Superfoods for Good Health and Weight Loss

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Some foods are better than others in promoting good health, a strong immune system, and sense of well-being, while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, and dementia. Such “Superfoods” include a large variety of naturally colorful, wholesome, unprocessed foods which are rich in micronutrients, low in saturated animal fat, and heart-healthy. They can actually help to improve the biochemistry of your body at the cellular level and reduce the risk of organ damage, dysfunction, and the changes that eventually lead to disease.

Foods high in dietary fiber promote digestive health and bowel regularity, reduce the risk of hypertension and inflammation, and possibly the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease (small pouches in the colon), help control blood sugar levels, provide a sense of fullness which keeps you feeling satisfied longer with fewer calories, and help to reduce absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Remember to drink plenty of water as you increase the amount of fiber in your diet.

Crunchy foods like vegetables and fruits provide numerous antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, help to hydrate the body due to their water content, and consequently enable you to feel fuller with fewer calories. The act of chewing may send satiety signals to your body, making you think you’ve eaten more than you really have and keep hunger at bay.

The following list includes many “Superfoods.” Eat them when they are in season, grown locally, and as fresh as possible, in order to obtain maximum flavor and nutrition. Some, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats, can also be highly nutritious when purchased in flash-frozen packaging at the grocery store and kept in the freezer until you need them. Just remember that the nutritional content of all foods tends to diminish over time. Try to choose U.S.D.A. organic versions of these foods, when possible, to reduce your family’s exposure to antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and other contaminants:


  1. Fresh, clean, drinking water promotes good digestive health, provides a sense of fullness so you do not overeat, and cleanses and hydrates all the organs and tissues of the body, enabling them to function more effectively.
  2. Tea: Green or Black

Vegetables contribute folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber:

  1. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens
  2. Kale
  3. Watercress
  4. Bok Choy
  5. Spinach
  6. Broccoli Rabe
  7. Chinese/Napa Cabbage
  8. Brussel sprouts
  9. Swiss Chard
  10. Arugula
  11. Fresh herbs and spices: Basil, cinnamon, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, purslane, etc.
  12. Cabbage
  13. Asparagus
  14. Romaine lettuce
  15. Broccoli
  16. Red peppers
  17. Carrots and carrot juice
  18. Tomatoes and tomato products*
  19. Garlic, onions, scallions [Garlic reduces heart disease risk by decreasing total blood cholesterol.A compound in processed garlic, diallyl disulfide (DADS) depresses growth of colon, lung and skin cancer cells.]
  20. Cauliflower
  21. Pumpkin
  22. Sweet potatoes

Fruits contribute vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber:

  1. Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
  2. Pomegranate and pomegranate juice
  3. Citrus: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes
  4. Kiwi
  5. Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  6. Apples
  7. Pears
  8. Bananas
  9. Papaya
  10. Grapes
  11. Tomatoes and tomato products*

Legumes, nuts, and seeds contribute protein, folate, thiamin, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and fiber:

(Nuts and seeds are nutritious, crunchy, require a lot of chewing, and can satisfy your hunger between meals longer than processed foods. Just be careful not to overindulge, since they are high in calories.)

  1. Legumes: Beans and lentils (all varieties), edamame (soybeans,), tofu
  2. Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia
  3. Seeds: Flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds

Whole grains contribute folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, and fiber:

  1. Quinoa (The one whole grain which also provides complete protein)
  2. Oats
  3. Amaranth
  4. Barley
  5. Brown Rice
  6. Bulgar
  7. Millet
  8. Rye
  9. Triticale
  10. Whole Wheat and Wheat Germ

Oils contribute vitamin E and heart-healthy monounsaturated essential fatty acids:

  1. Extra Virgin Olive oil: Dark-colored olive oils are richer in valuable phytochemicals than lighter olive oils.
  2. Canola oil

Dairy products contribute protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and when fortified, vitamin A and vitamin D:

  1. Eggs: The most nutrient-dense food available! Egg yolks are a natural source of vitamin D. Limit yourself to no more than 4 per week, due to cholesterol and saturated fat content of eggs.
  2. Low-fat or non-fat dairy foods: milk, yogurt, kefir

Cold water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, niacin, thiamin, vitamin D, and relatively low in saturated fat, mercury, and other contaminants (1, 5):**

  1. Wild Alaskan Salmon
  2. Pacific Sardines from U.S.
  3. Pink Shrimp from Oregon
  4. Spot Prawns from Canada
  5. Alaskan or Canadian Sablefish
  6. Farmed Arctic Char
  7. Mackerel
  8. Farmed Rainbow Trout
  9. Canned light tuna (Canned albacore, i.e., “white”, tuna contains more mercury and should be avoided.)

Meat contributes protein, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc:

  1. Turkey (skinless breast)
  2. Chicken (skinless breast)

* Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?:

The confusion about ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’ arises because of the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are true fruits, and so are many kinds of nut. Some plants have a soft part which supports the seeds and is also called a ‘fruit’, though it is not developed from the ovary: the strawberry is an example.

As far as cooking is concerned, some things which are strictly fruits, such as tomatoes or bean pods, may be called ‘vegetables’ because they are used in savoury rather than sweet cooking. The term ‘vegetable’ is more generally used of other edible parts of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which are not strictly the fruit of the plant from which they come. Occasionally the term ‘fruit’ may be used to refer to a part of a plant which is not a fruit, but which is used in sweet cooking: rhubarb, for example. A tomato is technically the fruit of the tomato plant, but it is used as a vegetable in cooking (2).


** According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you may eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, wild Alaskan salmon, pollock, and catfish. Species most heavily contaminated with mercury include Atlantic cod, grouper, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna steaks, canned albacore (“white”) tuna, and tilefish (5).

According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), it is safe to eat 4 or more meals per month of the following: Anchovies, Clams, Atlantic Cod, Dungeness Crab, U.S. King Crab, Snow Crab, U.S. Crawfish, U.S. trawl Haddock, Atlantic Herring, American/Maine Lobster, Blue Mussels, farmed Oysters, U.S. Red porgy, canned Salmon, Sardines, farmed bay Scallops, Oregon Pink Shrimp, imported Shrimp/Prawns, Squid, U.S. Tilapia (1).


  1. “Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector: Complete List of Seafood Eco-Ratings. Which fish are safe for you and the oceans?” Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Posted October 3, 2008. Updated June 14, 2011.
  2. “Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?” Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford University Press. Copyright © 2011. (Source:
  3. Pratt, Steven and Kathy Matthews. Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life: Superfoods. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York. 2004.
  4. Sizer, Frances Sienkiewicz and Ellie Whitney. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. Thomson Wadsworth: 2008. pp. 38-39, 165, 581.
  5. “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish.” Brochure produced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): EPA-823-R-04-005. Published March 2004. Updated November 23, 2009.


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