We all notice the term “superfood” being thrown left and right, but these frequently mentioned foods can’t all be possibly super. Not even the definition of superfood is something that people agree upon, so how can you categorize a food if there’s no consensus on what makes a food super?
While the term can be attributed to just about anything, one of the most frequent definitions of a superfood is a food that’s high in antioxidants, nutrients and fiber. Also, to be considered a superfood, a product should be natural, minimally processed and offer health benefits.
Of course, marketing does have a say in this fancy new “super” labeling, but there are some herbs, plants or seeds that reduce health issues and have a high antioxidants content. And here’s the true talking point: we believe a superfood should be high in antioxidants and quite easily available. Some other superfoods may also contain nutrients that promote heart health and normal blood sugar levels.
Here are 8 of the best superfoods according to their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating, which is a method of measuring antioxidant capacity used by the National Institutes of Health).
Usually used in Middle Eastern cuisine, this spice has an ORAC score of 312,400, which is 176 higher than that of kale — which most people regard as a superfood. However, since it’s mainly thrown in to flavor dishes, it would be hard to consume 100 grams of it.
In the Middle East, sumac is used in hummus, baba ganoush, tashi, feta cheese, rice or kebab. You can sprinkle some sumac on your salads, but if you want to ditch salt in favor of it, make sure you don’t use too much of this spice.
Cocoa is far from being an exotic choice, but it’s definitely a superfood judging by its ORAC score of 55,653. That’s 10 times more antioxidants than in blueberries, which most people wrongly consider a superfood.
Of course, this value is measured in pure cocoa, not the stuff that’s processed, heated and left with almost no antioxidants. And no, chocolate milk is not a superfood, as the polyphenols in chocolate are disable by protein in milk. So, to get real benefits from consuming cocoa, you should eat organic dark chocolate bars or raw cacao nibs.
With an ORAC score of 131,420, cinnamon is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available. The Ceylon variety is preferable because the regular type can harm your liver due to coumarin, a compound within cinnamon. But you can consume regular cinnamon in moderation without worrying about that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Ceylon Cinnamon is the better choice as it contains tiny amounts of coumarin in comparison with regular cinnamon, plus its taste is milder, so it’s easier to tolerate when sprinkling it on your cereal.
Pecans may not be your typical fancy exotic nuts, but it does contain the highest amount of antioxidants in this bunch. When checking their ORAC scores, we discover that pecans are first with 17,940, followed by walnuts (13,541), hazelnuts (9,645), pistachios (7,675) and almonds (4,454). However, pecans are high in calories, so they don’t make a great weight loss superfood, but consuming it in moderation will help your immune system in fighting harmful free radicals.
Turmeric has an astonishing ORAC value of 127,068, which means you should definitely include this spice in your meals. Turmeric is considered a superfood thanks to curcumin — its active compound.
Curcumin is known to reduce inflammation in the body, protecting against inflammatory diseases. Turmeric can help with infections, osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions.
Acai berries are extremely popular, but there’s one fruit that contains more antioxidants. While acai may work for breakfast or juices, it’s not a great all-around food and cannot be used as an entree, for example. On the other hand, the baobab fruit is ideal for plenty of dishes as it’s somewhat sweet and sour, but mostly tasteless. Its taste fades further if you add it to other dishes.
While boasting an ORAC value of 140,000, the versatility of this African fruit makes it even more appealing. Baobab has 40% more antioxidants than acai, twice the calcium in milk and more than 6 times the vitamin C in oranges. Plus, it has a high phosphorous and potassium content and it’s high in fiber.
The ORAC value of white chia seeds is 7,000, while for the black variety it goes as high as 9,800. But chia isn’t just antioxidant-rich, as these popular seeds pack 3 times more omega-3s than salmon. Endurance athletes enjoy this superfood because it can retain up to 27 times its weight in water, helping with hydration while the body breaks down the seeds.
Chia seeds contain all 9 essential amino acids and are high in protein. In fact, most raw vegans choose chia as a top plant based sources of protein. The fiber content of chia seeds also allows it to absorb large amounts of water, expanding in the stomach to create a fullness sensation that curbs appetite and cravings.
This specific type of corn has an ORAC value of 10,800, while blue corn has 2,960 and yellow corn 738. Widely used by the Incas in Peru to color drinks and foods, purple corn contains natural anthocyanins, which fight harmful free radicals that damage cells and the immune system. Purple corn may reduce inflammation and fight diabetes and obesity. Purple corn can be used to make mazamorra morada (purple corn fruit pudding), which is one of the most popular desserts in Peru.