Last Updated on January 10, 2022
Trying to get a little healthier this year? Adding more nutrient-dense superfoods to your rotation is a super-savvy move. Here are some of the top superfoods to consider eating more of in 2022.
WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD, ANYWAY?
While ‘superfood’ isn’t a scientific term but a word coined by marketing experts, it gets at something important that distinguishes most foods from those richest in compounds research has linked to better health.
It’s a shortcut term for foods exceptionally rich in antioxidants and nutrients that many of our diets fall short on. One of the ways superfoods’ super status is measured is by ORAC value, an acronym that stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. In essence, ORAC measures how well the compounds in a given food protect cells against other compounds called free radicals.
Some free radicals are produced naturally in the body as a result of normal activities like metabolism. Certain lifestyle choices can increase the number of free radicals in our bodies, such as smoking, alcohol, chemical exposure, and highly-processed foods. When we have too many free radicals, our bodies suffer what’s known as oxidative stress, a condition that affects proteins and DNA that may contribute to chronic diseases like cancer and arthritis.
Foods rich in antioxidants help combat oxidative stress, which researchers believe lowers our risk of many of these diseases. So one of the things that makes these superfoods so super is the way they defend us from the damage caused by free radicals.
But superfoods’ story is more complicated than that. ORAC is not the only measure of a superfoods’ superiority. Other foods with lower ORAC scores may be rich in healthy fats, vitamins, or minerals linked to cardiovascular health, immune support, cancer prevention, or neurological protection.
The list below focuses on everyday superfoods that are easy to incorporate into your diet, and leaves the pricey, exotic ones for less practically-minded folks.
No list of superfoods can be definitive, as there isn’t a strict definition to adhere to. But below you’ll find a pretty extensive list of superfoods easy to work into your diet. Plus some of these superfoods are actually drinks, making it easier still. Swap out some water with antioxidant-rich green tea, and you’re on your way.
STRAIGHT TALK ON SUPERFOODS
Remember that “superfood” isn’t a technical term, so it’s open to interpretation and misinterpretation. It’s important to understand that eating these foods doesn’t mean the rest of your diet can be full of processed junk and still support better health.
Following some super-basic principles can help you adopt healthy eating habits, so your overall diet isn’t sabotaging your health. Adding more of the nutrient-dense superfoods listed below is the next step.
It’s important to recognize that though chokeberries may top many lists of superfoods, no one’s realistically going to make them a regular part of their diet. So even if apples, oranges, and bananas have lower ORAC scores, if you eat some of them daily, you’re going to wind up getting more antioxidants from them than from the one cup of chokeberries you may eat each year.
Likewise, no one’s going to dive into a big bowl of oregano as they might into a bowl of strawberries, so consider this list of superfoods a source of inspiration rather than a meal planning tool.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO EAT MORE SUPERFOODS
No superfood can do you any good if you don’t eat it, so it’s important to be realistic about incorporating more of them into your diet. If you hate salads, don’t count on salad ingredients to add superfoods to your diet. But maybe more kale and spinach could wind up in your soups or frittatas.
If you’re already a coffee drinker, for example, consider choosing coffee supercharged with more superfood ingredients.
You can work even more health-supporting nutrients into morning cup of joe with Four Sigmatic’s incredible coffees infused with superfood mushrooms, like chaga and reishi, some of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. Four Sigmatic designed their mushroom-enriched coffee to make it easier for people to get more of these potent superfoods into their diet by combining them with something they already enjoy.
And no, the coffee doesn’t taste like mushrooms at all! It’s just perfectly roasted, yummy organic coffee.
Check out their selection of delicious coffees and get a 10% discount with the code ‘SAVVY.’
Another easy way to get more of these superfoods is to incorporate them into your smoothies. Berries, greens, and chia make an outstanding super smoothie. Here are 50 healthy smoothie recipes to try.
SAVING MONEY ON SUPERFOODS
If you’ve priced out fancy juices containing acai and other exotic superfoods, you may have gotten the impression that only the very wealthy can afford to eat these “super” ingredients.
Many top superfoods like oatmeal and sunflower seeds are very affordable, and some savvy shopping tips can make them more affordable still.
I’m a huge fan of stocking up on healthy ingredients when my favorite online shop, Vitacost, has one of their frequent sales. Combined with money-saving cash-back programs like Rakuten and Honey, I save big whenever we restock our pantry with staples like nuts, seeds, tea, and herbs. Find more savvy ways to find healthy food bargains here, and even more in my e-book, Eating Healthy on a Budget.
Another easy way to save on many of these ingredients: Grow them yourself! Kale and spinach are a snap to grow, and can be tucked into flowerbeds or pots if you don’t have a vegetable garden.
If you have a yard, consider adding more edibles to the landscape, and you can have a bumper crop of perennial superfoods like elderberry and aronia. Here’s more on growing elderberry and foraging aronia.
Joining a CSA is another easy way to get a wide variety of nutritious fresh veggies at a very reasonable price. Here’s more on choosing a CSA that’s best for you.
Now onto the list of top superfoods!
The #1 source of antioxidants in most Americans’ diets, coffee has numerous health benefits. Coffee is being studied for its possible beneficial effects on blood sugar, brain function, cardiovascular health, and cancer prevention.
If you’re a coffee drinker, choose organic coffee so you’re getting those benefits without a side of chemicals. It’s also smart to avoid heating your coffee in plastic, which can leach into your healthy cup of java. Brew coffee in metal or glass, like an espresso pot or French press.
It’s also wise to filter your water so your coffee isn’t full of the industrial chemicals in most water supplies. Here’s what to know about choosing an effective water filter.
KALE, SPINACH (& OTHER DARK LEAFY GREENS)
Kale has gotten all the glory, but loads of other dark greens, like chard and spinach, are super-good for you as well.
If you haven’t quite cozied up to kale yet, I implore you to try these no-fail baked kale chips, which virtually everyone who’s ever tried them loves. Kale salad is my other favorite way to use kale, but there are loads more. Check out these 25 healthy kale recipes for more inspiration.
But if kale isn’t your thing, throw some chard or spinach in your salad or your favorite soup and call it good. Here’s how to grow spinach if you want to have these freshest leaves. Here’s a delicious vegan white bean soup that tastes great with a little spinach, chard, or kale.
Those dark pigments that give black beans their signature color are some of the top antioxidants around. Called anthocyanins they’re the same pigments in elderberry and aronia.
In addition to their antioxidants, black beans (and other beans) are a great source of vegan protein, important to keep in mind if you’re trying a eat a more plant-based diet.
Other beans are pretty darn super also, filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Here are more than 50 healthy bean recipes to try for inspiration.
Topping many lists of superfood ingredients, elderberry has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any food on the planet, bested only by aronia and black raspberry (below).
Other reasons elderberry is super? It can help fight viruses, making it a go-to immune-boosting herb. Plus it tastes amazing! You can buy or make elderberry syrup to enjoy by the spoonful or use in your favorite smoothies. Here’s how to make homemade elderberry syrup at a fraction of the cost of store bought.
If you want to know loads more about elderberry’s health benefits, foraging and growing information, plus 62 delicious recipes, be sure to check out my book, Everything Elderberry, available through Amazon, Bookshop, and all major retailers. More information here.
This hidden gem of the superfoods list actually bests both elderberry and aronia on the USDA ORAC tables. And unlike those astringent berries, you can eat black raspberries by the handful, without lots of added sugar or the need to cook them. Plus they grow abundantly in the wild, so they’re tops for an affordable superfood. Here’s what to know about identifying and foraging wild black raspberries.
Aronia is the more pleasant-sounding name of a little fruit native to North America called chokeberry, so named because of its decidely unpalatable flavor when eating raw. Like elderberry, once cooked and sweetened, aronia can add some super antioxidants to your smoothies, juices, or muffins. Here’s more on identifying and using aronia berries.
Sunflower seeds don’t get nearly enough attention as a superfood. They’re a source of so many nutrients it’s easy to fall short on. Rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, copper, and numerous other critical nutrients, sunflower seeds are one of the first things I reach for when I feel like I might be fighting off a cold.
Garlic is legendary for its health-promoting compounds. Garlic is antimicrobial, making it a top choice for fighting colds. In addition, garlic consumption is being studied for its beneficial impact on cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and more. Here are additional health benefits of garlic as well as recipes for including more garlic in your diet.
Garlic is also a snap to grow yourself. Here’s how to grow garlic in your home garden.
GREEN TEA (& OTHER TEAS)
Best of all, green tea is low in caffeine, and a small amount of tea may be used to brew a big pot, so it’s cost effective also. If plain green tea isn’t your thing, try this delicious jasmine green tea or Pukka’s unbelievably smooth Clean Matcha Green.
Black, white, and red tea also have health benefits. Change up your tea routine often as an easy way to get a variety of polyphenols into your diet.
Here’s more on herbal tea benefits & how to make your own herbal tea blends.
A potent anti-inflammatory, turmeric is being studied for its ability to reduce inflammation that has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as other chronic diseases.
Note that the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, appears in low concentration in the spice powder we buy at the store. To get the benefits of turmeric, you probably want to discuss a supplement with your doctor.
Here’s more on the benefits of turmeric, plus recipes for using it in cooking.
A relative of turmeric, ginger is a favorite of herbalists for addressing cold symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory compounds are being studied for alleviating pain and for their beneficial impact on brain function and cholesterol.
Delicious in cooking or in a soothing tea, getting more ginger into your diet is easy. Try this yummy ginger tea with orange peels for a warming winter beverage helpful for cold symptoms. In summer, add it to this delicious anti-inflammatory smoothie.
You’ve probably heard by now that fermented foods filled with probiotics are incredible for supporting gut health. What you might not know is that gut health has been linked to immune function, mood, and the prevention of several chronic diseases.
Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi are especially beneficial foods to add to your diet. You can also incorporate yogurt (make your own homemade yogurt for a fraction of store-bought), kefir, kombucha, and miso.
Surprised to see popcorn on this list of superfoods? It’s here in part because of its impressive concentration of antioxidants, but also because as a low-calorie food that lots of people love, it’s an easy one to work in for more superfoods. Snacking on crunchy popcorn for health? Sign me up!
Just know that if you’re eating popcorn made with refined oils or made in the microwave with chemicals, you’re probably negating any benefit you might get from eating it.
Stick to air popping or pop on the stove with a little organic oil.
How awesome is it that something so delicious is considered among the top superfoods? Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants as well as a decent source of magnesium. Some research has found that regular consumption of chocolate is linked with a reduction in heart disease risk. Other studies suggest that chocolate has a beneficial impact on cholesterol, blood pressure, and cognitive function.
But not all chocolate is created equal. Much of what you’ll find in the candy aisle is full of processed sugar and oil and isn’t very rich in the cacao that makes chocolate so good for you. Here’s more on the health benefits of chocolate and how to choose the healthiest kinds.
These homemade chocolates have pretty super nuts and fruits in them, making them a superfood treat!
Full of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-6, and potassium, sweet potatoes are also rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. They’re also delicious and easy to eat often.
Find out more about the health benefits of sweet potatoes, plus 30 mouth-watering sweet potato recipes.
More into pumpkin? You’ll get a lot of the same nutrients. Here are 75 healthy pumpkin recipes to try.
Whether you’re talking about everyday cooking mushrooms like button or crimini, or “functional” mushrooms like cordyceps and lion’s mane, mushrooms are excellent sources of compounds linked to better health, especially immune support.
Adding mushrooms to your cooking (like in this vegetarian stir fry) is one way to get some extra servings of these superfood fungi. But few of us will eat mushrooms everyday, and they’re so beneficial, it’s worth trying to incorporate more of them. I’m a fan of Four Sigmatic’s mushroom blends, which taste great in coffee, soup, or smoothies and make it easy to work in these medicinal mushrooms every single day.
I use the neutral-tasting blend linked above for coffee and soup. Other blends have some spices and bery powders that make them work better in smoothies. Read the ingredients and consider what you’ll be adding them to before you choose.
Sea vegetables like nori, wakame, and dulse are rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Studies have linked sea vegetables to benefits for metabolism, cardiovascular health, and thyroid function.
Besides enjoying nori in your sushi, you can nibble on it as a snack. These roasted seaweed sheets are truly delicious and satisfy a craving for something salty and savory.
Wakame is wonderful as a salad or added to broth to make a simple but satisfying soup. Add some fresh ginger for extra flavor and up the superfood ante. This inexpensive packet of wakame makes many bowls of soup and delicious salads
Beets contain numerous vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. High in nitrates, beets are being studied for their positive effect on athletic performance and cognitive function.
Their deep red color comes from pigments called betalains, thought to reduce inflammation and have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health.
High in fiber, protein, minerals, and antioxidants, chia is an easy superfood to work into your diet. I like to add them to smoothies and oatmeal as well as baked goods. They’re also a natural for protein balls if you like those.
And if you’ve never tried chia pudding, you need to! Tasty chia pudding can be breakfast, a snack, or even dessert. Or make a quick chia jam with your favorite berries.
Plus oatmeal is inexpensive and easy to work into your diet, whether it’s oatmeal for breakfast or a nourishing muffin or bread made with oatmeal.
Try these overnight oats with elderberry and additional superfood ingredients chia and sunflower seeds for a seriously super start to your day.
And avocados are wonderful on sandwiches, in salads, and of course in guacamole. You can even make vegan ice cream with it!
OTHER FOODS WITH SUPERFOOD STATUS
This post was getting too long, so I’ve added some other possible candidates for top superfoods to the list below.
With all the options for inexpensive superfoods you buy easily (or forage for free), I don’t know why you’d bother with some of the pricier, more exotic options. But if you’re curious, there are other foods that have gained some popularity as superfoods due to their high concentrations of antioxidants.
Others on the list below, like spices, we consume in such small quantities that the amount of “super” they’d add to your diet on any given day isn’t huge, but they’re worth bearing in mind.
- Broccoli (& other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and brussel sprouts)
- Red cabbage
- Citrus fruits
- Lemon balm (often brewed in tea — here’s how to make lemon balm tea)
- Goji berries
–>Need some inspiration on how to work more of these top superfoods into your diet? Check out these mouthwatering recipes featuring antioxidant-rich foods.
What are your favorite superfoods?
Pin to save this info on top superfoods for later!
Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Additional superfoods photo credits for cover and pin: olenayeromenkophotos, AlexRaths
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.