutritional value, what we usually refer to as “junk food”. The products are created by food scientist and designed to be addicting, and it’s worked—many people in the United States and a growing number of countries around the world are eating processed foods, which increases the risk for many diseases.

Ideally, one should focus on eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Adding superfoods is part of the equation and can help you on your journey towards health and happiness.

Zenbu Shake

Zenbu means “everything” or “all” in Japanese. Zenbu meal replacement powder is so named because it contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which provide quality, high-grade nutrition. Many consume Zenbu for breakfast as it helps stabilize blood sugar. Zenbu also contains protein, trace nutrients, digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics.  Each serving is only 110 calories, making it a great choice for those wanting to shed a few extra pounds.

Zenbu contains over 70 superfoods and nutrients. The Organic ROY-G-BIV proprietary blend used to manufacture this meal includes spinach, banana, mango, carrot, acai, blackberry, blueberry, chlorella, alfalfa, wheatgrass, ginger, turmeric and more. All ingredients are considered superfoods.

Zenbu also contains:

    • A proprietary organic Seed and Sprout Blend (flaxseed, chia seed, quinoa and more)
    • An organic, full-spectrum Mushroom Powder Blend (Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake)
    • Lactobacillus Sporogenes, a probiotic (good bacteria)
    • Enzyme Blend (lipase, amylase, protease, bromelain and Papain)

Directions:  Take as directed on the label

Wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum)

Wheatgrass, which comes from the wheat plant, is a superfood rich in phytonutrients. Able to be cultivated indoors or outdoors, it grows in the United States and Europe. Wheatgrass is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and can be used as a snack or meal replacement when consumed as a powder.

Wheatgrass is rich in:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Antioxidants such as phenolic acid and chlorophyll

Benefits of wheatgrass

  • Promotes detoxification in the liver by supporting the phase I and phase II pathway
  • Helps optimize immunity
  • Helps alkalize the body
  • Helps lower cholesterol levels
  • Higher antioxidant properties than most other vegetables

Wheatgrass is available in capsule and powder or as a liquid.  Directions: Take as directed on the label.

Goji Berries  (Lycium barbarum or Lycium ruthenicum)

Goji berries contain potent antioxidants. They are rich in phenolic acids, tannins, flavonoids, anthocyanins and certain vitamins.  Native to Asia, where they’re commonly consumed, goji berries contain vitamin A and C, iron, and potassium—they are a great addition if your goal is to improve health.

Benefits of goji berries:

  • Anti-aging properties
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increases stamina, according to practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Helpful for those with diabetes
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Help keep retina eye cells healthy

Goji berries can be taken as a supplement, as a dried berry fruit, applied topically on the skin, or consumed as a juice.

Directions: take as directed on the label.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most used spices, derived from a unique tree bark. It is used in traditional medicine, including Ayurvedic medicine, and by many cultures. The spice can be added to coffee, oatmeal, rice, and many other foods. It’s been shown to have many health benefits.

Benefits of cinnamon:

  • Lowers blood sugar in those with diabetes
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antibacterial properties, including activity against MRSA (also known as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Liver protection

A 2017 study showed it may be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Reduces fasting insulin in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Reduces total cholesterol

Cinnamon is available in a supplement form, and as a cooking spice and essential oil.

Directions:  Take or use as directed on the label.

Acai Berries (Euterpe oleracea)

The acai berry comes from the Amazon region of South America, where it has been consumed for hundreds of years by indigenous cultures as both a food and drink. This powerful fruit, rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, has become increasingly popular worldwide over the last decade.

Studies have demonstrated many health benefits of Acai:

  • Weight Management
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Protects the heart
  • Helps improve circulation by dilating blood vessels
  • Antidiabetic properties
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Antioxidant properties
  • May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease according to a 2013 study (by inhibiting beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, the cause of Alzheimer’s)

Acai berry is available in both supplements and powder form.

Directions: Take as directed on the label.

Maqui Berry (Aristotelia chilensis)

Maqui Berry is a deep purple fruit that grows wild in the southern parts of Chile. It is harvested for commercial use by the Mapuche Indians and has powerful antioxidant properties. Its ability to protect against oxidation comes from its high content of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins—specifically delphinidins, the strongest antioxidants of all anthocyanins. A 2017 study in Food & Function demonstrated that maqui berry, when consumed with a high-fiber diet, maintained high-level antioxidant capacity.

Maqui berry has the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties inhibit COX-2, according to a 2017 study. This is the same enzyme that pharmaceutical drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex) target.
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Promotes vascular health through production of nitric oxide
  • Reduce vascular inflammation according to a 2015 study
  • Promotes growth of  beneficial bacteria in the gut according to a study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences
  • A 2016 study concluded that Maqui berry helps improve blood sugar (glucose) levels in those with prediabetes
  • Anti-aging properties when applied topically

Maqui berry can be consumed as a supplement or as a powder, which can be consumed directly or added to a fruit smoothie.

Directions: Use as directed on the label

Bee Propolis

It’s commonly known that bees make honey—some may also be familiar with royal jelly, a common supplement made from a secretion that worker bees produce.  However, few know that bees also make propolis, a substance made by extracting specific ingredients from plants, beeswax, and flowers.  Propolis is also known as “bee glue”.

Propolis comes from the Greek words pro, which means “at the entrance to,” and polis, which translates to “community” or “city”.  Propolis is the glue used to keep a beehive together, and it has many substances within it.  Cardol and quercetin are two of many active ingredients found in bee propolis—these substances help provide its medicinal benefits.

The Incas of South America used propolis to fight fevers while the Greeks and Romans used it to heal wounds.

Health benefits of bee propolis:

  • Lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Integrative Medicine
  • Protection against diabetic kidney disease has been demonstrated using animal models
  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Protects the liver from mercury toxicity
  • May protect against dental cavities
  • A 1995 study showed a reduction in upper respiratory infections in children
  • Lowers total cholesterol levels in those with diabetes
  • Killed melanoma cancer cells in a laboratory study
  • Killed colon cancer cells in a laboratory study in 2017

While a few studies have shown bee propolis may be active against certain types of cancer cells, no human studies have been done to show any anti-cancer benefit.

Bee Propolis can be taken in supplement form, as an oral spray or topically on wounds to help prevent infection.

Directions: Take as directed on the label

Spirulina

Spirulina is an easily digestible nutritional supplement, which belongs to a family of blue-green algae and can be taken in a pill or powder form. Spirulina comes from a type of bacteria scientists call cyanobacterium, specifically arthrospira platensis.  Learn more about spirulina.

Spirulina contains a complete source of protein, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Benefits of Spirulina:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • May reduce arthritis-related pain
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Lowers blood sugar in those with diabetes and prediabetes
  • Good source of zinc, which is important for skin health, a strong immune system and memory
  • Good source of B vitamins, which is important for nerve, brain, and heart health.  Since those who consume a vegetarian diet tend to lack vitamin B12, daily supplementation with spirulina can provide up to 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) requirement for vitamin B12.
  • Contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid found in vegetables. It’s considered the healthy omega-6 oil and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

For those attempting to maximize their nutritional intake, adding spirulina to the diet is a good place to start.  Spirulina can be taken in supplement form or as a powder, which can be added to foods or a fruit smoothie.

Other Superfoods:  

  • Almonds
  • Cacao/Cocoa Powder
  • Chia Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Seaweed

CREDIT

This article was written by Eric Madrid MD, ABIHM who is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and by the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He is author of Vitamin D Prescription, the Healing Power of the Sun. Dr. Madrid graduated from The Ohio State University School of Medicine. He is a partner at Rancho Family Medical Group and practices in Menifee, California

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