The Best Superfoods List According to a Culinary Alchemist
Superfoods are a posse of many, once not-so-commonplace (in North America) plant-foods that are super nutrient-dense. They are typically power-packed with phytonutrients that provide for enhanced blood sugar control, mental performance, physical stamina, and energy. Many superfoods are particularly high in protein and omega-3s (good anti-inflammatory fats), which are critical building blocks for growing kids. They also give us a generous dose of either B vitamins (to support our nervous system and stress hormone glands), or fiber (to help balance our blood sugar, and aid digestion and elimination). And they are primed to feature prominently on a plate (or in a smoothie) near you. Oh—and they’re all gluten free! Now that you know why you should have them in your diet, grab a pen and keep this list handy!
12 superfoods you need to try
A tried and true favourite
- These are your best source of lignans—an important detoxifying phytoestrogen.
- High EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) profile (57% of their total fat--the good kind of fat!).
- Anti-inflammatory and high in potassium—important for fluid balance.
- Contains lots of fiber—both soluble AND insoluble.
- Try sprinkling on cereals, in smoothies, yogurt, as an egg substitute for baking. Most easily digested when ground.
- Omega-3-dense, mineral-rich sea vegetables, these are the richest sources of minerals in the vegetable kingdom, and a great source of iron and iodine.
- Can remove toxic heavy metals from the body.
There are many more delicious seaweeds besides the nori we love in sushi rolls!
Sauté in a little coconut oil and it is great for munching-on straight-up, but is also wonderful sprinkled on salads (in place of bacon!) and on top of soups as a crispy, healthy garnish.
Contains glutamic acid, a safe and natural form of MSG. It’s great for adding a flavour boost to stocks, soups and stews, and also tenderizes beans (use in soaking and cooking), making them more digestible (read: less flatulence!).
Noodle-thin, like short pieces of purple-black spaghetti, it rehydrates quickly and is great mixed in salads, and tossed in stir-fries.
- Also known as “wolfberries,” they are nutritionally similar to our blueberries.
- Jam-packed with antioxidants – particularly the carotenoids that are important for eye health and the immune system.
- Long used in traditional Chinese medicine in healing soups and teas for supporting blood sugar, vitality and immunity.
These chewy red berries taste a little like dates. Try them in cereals (hot cooked cereals and granola), soups (a colourful addition), snacks (make your own trail mix with nuts/seeds and dried fruits), and use them in baking where you would use cranberries or raisins.
A vegetable that acts like a grain!
Pronounced k’een-wa, this is the seed that cooks like a grain and it’s gluten-free!
- Contains high levels of protein, B vitamins, lysine, iron, and potassium.
- Has a light delicate flavour that lends itself well to every meal of the day.
Wonderful as a fluffy warm breakfast cereal, as a grain side dish instead of rice, in pilaf, as tabouli, and in savoury loaves. In baking I use it a lot in cookies and bars. Rinse before cooking to remove the saponin resin on the outside of the kernels.
- Highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in the plant kingdom!
- 20% high-quality protein: 2 grams per 2 tbsp.
- High-fibre: 7 grams per 2 tbsp.
- Packed with antioxidants, it is especially high in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron.
Try sprinkling them on cereals, use in baking, or make pudding as explained in this blueberry banana chia seed parfait recipe.
A blue-green algae
- Most abundant food source of the amino acid tryptophan that helps generate the feel-good neurotransmitter seratonin that regulates sleep, mood, and appetite.
- High in protein, spirulina is 65-71% complete protein, while beef is only 28%!
- Rich in chlorophyll, which also means it is high in magnesium—a mineral important for bone health and the nervous system. Our agricultural soils are often depleted of this crucial mineral.
Use in smoothies (1 tsp - 1 tbsp), juice and drinks, healthy desserts. I put it in cookies and bars and it looks like green tea matcha!
- Higher in calcium than milk, and higher in iron than spinach, amaranth is also high in potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.
- 17% protein and rich in the amino acid lysine—rare in plant foods!
Great as a creamy breakfast cereal, I have made some delicious recipes for amaranth risotto and amaranth “caviar,” and use it half-and-half with cornmeal in polenta.
Grown on molasses!
- Complete protein with 9 grams in 2 tbsp.
- Rich source of B vitamins, especially B12 content, which is rare in plant sources.
- Nutty tasting, and very satisfying as a “cheese-like” alternative.
Try sprinkling on popcorn or mixing half-and-half with hemp seeds, some sea salt and fresh ground pepper for a dairy-free nutrient-rich parmesan for your pasta, or mix into cauliflower mashed potatoes for a savoury addition.
*Can't find it? Try looking for "good tasting yeast."
Virgin coconut oil
A very good fat!
- Great for high temperature cooking as it contains a large percentage of saturated fats that are stable and undamaged with heat.
- Antimicrobial benefits: contains anti-fungal caprylic acid and lauric acid—both antiviral and antibacterial.
- Comprised of primarily medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are utilized by the liver to produce energy rather than being stored in the body as fat.
A wonderfully rich addition to sweet treats!
A traditional Japanese fermented paste
- As a fermented food, it contains beneficial probiotics.
- Don’t boil it, or you’ll destroy its excellent source of live enzymes and friendly immune supportive and digestion enhancing bacteria.
- Great source of low caloric protein with 2 grams of protein in a 30 calorie (roughly 2 tsp) serving.
Made primarily from soybeans*, miso also contains rice, barley, or other grains. The darker misos are fermented longer and tend to be saltier; the lighter misos are on the milder, sweeter side and may be more appealing to a younger palate. Use as a soup base—it’s so quick and easy! Or try a teaspoon or more in salad dressings and gravies.
*For those avoiding soy, look for chickpea miso.
A versatile superfood!
- Contains 5 grams of protein per tbsp. Its protein is complete, containing all 9 essential amino acids!
- In its whole food state, it has a high pH, making it more alkaline than most proteins.
Try sprinkling them on salads, cereals, on greens, stir-fries, bars, and cookies, or add them to smoothies.
A creamy fruit with a cool nature
- A natural source of the powerful “brain food”, lecithin, along with fat-soluble vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for growing kids!
- 80% of an avocado’s caloric content is easily digested fat primarily in the form of monounsaturated oils.
Use to make creamy smoothies, in salads, spread on crackers, sandwiches, guacamole, or cubed on top of just about anything! Blend it with cocoa, a sweetener, and vanilla to make delicious avocado pudding desserts and icings.
Most of these foods were used by someone’s grandmother in some wise land like amaranth and chia traditionally from Mexico, quinoa from Peru, and miso from Japan. Be mindful of the farmers who traditionally survive by producing "Superfoods" and try to purchase organic and Fair Trade certified brands. Superfoods are a great addition to a diet rich in nutrients from whole foods and open up a world of possibilities with their versatility and benefits!