MealEnders Blog

Best Superfoods for Weight Loss, Immunity, and Optimal Health

By Tami Lyon, MPH, RD
September 17, 2018

It can be challenging to stay healthy as the weather gets colder. Flu season is just around the corner and the holiday season will be upon us soon enough. One of the best ways to prevent illness and to avoid unwanted weight gain during the fall and winter is to incorporate superfoods into your diet. Superfoods are highly nutritious foods that contain large amounts of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, and fiber. Below are just a few of our favorite superfoods for weight loss, immunity and overall health.

superfoods for weight loss

Fall + Winter Superfoods

Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Radishes, Kale)

High in fiber and low in calories, cruciferous vegetables will help you feel full and stay full longer – making them one of our top superfoods for weight loss. They are also an excellent source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and phytonutrients that help reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of developing cancer.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. In addition to being delicious and almost desert-like, they contain tons of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, riboflavin, phosphorus, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, and iron. They can help balance blood sugar levels, boost immunity, and even enhance memory. Next time you’re craving something sweet for dinner bake up a sweet potato, to satisfy your sugar cravings in a healthy way.

Beets

The two compounds that make beets stand out as a superfood are betanin and vulgaxanthin. Both these phytonutrients are powerful anti-inflammatories that also aid in antioxidant activity and detoxification. Beets are also a good source of folate, vitamin C, B6, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Try roasting them for a quick, sweet addition to salads.

Cranberries

These little berries are a classic fall superfood. Low in calories (only 45 calories per cup raw) but high in fiber, cranberries can help you avoid holiday weight gain. They are also rich in vitamin C, providing your immune system with a nice little boost as the autumn chill starts to set in. But what makes cranberries really stand out as a fall superfood is their antioxidant content. They contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables – significantly more than blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, or spinach!

Use them to make a classic cranberry sauce, cook them alongside chicken or pork, bake them into bread, or cook them into your morning oatmeal.

Pomegranates

One cup of pomegranate seeds contains 144 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and tons of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. They also contain powerful antioxidants called punicalagins. Together these nutrients give pomegranates strong anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, studies have shown that they can help protect against heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, alzheimer’s, and obesity. Try snacking on them in the afternoon for a low-calorie energy boost, or sprinkling them on top of salads for a colorful and nutrient dense addition to your meal.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the best spices to include regularly in your diet. It is one of our favorite superfoods for weight loss because of its well known ability to help regulate blood sugar and increase metabolism. Studies have also shown it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and to aid in the prevention of heart disease. Cinnamon is slightly sweet and warming, making it a great tool to combat sugar cravings during the winter when sweets are everywhere. When purchasing cinnamon be sure to buy Ceylon cinnamon as opposed to Cassia cinnamon. The Cassia variety may be cheaper, but it contains high quantities of the compound coumarin, a substance thought to be harmful in large doses. To prevent any potential toxicity issues, simply opt for the Ceylon variety, also known as “true” cinnamon.

Ginger

Another wonderful warming spice is ginger. It functions as an appetite suppressant, boosts the immune system, aids in digestion, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Next time you find yourself craving an extra afternoon snack try sipping on some ginger tea instead.

superfoods for weight loss

Spring + Summer Superfoods

Spinach

As the popular cartoon character Popeye, demonstrated, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a great source of iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and protein. Some studies have even demonstrated that the thylakoid extracts in spinach delay stomach emptying, decrease the release of the hunger-hormone ghrelin, and increase the release of satiety hormone GLP-1. All this makes spinach an excellent superfood for weight loss, weight maintenance, and overall health.

Peas

One of the lighter and more refreshing legumes, peas are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, folate, zinc, iron, potassium, and choline. The combination of protein and fiber will help keep you full, while B vitamins will help boost energy. They also provide substantial amounts lutein and zeaxanthin, phytonutrients that have been known to protect vision and eye health.

Asparagus

Loaded with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and the “master antioxidant” glutathione, asparagus is truly a powerful tool for staying fit and healthy. Vitamins A, C, and E work synergistically to support a healthy immune system, while glutathione helps neutralize dangerous free radicals, including carcinogenic substances.

Fennel

Fennel has been used medicinally since ancient times. It is known as a detoxifying agent, and its seeds have been found to diminish bloat. Fennel is high in vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folate. It also contains an essential oil called anethole, which can be used to fight fungus and bacteria. Because fennel is so low in calories, nutrient dense, and high in fiber it is another favorite superfood for weight loss. You don’t need to eat much in order to kick cravings. Try chopping some up and eating it with hummus. You’ll love it!

Almonds

These little nuts pack a powerful punch—they’re the most nutrient-dense of any nut, making them one of the best superfoods. At 161 calories per one ounce serving (a small handful), they provide 3.4 grams of fiber and 13 grams of unsaturated fat (that’s the good kind). On top of that, they’re also rich in potassium, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. All of this nutritional goodness can help lower cholesterol, aid with weight loss, and help to lower systolic blood pressure. So if you’re feeling those mid-afternoon hunger pains, reach for a handful of almonds.

Salmon  

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating two to three 3-4-oz servings of fish a week. Salmon is particularly healthful because it contains one of the highest concentrations of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and vitamin D — two nutrients that are hard to obtain through diet. The DHA reduces inflammation and protects against cardiovascular disease, while the vitamin D is essential for bone health. The protein in salmon will also help keep you full for hours after your meal.

Sardines

Salmon can be quite expensive. For a more affordable options try sardines. Sardines are another excellent source of omega 3s, vitamin D, and protein, allowing you to get  all the same benefits as salmon, for a fraction of the cost. A can of sardines can be used to replace tuna in any recipe. You can also buy fresh sardines and roast them just as you would with salmon.

 

superfoods for weight loss

Enjoy All Year Round

Black Beans

One servings of black beans contains 15 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and substantial amounts of folate, manganese, magnesium, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, copper, potassium, and zinc. All of this makes these tasty legumes a great food to help you shed pounds and prevent disease. You can add black beans to your salad for some bulk, whip up a black bean dip to go with your salsa and guacamole, or use them to make a superfood vegan veggie burger.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are one of the absolute best superfoods for weight loss, weight maintenance, and appetite regulation. At only 139 calories for 2 tablespoons, they contain  11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and antioxidants. Try blending them into smoothies, adding them to baked goods or making a chia seed pudding.

Hemp Seeds

These are another nutritional powerhouse. Similar to chia seeds, they are rich in vitamins and minerals, but are slightly lower in calories and fiber, and higher in protein. Two tablespoons contains 90 calories, 5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 25% of your daily iron requirements. They also contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids to help fight inflammation, support heart health, and boost the immune system. Sprinkle them on top of oats, blend them into smoothies, bake them into cookies or muffins, or eat them by the spoonful. These low glycemic little gems will help make any snack or meal more satisfying.

Blueberries

Besides simply tasting delicious, blueberries are filled with antioxidants, which can help prevent cancer, keep your heart healthy, and boost brain power. A cup of blueberries is only 84 calories and contains nearly 4 grams of fiber, making them a top food choice for those watching their waistlines. And if fresh blueberries are too expensive or unavailable, buy your berries frozen—you won’t miss out on any nutrients.

Quinoa

Not only can you find scores of great recipes for this new staple, but this super seed is packed with protein, high in fiber, and a good source of magnesium and phosphorus. At 222 calories per a one-cup serving, quinoa will fit right into your diet plan and help you feel full.

Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds are a great addition to any diet. They are easier to digest and higher in protein than nuts, plus they are more mineral dense. In fact, pumpkin seeds contain all 9 essential amino acids, making them a complete protein and an excellent food for vegetarians. Pumpkin seeds are also particularly high in iron, zinc, and magnesium. The iron and magnesium will help you maintain strong, stable, energy throughout the day, while the zinc will help boost your immune system and increase fat burning.

Eggs

Over the years eggs have been the focal point of much controversy. But despite the bad rap they received in the 1990s, we now know that eggs are extremely healthy for you. They are high in protein, and the yolk is chock full of valuable nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, folate, and choline. Some even contain omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs have been proven to aid in weight loss, improve brain function, and maintain eye health. Another added benefit is that they are extremely versatile. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a satiating snack. Check out these 50 Egg Recipes compiled by the Food Network.

superfoods for weight loss
 

Trending

Goji Berries

Goji berries are brought to us from China. They have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to boost longevity and support overall strength. It may be a surprise to you, but these amazing little berries are actually fairly protein-rich. They contain 18 of the 21 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Our body can synthesis many of them, however there are 9 “essential” amino acids that  we have to get from food). They also contain high amounts of antioxidants, iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Together, these nutrients help support immunity, fertility, skin health, and energy levels.

These berries are primarily purchased dried. They make a colorful and flavorful addition to granola, oatmeal, and trail mix. They can also be added on top of smoothies,  homemade desserts, or used steeped in water to make a sweet tea.

Acai Berries

These little berries grabbed the public’s attention a few years ago with the popularization of “acai bowls.” Acai berries are small grape-like fruits from South America. They are rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanin, which research has suggested can help lower oxidative stress and inflammation, while enhancing memory and promoting overall brain health. Acai berries also contain tons of vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins (niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin), potassium, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

In North America you usually find Acai sold in powdered form or already blended into a smoothie mix. On its own the powder is fairly tart. This is why it is usually consumed as part of a smoothie that contains other fruits.

Raw Cacao

Cacao, originally from the Amazon, is a highly concentrated source of antioxidants. In fact, some believe it is the most antioxidant-rich food on the plant. It is rich in magnesium, iron, manganese, chromium, theobromine, and anandamide.  These nutrients support cardiovascular health and bone strength, provide long-lasting energy, boost your overall mood, and serve as a natural aphrodisiac.

You can buy raw cacao as a powder or in nib form to add to smoothies, baked goods or oatmeal, or you can use it to make your own nutrient-dense hot chocolate.

Maca

Maca, originally from Peru, is known for its ability to increase energy, endurance, strength, and libido. It was regularly consumed by Incan warriors before battle to increase alertness, energy, and strength. Today it is often used as an alternative to caffeine and to boost both male and female fertility. It is a rich source of potassium, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. It also contains more than 10% protein and includes 7 of the 9 essential amino acids.

For culinary purposes it is most often purchased as a powder, although it can also be purchased as a whole root or in capsule, liquid, or extract form. Some great ways to incorporate maca into your weekly routine include adding it to homemade granola bars, smoothies, or hot chocolate.

Spirulina

Spirulina is a microalgae that has become recently popular for its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. It is 65% protein and contains high concentrations of iron, copper, B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin), omega-3 fatty acids, and a wide number of antioxidants including a particularly powerful compounds called phyocyanin. The protein makes spirulina an especially good supplement for vegetarians and vegans, although all people will benefit from adding this high quality protein into their diet.

It has a fairly intense earthy flavor, so is best used in small quantities or with flavors that can mask it. One of the best ways to sneak it into your diet is by adding a bit to smoothies.

Green Tea (Including Matcha)

At zero calories, this household drink has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Green tea has been proven to help lower cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart disease, protect against cancer, boost metabolism, and facilitate weight loss. It contains a boatload of vitamin and minerals, including manganese, potassium, folate, and magnesium. It also contains compounds called catechins, one of which is the widely talked about substance, EGCG. Catechins are powerful antioxidants that help prevent against cell damage, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure. And lastly it contains both caffeine and L-Theanine. Together these two substances will provide you with a subtle energy boost that will help keep you calm and focused. L-Theanine increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects, and stimulates the production of dopamine (one of your happy hormones).

Common and Medicinal Mushrooms

All mushrooms are great for health! They are low in calories, but rich in vitamins and minerals. They are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining bone strength and immunity. Mushrooms also contain large amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and choline.

Medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, chaga, cordyceps, maitake, and lion’s mane, have also become quite popular in the last few years. These mushrooms are powerful adaptogens, meaning they help your body adapt to everyday life stressors. For example, when taken regularly, reishi mushrooms have been shown to assist in blood sugar regulation, to boost the immune system, to regulate the digestion, to protect against liver injury, and to have anticancer effects. These mushrooms can be brewed to make a tea, the powder can be blended into smoothies or hot chocolate, or you can purchase pre-made mushroom coffee and tea blends.

Generally speaking we recommend consuming whole mushrooms, whether they be common mushrooms or of the more medicinal variety. If using powders or concentrated forms make sure to check the safety or the product and the supplier.

superfoods for weight loss

Have a taste! This warm, hearty salad from Tastefulventure Foodie Adventures is chock full of healthy superfoods that will keep your tummy and taste buds feeling satisfied. Now that you’ve read up on the benefits of superfoods, put them to the test (and taste!) in this deliciously healthy salad.

 

 

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