The term superfoods has been thrown around a lot over the years. To clarify, superfoods are foods very high in nutrients that are especially useful for our health and wellbeing. The problem I see with defining some foods as super, is it makes other food seem less important. All whole foods are good for you for many different reasons. When we eat a plant-based, whole food diet, we are getting nutrients in their most useable form and we reap the benefits.

This is a list of foods that contain a lot of nutrients per calorie, aka nutrient dense. These foods are not the only ones that are considered chock full of nutrients. They are just the ones I thought are tasty and easy to add to your existing diet. I hope that you haven’t heard or tried at least a few of them.

Dark Leafy Greens

The magical component of this category is the green colour. Green is a powerful healing colour and has a stress reducing effect inside the body which may be related to the chlorophyll content as well as the phytonutrients.

Chlorophyll is present in all green plants, it is responsible for the absorption of light for photosynthesis – converting the sun’s energy into fuel for plant cells, and has a detoxifying effect on the body. The darker the green, the more nutrients that plant contains. Magnesium is the centre of the chlorophyll molecule, so many green plants contain magnesium.

Phytonutrients are the parts of plants left over when we are not talking about the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) or micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). They are responsible for the food’s colour, taste, and smell, and it is estimated that phytonutrients outnumber traditional nutrients by 10,000 to 1. They have many health benefits, a few of which are: antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, immune system support, and many of them have anti-cancer properties as well.

These can ideally be a part of your daily diet and can be used raw, lightly steamed, added at the end to a stir-fry, and even baked like in the case of kale chips. Some greens to get started with are:

Kale

This is a very common green these days. It contains high amounts of vitamin A and calcium, as well as magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and trace amounts of almost all of the amino acids. Kale is a power house of nutrition.

I love to massage it with a little bit of oil and a dash of salt and use this as a bed for the main part of my meal, whether it is hot or cold. You can also rip it into small pieces and throw it in any cooked dish like casseroles, stir-fries, or some other type of vegetable main. Kale can also be eaten raw in salads, used in place of lettuce on a sandwich, or tossed in a smoothie.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a great source of vitamin A, is about 1/3 protein, and has a good fiber content. It also contains vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and folate. This is a great green to add to cooked dishes the same way you would with kale. You can also eat it raw, but it does have a stronger flavour than other, more mild, greens.

Spinach

This green is rich in iron, high in vitamin A, contains some folate, vitamins C and E, and magnesium and calcium are high. Spinach also contains oxalic acid which can bind calcium and other minerals so they cannot be used by the body. An easy way to decrease oxalic acid is to lightly cook the leaves (steaming is a gentle way to do this.) Spinach can be used raw or cooked and has a delicious taste.

Lettuce

Not all lettuce is created equal. This is a good category of food to remember that the darker the green, the more nutritious. Iceberg lettuce, for example, is not as nutritious as something darker like red leaf or butter lettuce. Lettuce is used raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. It is great for people new to green smoothies because of the mild flavour.

There are so many types of greens out there, so take a trip to the farmer’s market (or grocery store), and start trying them out! Some you may find are a little more bitter and some are quite mild. Start experimenting with greens today.

Microgreens

Most of the information from the ‘Greens’ section is duplicated here – the health benefits, chlorophyll, and phytonutrients. The part that is new is the micro part. Microgreens are grown in soil until the first leaves are produced and then they are harvested. They are potent little things! They contain more nutrients than their mature versions. Vitamins, minerals, and enzymes all abound.

When you buy these, you may find that they are pricey, but because they are so full of health promoting goodness, you won’t need as much to get your daily needs. This may help with the cost.

If you love them but not the price, you can always start to grow them yourself. With a harvest time of 3 weeks (at the most), you can be swimming in microgreens. This is a great option for the winter months when fresh, local produce is harder to find.

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Chlorella/Spirulina

These are both algae with similar, but different, benefits. They both contain chlorophyll, can easily be added to the diet in powder form or capsules, are high in protein, and they both have antioxidant properties.

Chlorella

Chlorella helps detoxify heavy metals, keeps skin looking young (because of the vitamin A and C content), and it supports the immune system. It is also very high in iron. When looking for chlorella, check the label to make sure it says ‘cracked cell wall’ for increased absorption.

Spirulina

It is high in calcium, vitamin B1, and iron. Spirulina has anti-inflammatory properties, helps remove heavy metals, and its protein is absorbed well in the body. Some call spirulina the most nutritious food on the planet because of the amount of nutrients per calorie. This is a great addition to the diet, but make sure not to start off with too much at once because of the fishy flavour. It is best to hide it in a smoothie or other dish.

Berries

These small fruits pack a mighty punch when it comes to nutrients. They are most known for their antioxidants (vitamin C and phytonutrients) which can boost immunity, calm inflammation, and even give your skin a healthy, youthful glow.

Berries contain a lot of water and fiber and are lower in sugar than other fruits, which makes them ideal for those who are trying to decrease sugar intake. They also contain high amounts of potassium and good amounts of calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Fresh berries are the best choice, but if they are out of season, frozen is the next best option. Eat them plain, with oatmeal for breakfast, in a delicious summer salad, or baked in a dessert. There are so many ways to enjoy berries!

Buckwheat

I thought it would be good to have some grains on this list, so here we are – buckwheat. Contrary to what the name suggests, buckwheat is not related to wheat and doesn’t contain gluten. With gluten causing so many problems with people, I thought it was important to include this one.

It is about 15-20% protein, contains high amounts of potassium, and some B vitamins, iron, and calcium. Buckwheat also contains high amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients which can decrease inflammation and aid oxidative damage. It is also high in fiber aiding digestion and blood sugar regulation.

Buckwheat can be cooked like a grain and you can eat it for breakfast like oatmeal or as a grain side to a main veggie meal.

Millet

Millet is another grain that is gluten free and an easy one to add to the diet. It contains good amounts of fiber, vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and vitamin E, and particularly high in magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Millet is an easy grain to cook (like rice or quinoa) and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Add some berries and cinnamon for a delicious and nutritious breakfast or combine with a salad or cooked veggies to add some complex carbohydrates to the meal. It has a mild taste, so it goes pretty well with most dishes.

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Special Mention

Fermented foods – I wanted to mention the greatness that is fermented foods, but then remembered that I had just written a post all about them, so check out this link for information on these miraculous foods.

Final Thoughts

Adding more whole, plant-based foods to the diet will increase our health and wellbeing in ways we may not even predict. Give some of these foods a try and see how easy it can be to add in new foods. All of the little changes we make every day really add up over a month, a year, our lifetime. So get started today. Your body will thank you!

Please share anything you found interesting about this post in the comment section below. I love to share ideas with others. If you know of someone that could benefit from any of this information, please feel free to share this post with them.

Have a great one!

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