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Healthy superfood salad made of fresh berries and fruit

What Are ‘Superfoods’?

Whether on social media or plastered on food packets in huge letters, we’ve all seen or heard the term before – but what exactly is a ‘superfood’?

While it might at first appear like an approved word in the world of nutrition, it is, in fact, not a medically recognised dietary term. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a ‘superfood’ is classified as any nutrient-rich food that can be beneficial for your health and overall wellbeing. Yes, you read that right: the term expands far beyond health shop favourites, like expensive chia seeds and hard-to-find quinoa!

In this article, we look into the potential benefits of adding so-called ‘superfoods’ to a healthy diet and explore some superfood examples that you can easily find in your next supermarket shop!

How can I incorporate superfoods into a healthy diet?

While it may be tempting to tuck straight into superfood talk, you’ll only get maximum benefits from superfoods if you are using them to supplement a healthy diet (not purely to act as a replacement!). So, what makes a healthy diet?

Well, not only does a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables keep your energy levels up and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but a healthy diet also supports your mental health, helping you stay focused and positive.

Take a look below to discover more healthy diet benefits:

  • Improved overall health: Unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains are rich in essential nutrients that support overall health and wellbeing. This can include improvements to gut health and will help to boost your immune system.

  • Increased energy: Constantly feel tired and out-of-sorts? Many nutrient-dense foods (including some of the top superfoods listed below) contain high levels of carbohydrates and natural sugars, which can keep your energy levels up throughout the day (rather than refined sugar which can cause energy crashes).

  • Lower risk of disease: Many unprocessed, vitamin-rich foods (including many healthy superfoods) are packed full of antioxidants. Berries, nuts, and seeds are just some fantastic examples. They naturally help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is a major contributor to many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

  • Improved brain function: The omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants found in many healthy foods (and some natural superfoods) are essential for brain function, helping to improve memory and concentration levels.

What are the best superfoods for a healthy diet?

With a tide of health kicks and dieting tips constantly flashing across our screens, you’d be forgiven for getting a little tired of following the latest fads.

Well, rather than restricting what you eat, you can lead a long-term healthy lifestyle by incorporating more healthy foods into your everyday diet – and that includes so-called ‘superfoods’, too!

Read on for a list of the top five superfoods that offer a huge health kick.

1. Berries

Full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, berries cram an impressive amount of goodness into a very small package. Not only do they help treat digestive issues, but eating more strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The dark skin in these fruits contains lots of antioxidants which is a reason why other foods with deep pigments, like beetroot, is a superfood.

If you’re looking for a creative way to eat more berry superfoods, take a look at the blueberry and banana smoothie in our sugar-free breakfast recipes article.

2. Nuts and seeds

A great source of protein, nuts and seeds are also rich in fibre and heart-healthy fats. All these nutrients certainly add up to one amazing superfood!

Boost your superfood intake by snacking on almonds in between meals or sprinkle sunflower seeds over your breakfast, lunch, and dinner to easily eat more of these super healthy foods. Just remember, nuts and seeds are quite calorific so don’t go overboard with your portion size. You can find out more about calories and sugar intake by taking our healthy food quiz

3. Avocados

Another fruit superfood (yes, anything with a stone or a pip is a fruit, even tomatoes!), avocados include all the fibres and vitamins that you’d expect from one of your five a day.

What sets avocados apart from other fruits and veg is that they are also high in monosaturated fats. These natural sources of fat serve to fill you up and provide good cholesterol in the body, which is vital for a heart-healthy diet!

Don’t worry if you haven’t cooked with this top superfood before, either. You can start your day the right way by making baked avocados with eggs from our list of easy breakfast recipes.

4. Spinach

Popeye the Sailor Man has been proclaiming the positives of this superfood vegetable since the 1920s. And for good reason: spinach is packed full of vitamins A, C, E, and K, which are all essential for your body and its immune system.

If you’re fed up with eating endless salads to consume more of this vegetable superfood, try our recipe for a red lentil and spinach dal. Delicious!

5. Salmon

While most of this superfood list is made up of amazing fruits and veg, it’s important not to forget about natural sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids – which is why salmon is such an amazing superfood! Omega-3, in particular, have been shown to promote brain and heart function, as well as help with people’s mental health.

In fact, the NHS recommends that we eat at least two portions of fish per week for that exact reason. Fortunately, we’ve got one of those meals sorted for you with our recipe for salmon with green beans and pesto potatoes. And if you’re also wondering if green beans or broccoli is a superfood, then you’re in luck. Our nutritious salmon with green beans and pesto potatoes comes jam-packed with superfood goodness!

If you want to find out more about the best foods to support your health and wellbeing, head over to our nutrition page on our Be Healthy hub. Alternatively, you can sign up to our regular e-newsletter and get wellbeing content sent directly to you!

Benenden Health provides affordable private healthcare for everyone, giving you access to services such as our 24/7 GP Helpline and Mental Health Helpline straight away.

Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly in March 2024.