10 Best Superfoods Reviewed & Compared

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“We are what we eat”

Superfoods are an essential addition to the diets of athletes looking to optimize their performance and keep their nutrition up to par. These nutritionally dense foods provide you with essential health benefits that improve your performance and keep your body running efficiently. Research shows that superfoods eliminate unwanted bacteria and prevent diabetes, clogged arteries, and cancer.

Our list exclusively covers  plant-based superfoods—although there are some dairy/meat-based superfoods you can choose from as well. You may find that you are already consuming some of the delicious super foods currently on our list—which is excellent! These foods fuel your runs and your body in a delicious and healthy way, and it is important to incorporate them into your diet if you haven’t done so already.

Consuming the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables brings you a plethora of health benefits—it improves your pH balance, immunes system, blood sugar levels, and prevents and protects against many physical and chronic conditions that affect our society today.

A high intake of fruits and vegetables also provides you with a diet rich in antioxidants, which helps your body protect against unwanted free-radicals, environmental toxins, and chronic diseases.

We’ve all heard that phrase before. What we fuel our bodies with greatly impacts our performance and overall daily lives. So, it is important to ensure our nutritional choices provide our bodies with the energy and nutrients it needs to keep us going. These superfoods provide our bodies with high levels of energy, which increases our energy levels and allows us to perform to the best of our ability.

These foods have been used all around the world for centuries—but the knowledge of their benefits and the importance of their use have been muffled by the simplicity that unhealthy, preserved, and mass-produced food provide.

These natural and organic superfoods are a natural way to dramatically improve your health.

Last Updated: April 8, 2018
By Brian Price:

In our latest update to this guide, you'll find a few changes, which include the addition of some more super beneficial foods to runners.

Blueberries
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Avocado
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Garlic
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12 Best Superfoods

 

1. Quinoa

This grain that looks like a seed is quite the superfood. Found by the rice in your grocery store, it is unbelievable how much nutrition is packed into these tiny granules.
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Nutritional Content
A one-cup serving of quinoa has 222 calories, 3.6 grams of fat, and 40 grams of carbohydrates. Quinoa is high in protein, with 8 grams per serving, and it also has 5 grams of fiber. This superfood also has 14 vitamins and 10 minerals, as well as all 9 essential amino acids. It has everything you need to be healthy… literally!

Taste/Practicality
Quinoa has a slightly nutty taste and has a texture similar to rice, although the size of the grains is smaller. It is quick cooking, so it can be made in a flash for lunch or dinner. This superfood began growing in popularity a few years ago, so it is pretty easy to find near the rice at your local grocer.

Value
Quinoa is a more expensive grain, but remember, a little goes a long way.
Pros
  • Tons of nutrition
  • Easy to find
  • Cooks quickly
Cons
  • A little more expensive than other grains

2. Blueberries

Will you turn into a giant blueberry and have to get put through Willy Wonka’s juicing machine if you eat blueberries? No way! Quite the opposite actually… they are an incredible superfood!
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Nutritional Content
A one cup serving of blueberries has just 84 calories, but they pack in a lot more. They also contain 4 grams of fiber, and most of the RDV of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and manganese. On top of all that, blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruit. Antioxidants help fight free radicals in your body and therefore fight cancer, DNA damage, and aging.

Taste/Practicality
Blueberries are a little bit sweet and a little bit tart. They are great eaten alone, but also make a great addition to cereal, yogurt, or a smoothie. Blueberries are commonly found at the grocery store, and their price fluctuates with the season.

Value
They are cheapest when in season. Unfortunately, they are usually sold in small containers, so you may have to buy a few.
Pros
  • Loads of antioxidants and nutrients
Cons
  • May be expensive

3. Avocado

Avocado is another fruit (yes, fruit) that finds itself on the superfoods list because of all of the goodness packed inside of its tough black shell.
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Nutritional Content
Avocados are a high-fat fruit, but they are full of healthy monosaturated fats which have been linked to reductions in cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. They also have about 15 grams of fiber per fruit and are high in lutein, an antioxidant that is great for your eyes and skin. Research has also linked this superfood to blood sugar stabilization, regeneration of tissue and blood, and increased heart health.

Taste/Practicality
Avocados have a smooth, buttery taste and texture, and this superfood isn’t just for guacamole anymore. A growing trend is to use avocado in place of butter on toast or in baking. Avocados are commonly found at the grocery store, but spoil quickly once the skin is broken.

Value
This superfood is slightly more expensive than the average fruit.
Pros
  • Buttery taste and texture
  • Disease-fighting nutrients
Cons
  • Price can be high
  • Must eat quickly before spoiling

4. Kale

Kale is the tough cousin of spinach and lettuce, but maybe that's because it packs in more nutrients than those do, giving it superfood status.
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Nutritional Content
Kale is super high in antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and iron, which means it is great for your bones, skin, hair, digestive system, and many other parts of your body. This super food is also a great source of copper and manganese. However, it loses a lot of these nutrients when it is cooked, so kale is a superfood that is best eaten raw.

Taste/Practicality
Kale is great for salad. Try blending it in a smoothie to maintain all of its natural benefits. If you can’t stomach raw kale, try steaming or sautéing it, or baking up some crunchy kale chips! Kale is pretty easy to find at the grocery store or farmers market.

Value
Kale is about the same price as other leafy greens.
Pros
  • Easy to find
  • Easy to prepare
Cons
  • Loses nutrients when cooked

5. Cacao Nibs

Cacao Nibs are an underestimated super food that many people look past. It is high in antioxidants, fiber, and increases your energy. Its flavor pairs well with smoothies, shakes, yogurt, and almost anything sweet in flavor.
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Nutritional Content
Cacao nibs are low in calorie but rich in antioxidants, fiber, and immune boosting supplements. It has high levels of Magnesium and Potassium, and uses theobromine to provide you with an energy boost.

Taste/Practicality
Cacao Nibs have a mild and a slightly bitter taste. It is easily masked when mixed with your shakes, drinks, yogurt or breakfast bowls

Value
This supplement is affordably priced. It comes in several price options, depending on the brand you choose, and is mostly only marked as organic and USDA approved
Pros
  • High in antioxidants 
  • affordable 
  • Natural energy boosting 
  • mild flavor 
  • High in fiber 
Cons
  • Some people don't think the energy boost is significant 

6. Almonds

Almonds are a portable super food that have many benefits. Just a handful goes a long, long way in helping your health!
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Nutritional Content
Almonds have been rightfully named a superfood because they are loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. Almonds are also the most nutritionally dense nut, meaning you get the greatest concentration of nutrients per serving.

Taste/Practicality
Almonds have a mild and slightly sweet flavor. This superfood is a great grab-and-go snack, but can also be enjoyed as a topping for oatmeal or a salad, chopped up and put into your favorite side dish, or even as a milk or as almond butter.

Value
Almonds are priced in the average range of other nuts. However, almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter.
Pros
  • Most concentrated nutrition of any nut
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Potential allergen

7. Moringa Powder

Moringa Powder is at the top of our list because of all of the nutritional benefits it provides, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its high levels of antioxidants. Like Spirulina and Maca Powder, you can easily mix Moringa Powder into your daily smoothies or protein shakes—making it easy to ingest while allowing your body to reap the benefits of consuming this superfood.
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Nutritional Content
The daily recommended dose of Moringa Powder (1 tablespoon) has merely 10 calories 60% of your daily iron intake. It also contains a high amount of Vitamin A, C, and E as well as amino acids, Potassium, Calcium, and protein.

Taste/Practicality
Alone, this powder has a slightly bitter taste—but when you mix it in your favorite smoothies or protein shakes you don’t taste at all.

Value
Moringa powder comes in varied prices—but you can find organic, USDA approved options at affordable prices.
Pros
  • 60% of the recommended daily dose of iron, anti-inflammatory
  • high in anti-oxidants and amino acids
  • low calories
  • affordable price
  • mixes well with your smoothies and shakes
Cons
  • Bitter to taste if you don’t mix it properly

8. Broccoli

These little green trees are more than just something your mom forced you to eat as a kid. They are a real superfood!
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Nutritional Content
A serving of broccoli packs in 6 gram of protein, and also has tons of glucoraphanin, which helps the body detoxify, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium, which are immune-system boosters, phytonutrients, which help fight inflammation, and indole-3 carbinole, which is known to be a powerful antioxidant and anti-carcinogen. Broccoli is one superfood that helps keep you healthy and fights all of the bad stuff that attacks your body.

Taste/Practicality
Broccoli is a superfood that is easy to find at your local grocer, either in the fresh produce section or frozen. It is even easy to grow at home in a garden or a pot. It can be eaten raw or cooked, with most people pairing it with hummus, cheese, or another topping of the like. It also makes a great addition to a stir fry or casserole.

Value: Broccoli is inexpensive and its versatility really gives it a bang for your buck.
Pros
  • Commonly found
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Can be dry when raw

9. Chia

Chia seeds are one of the healthiest plants on the planet, which is why they are such a nutritionally-charged superfood. It’s really know surprise that “chia” is the Mayan word meaning strength!
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Nutritional Content
In just one tiny ounce of chia seeds, there is 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and high percentages of the RDV of calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Plus, chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight diseases and inflammation. Like many other superfoods, chia has been linked to reductions in risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Taste/Practicality
Chia seeds are unique because of their gel-like texture, which some people find is difficult to like. They are great when blended into a smoothie or added to a recipe like a bread or pancakes, or even salad dressing. Vegan users make a chia gel mixture to serve as a replacement or oil and eggs in baking.

Value
Chia seeds are about the same price as other seeds and nuts, but remember, a little goes a long way!
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Lots of Nutrients
Cons
  • Gel-like texture can be a turn-off

10. Garlic

Hopefully you aren’t a vampire, because garlic is a tiny superfood that packs in enormous benefits.
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Nutritional Content
Research has shown that eating garlic has many benefits, especially for your heart and immune system. Eating 2 cloves of garlic each day has been shown to reduce heart attack risk in heart disease patients, as well as helping to prevent clogged arteries, and lowers both triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Garlic is an antibacterial and antiviral, which means that it will help battle colds and infections. This superfood has also been named one of the top cancer fighters by the National Cancer Institute.

Taste/Practicality
Garlic comes in many forms – whole, already minced, powdered in the spice aisle, along with a few others. Try adding a bit to every meal to get in your daily dose of this superfood. Garlic has a strong flavor, and can make your breath stinky, so make sure you have some mints nearby.

Value
Garlic is inexpensive and lasts a long time.
Pros
  • Heart-healthy benefits
  • Boosts immune system
Cons
  • Garlic breath

11. Sweet Potatoes

11. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a popular and easy to cook superfood. They are delicious and pair easily with almost anything. You can mash them, make them into hash browns, and even make sweet potato waffles! They are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet and will improve your health and give you the nutrients you need to perform to the best of your ability.

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Nutritional Content 
At 114 calories per 8 ounces, sweet potatoes also come with 27 grams od carbohydrates, 2.1 grams of protein, and 0.1 grams of fat. They are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, and calcium as well.

Taste/Practicality 

Sweet potatoes are versatile and pair well with almost any food. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and are easy to cook and prepare.

Value

Highly affordable
Pros
  • Affordable
  • delicious
  • versatile
  • High in Vitamin 6
  • little to no fat
Cons
  • Some people find them to have an acquired taste

12.Oats

12.Oats
Oats can be found in any store and are an excellent addition to your diet. They provide you with essential nutrients and health benefits that will improve both your health and your performance.

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Nutritional Content
Oats are typically a breakfast staple but they can really be eaten at anytime during the day. They are high in fiber, antioxidants, and protein and are proven to lower your cholesterol and improve your overall health.

Taste/Practicality 
Delicious and can be mixed with fruits and many other foods. It can be eaten warm or mixed in raw into your shakes or smoothies.

Value

Highly affordable
Pros
  • Easy to find
  • very versatile
  • high in fiber, antioxidants, and protein
  • Lowers your cholesterol and improves your overall health
Cons
  • Some people don’t like their taste or texture

If all of this food-based awesomeness seems overwhelming, have no fear. Superfoods are really easy to begin incorporating into your diet.  Many of them, like blueberries, avocado, and chia, can quickly blended into a smoothie or be added as a topping to a regular meal.  Others, like quinoa, can be used as a tasty new alternative to a food you eat regularly, like rice. The health benefits of superfoods are enormous and they are all worth giving a try.


The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation of the Best Superfoods

The superfoods in this list aren’t just foods that we like to eat and that we deem to be healthy, and they weren’t randomly selected from some list of superfoods (which would be gigantic, by the way). There is a set of metrics we applied when choosing the superfoods that made our list. The metrics we used are based on scientific research about superfoods and normal, everyday concerns about food, including taste, price, and availability.

Each of the key factors in creating our list of the Best Superfoods is explained below.

How nutrient dense is this food?

Scientists are in the beginning stages of identifying specific criteria that can be used to officially label a food as a “superfood.” The criteria that researchers have shown holds the most validity in that superfoods are nutrient dense. They have defined nutrient dense foods as those that provide 10% or more of the daily value of disease fighting nutrients, including potassium, protein, fiber, iron, calcium, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, zinc, folate, as well as vitamins K, E, B6, B12, D, C, and A.

So, in selecting the superfoods that comprise our list, we put nutrient density at the forefront of our criteria since this is the way science is leaning in its quest to give a legal definition to the term “superfood.”

Is this food considered a whole food?

Processed foods, meaning those that are somehow made using a chemical process or contain refined or artificial ingredients, are bad for you.

Really bad for you.

Most processed foods contain one or more of the following: sugar; high fructose corn syrup; refined carbohydrates; artificial ingredients; trans fat; and/or vegetable oils. They  have also been shown to lead to overconsumption and food addiction, and are usually low in nutrients and dietary fiber. Additionally, regular consumption of processed foods has been linked to a variety of health problems, including insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, just to name a few.

So, after all of that devastating information, we find it really important for superfoods to also be whole foods, meaning a simple, single-ingredient item that has not undergone extensive processing prior to consumption.

Is this a common food?

Some options are considered regional foods, so they are only available to the people that live in that area. The superfoods on our list are foods that can be found in any region of the country, so there are no special trips or internet orders required to get your hands on any superfood on our list.

How accessible is this food?

Healthy food should be available in every neighborhood supermarket so that all people can include healthy foods as part of their balanced diet. The superfoods on our list were selected because of their high accessibility, or in other words, ease of purchase. If the food is only available at select gourmet grocers or can only be ordered from the internet, we did not include it as one of our superfoods.

Is this food affordable?

Our list of superfoods includes foods that are not only common and accessible, but ones that are also affordable on any budget. Healthy foods, like superfoods, should be able to be a part of every person’s diet, regardless of their income. Many superfoods are seasonal foods, so the best way to make sure you are paying the lowest price for fresh and high quality superfoods is to purchase them when they are abundant and in season.

Does this food taste good?

Obviously, everyone wants to eat food that tastes good. If someone told us that mud was a superfood, we wouldn’t just start eating it because it has a fancy new label. We know mud tastes awful (from wet and muddy race experiences, not by choice) and therefore wouldn’t eat it, even if it was a superfood. We included foods on our list of superfoods that are some of the highest rated in taste satisfaction, which means that it is highly likely that you will enjoy them if you try them.


Other Important Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best choice for you

  • Dietary Needs

There are two factors that go hand-in-hand when considering which superfoods you begin to include as part of your diet. These factors are your personal preferences and your dietary needs.

You naturally dislike some foods because of their taste or texture, so you certainly wouldn’t include these as part of your diet just because it has been labeled a “superfood.” Similarly, if you follow a specific type of diet, such as veganism, you probably aren’t going to suddenly include salmon or eggs in your meals because they are superfoods. The same idea goes for food allergies. If you are allergic to nuts, avoiding them is still the best choice for you, since having the label of “superfood” doesn’t make you immune to the allergy.

Even though superfoods have plenty to offer, using a little common sense is the best way to make sure the superfoods you choose are ones you will actually, and that won’t have any harmful side effects (like anaphylactic shock).

  • Accessibility and Budget

Everyone lives on a budget. However, eating a well-balanced diet that includes superfoods should not break the bank. With a little planning, research, and grocery ad hunting, you can eat healthily and still have plenty of money left for other fun things (like entering races!).

First, buy foods that are accessible in your region and at your local grocery store. The farther away you have to go to get the food you eat, the more expensive it will be. So, see what superfoods are local and available in your region. These will most likely be not only the easiest to get, but also the least expensive.

The second thing to look into is when your available superfoods are actually in season. Most superfoods are available on a seasonal basis (like produce), and when they are in season, their abundance makes them cheaper. To keep your food budget as low as possible, plan your menus to include superfoods when they are in season. This will not only save you money, but it will also add variety to your diet.


FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions that may help clarify some ideas about superfoods, and may even inspire you to ask some questions of your own. These are some of the questions most commonly asked by consumers about superfoods.

Q:  What do all superfoods have in common?

A: The greatest commonality between all superfoods is that they are nutrient dense. Studies have shown that what makes a superfood “super” is that it provides 10% or more of the daily value of disease-fighting nutrients. These nutrients include fiber, potassium, protein, iron, calcium, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, folate, and vitamins B6, A, B12, D, C, k, and E.

Q: What are the superfoods that I should try to eat on a regular basis?

A: Well, there really is no definite answer to this question. Since there is no legally-defined criteria for superfoods, medical professionals do not have a set of metrics from which to grade or rank the effectiveness of superfoods. However, foods that are considered superfoods are nutrient-dense, healthy, whole foods that should be included as a regular part of a balanced diet that is rich in lean protein and fiber and includes absolute minimal amounts of processed foods.

No amount of superfoods can reverse the effects of eating fast food. Superfoods should be just one component of your balanced diet. Plus, everyone has different food preferences and dietary needs, so you should include the healthy superfoods that you actually like on a regular basis.

Q: Is there a special way I need to prepare superfoods to maximize the benefits?

A: The answer to this question depends on what superfood you are eating. For example, kale is a superfood that, when cooked, loses most of its nutrient density. This means that kale really only retains its superfood powers (i.e. nutrient density) when eaten raw. The same goes for many nuts, like walnuts.

However, cooking some superfoods, like blueberries or tomatoes, can enhance specific nutrients. In tomatoes, cooking them helps the body process lycopene, and cooked blueberries contain greater amounts of minerals, like calcium and potassium than raw blueberries. The best thing you can do is do a little research about how cooking a specific superfood affects its nutrient density.

 

Q: Can you get the benefits of superfoods from a vitamin or supplement?

A: Medical professionals say that if you don’t have any major underlying health conditions and eat a balanced diet, there is really no need to take a nutritional supplement, like a vitamin. With this in mind, no vitamin or supplement can truly replace a whole food. Whole foods not only provide us with vitamins and minerals, they also supply our bodies with protein, fiber, fats, and calories that we need to have the energy for all of the activities we do (like run!).

And, although lab testing is available, it has been found that the concentrations of nutrients in vitamins and supplements can be highly variable, so you may not be getting what you pay for. Sticking with a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Q: Isn’t the whole “superfoods” movement just a fad or a scam?

A: It is true that some foods have had a lot of superfood hype around them, like acai, and then have been shown to not have nearly all of the benefits that they were claimed to have. It is also true that there is no current legally-standardized definition of “superfood.”

However, scientists and medical professionals are currently working on officially defining this term, and they are getting closer to a finalized set of criteria every day. Thus far, research is demonstrating that these types of foods have one major commonality: nutrient density. With the research beginning to identify characteristics of superfoods, it is safe to say that this is not a scam or even a movement- superfoods are a real thing.

 

This is our method for determining the best superfoods. It is important to keep these points in mind, especially when trying to include more superfoods as part of your balanced diet.

We hope that you found the information in this guide useful in your quest to find the best superfoods.


 

Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:

Sources

  1. Jennifer DiNoia, PhD, Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach, Clinical Informational Website, Jun 05, 2014
  2. American Heart Association, What's so super about superfoods? , Informational Health Website, Feb 23, 2017
  3. Sharon Palmer, RD, 5 Questions About Superfoods, Informational Health Website, Oct 10, 2012
  4. The George Mateljan Foundation, The World's Healthiest Foods, Informational Health Website,
  5. Health.com, Superfoods You Need Now, Informational Health Website,
  6. Kris Gunnars, BSC, 9 Ways That Processed Foods Are Harming People, Informational Health Website,
  7. Alexandra Sifferlin, Foods You Should Eat Instead of Taking Vitamins, Informational News Website, Mar 30, 2015
  8. Ashley Cox, Acai Berries: Super Food or Hype? , Informational Science Website, Oct 08, 2008
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