It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…superfood? Perhaps owing to the superhero-esque title, superfoods have been enjoying their fair share of the health and nutrition limelight for the past few years. So what’s the big deal about superfoods, anyway?
Superfood is a term typically used to describe nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Basically, we’re talking whole, unprocessed fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and whole grains. They’re all packed with different bod-boosters, from immunity-increasing antioxidants to healthy-healthy fatty acids and more, which your body requires to complete the essential functions that keep you alive and healthy. In order to get the best benefit, you’ll want to incorporate the widest variety of superfoods that you can.
But if you’re just starting to dip your toes into the superfood world or are wondering how all of this fits in with your South Beach Diet plan, look no further.
Here are five superfoods you should be eating:
This South Beach staple ranks high in the superfoods for its satiating healthy fat content, which helps slow your digestion and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. One serving of this fabulous fruit (yep, technically a fruit!) also contains more potassium than a medium banana, a healthy dose of fiber and vitamins A, C, K and folate.
Among our favorite ways to enjoy avocado:
- Diced onto salads for a delicious, creamy topping
- Mashed and mixed with fresh lime juice, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro for a quick guac-inspired veggie dip
If you’re following the South Beach Diet, you’ll add Healthy Fats like avocado to your meal plan. Half of an avocado is equal to one serving.
Berries are celebrated in the superfood world for their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants show up in different forms in berries, from familiar vitamins like vitamin C, to lesser-known—but just as mighty—minerals and phytochemicals that are linked with all kinds of body-boosting benefits, from lower risk of heart disease to better digestive health. Phytochemicals are compounds found in plants that have been found to have an impressive amount of health benefits, including helping to protect the cells in your body from damage that could lead to cancer.
Getting the goodness of these gorgeous, sweet little gems is as easy as picking your favorite color:
- Red—Strawberries pack 160 percent of your recommended daily allotment of vitamin C into one serving, along with potassium, folate and three grams of cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber.
- Blue—Blueberries are among the highest in antioxidants, supplying bone-building vitamin K, vitamin A for healthy vision, teeth and skin, and manganese, vital to a healthy immune system.
- Purple—Blackberries, purple in color from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, also contain calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which is used by every cell of your body, from your teeth and bones to your hormones, nervous system and cardiovascular system, to name a few.
Pro tip: We recommend extremely limiting fruit on the South Beach Diet plan due to the amount of carbohydrates and sugar. However, that doesn’t mean you have to totally say goodbye to fruit. If you decide to include very small quantities of fruit, choose options that are lower in carbs and higher in fiber. According to Healthline, berries tend to be relatively low in sugar. These would be the best option if you are looking to incorporate a small amount of fruit. On our standard weight loss plan, they count towards your daily Extras. Click here for recommended serving sizes! > Keep in mind that it’s still important to monitor your daily net carb intake to keep it below 50 grams.
This super fish is a superfood thanks in part to its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which also benefit the nervous system and help reduce inflammation from conditions like arthritis. Salmon is also rich in the mineral selenium, which helps your thyroid gland function properly and regulates the hormones that tell your body how and when to use protein, fat and carbohydrates.
If you’re preparing a DIY dish, keep in mind that three ounces counts as one Protein serving.
4. Dark leafy greens
Watercress, chard, spinach, romaine lettuce and collard greens rank among the most nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This study developed a method of calculating the nutrient density of a large sampling fruits and veggies that are considered to be “powerhouses”, or those most strongly associated with reducing the risk of chronic disease. The higher the nutrient density score, the higher the amount of overall nutrients and phytochemicals per calorie. Of all the types of fruits and veggies that were ranked in this study, dark, leafy greens consistently topped the list.
One cup raw or one-half cup of cooked leafy greens counts toward your daily Vegetable servings.
In addition to being a solid source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are attributed to both heart health and memory function, walnuts pack in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that provide protection for your immune system and other major systems in your body.
And they’re gut friendly, too! A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that walnuts can change the makeup of bacteria in your gut, increasing the diversity of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus that are typically associated with probiotics, suggesting that walnuts may have a prebiotic effect as well.
If you’re on the South Beach Diet, one serving of walnuts is one ounce, or about one-quarter cup.