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The top 10 superfoods for brain health, weight loss and more

What is a superfood? These foods contain important nutrients that promote brain health, aid in weight loss, boost immunity and more.

When I say the word “superfood,” what comes to mind? Blueberries? Avocado? Kale?

Over the years, different foods have earned the label and became popular ways to pack in nutrients. But if you're not quite sure what a superfood is exactly, there’s a good reason for that. There’s no definition or set of criteria that are used to determine if something is a superfood.

What are superfoods?

However, it’s generally accepted by health experts that a food can hold the superfood designation if it does the following:

  1. Provides a key health benefit, such as lowering cancer or heart disease risk, or improving the immune system.
  2. Contains more than one important nutrient, for example calcium and vitamin D.
  3. Boasts benefits beyond simply being healthy. Superfoods need to be the “total package.”

Looked at in a different way, superfoods can help us get those nutrients that we’re missing out on in our diets, but need for overall health and longevity. Those nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, vitamin D, potassium and phytochemicals.

Here are ten foods that fit the bill:

The top 10 superfoods to add to your diet


If someone told you that you could add two years to your life by eating one food — would you? Well friends, study after study points to the myriad benefits of eating fish, specifically ones that contain omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. Not only do those healthy fats keep our tickers healthy, they also keep our brains in top form.

A recent meta-analysis found that eating fish was associated with a 20% lower risk of Alzheimer’s. With Alzheimer’s rates on the rise, this is a significant finding. What’s more,  seafood eaters are also less likely to be depressed. In addition to those awesome omegas, salmon contains 21 grams of filling protein in a 3-ounce serving, as well as 444 IU of vitamin D.


Not only is this creamy green fruit a fave toast and chip topper, it’s also nutrient dense. That delicious green interior is surprisingly high in fiber, with 5 grams in each avocado half. And all that smoothness comes from a high content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Did we mention that avocados also supply 345 milligrams of potassium and contain eye-healthy lutein? It all adds up to nothing less than super.

Flax and chia seeds

Good things do come in small packages! These mighty little seeds are both rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that helps fight inflammation. And flaxseeds also contain lignans, which provide anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits. The diminutive chia seed is also rich in fiber, gluten-free and a good source of protein. Additionally, chia seeds provide long-lasting energy and can help you stay hydrated.

Sweet potatoes

One medium sweet potato has just 103 calories, 4 grams of fiber and four times the daily recommended intake for beta-carotene. They also offer 35% of your vitamin C needs, plus manganese, a mineral that helps keep blood glucose steady. When it comes to versatility, these golden beauties get a gold star. You can bake, sauté, grill, air fry or microwave sweet potatoes. And you can even use 1 cup mashed to replace half of the oil or butter in your favorite muffin or quick-bread recipe.


You know that deep blue color in the skin of a blueberry? That’s thanks to the anthocyanins, a type of plant pigment, the berries contain. And those anthocyanins are also linked to the many health benefits these blue gems stack up, including helping to reverse age-related cognitive declines and a reduced risk of heart disease. And they’re no slouch in other nutrients, supplying 4 grams of fiber in each one-cup serving, as well as vitamins C and K. New research on blueberries shows they have promise in supporting gut health as well.

Green tea

This delicious beverage has been brewing up benefits for centuries. It has been used in traditional medicine in both Japan and China for thousands of years and we continue to learn about its many benefits. The golden-green tea is a rich source of a polyphenol (a type of antioxidant) called catechins, which studies show can help protect your heart. The benefits are most significant when 3 to 5 cups of green tea are consumed daily.

Green tea may also provide a weight-loss benefit. Some evidence supports the idea that the flavanols in green tea can decrease fat absorption, increase calorie burn and inhibit the formation of fat cells. Getting 400 milligrams of flavonoids daily may help you maintain a healthy weight — a cup of green tea has about 150 milligrams of flavonoids.


This legume is super versatile and can be used to make everything from pasta to edible cookie dough. Nutritionally, chickpeas are standouts for providing a basketful of benefits, including protein, fiber, potassium and magnesium. While there are many forms of plant protein, this tiny yellow bean distinguishes itself by being a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids.

The type of fiber in chickpeas is mostly soluble and is called raffinose. Raffinose gets broken down in your gut, helping to keep you regular. And all that fiber (more than 6 grams per half cup serving) is also beneficial for stabilizing blood sugar, making the legume a smart pick for anyone with pre-diabetes or diabetes. And if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, all that fiber, plus 7 grams of protein per serving, can help you feel full longer.

Dark, leafy greens

While kale may be the most popular leafy green, don’t sleep on spinach, arugula mustard greens or watercress. All these emerald beauties provide a wealth of nutrients.

Iron-rich spinach is a great choice, especially for women. Peppery arugula makes a flavorful salad and provides iron, folate and vitamin A. Watercress is high in isothiocyanates, which may help prevent cancer by helping our body get rid of carcinogens. Kale is loaded with beta-carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin, making it a smart choice for eye health. It’s also rich in vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting and is also important for bone health. If you haven’t given mustard greens a try, consider this your nudge. The pungent bite of this green makes it a tasty addition to egg dishes and it makes a wonderful side when sautéed.

Note that all dark leafy vegetables contain vitamin K, which should be limited if you take blood thinning medications.


While kimchi isn’t a single ingredient, I’m including it on this list because it checks so many health boxes. It’s a rich source of gut-boosting probiotics, it contains the brain-boosting nutrient, choline, and it also provides immune-supporting benefits.

Made from cabbage, scallions and sometimes radish, kimchi is fermented with garlic, ginger, chili pepper and fish sauce and is traditionally buried in the ground to ferment. This traditional Korean food is delicious and a flavorful addition to so many dishes.


When it comes to a multitasking ingredient, yogurt is a standout. You can love it for its bone-building calcium and vitamin D, and its muscle supporting protein and potassium. And you can also be a fan of its tummy-taming probiotics. Together yogurt is one of those foods that I try to include daily to help cover my nutritional bases.

Regular yogurt provides 6 grams of protein per ¾ cup serving, while Greek yogurt supplies even more at 13 to 15 grams of protein per serving. Both types are great — it really depends on what consistency and flavor you like. Either way, make sure to look for “live and active cultures” on the label.