Most of us have little more than a vague notion of what superfoods are, and that’s because like many food labels they don’t have a clear black-and-white definition. The term is a catchall for foods high in antioxidants, protein, fiber, and healthy fats thought to help fight disease and boost well-being. While you shouldn’t fall down the marketing jargon rabbit hole and start believing that they’re a cure-all for cancer, heart disease, or even a clear complexion, there’s no doubt that superfoods are a beneficial addition to most people’s diets. While we all know pomegranates, blueberries, broccoli, flax, and chia seeds, here’s a look at 10 superfoods you’ve probably never heard of.
Cross a watermelon, a beet, and a strawberry, and flavor-wise you’d get a pitaya. A growing fruit bowl favorite thanks to Pitaya Plus, the first and only company to export it to the U.S., the fruit is rich in magnesium, vitamins C and B, fiber, as well as digestive enzymes and probiotics (i.e., if you’re vegan, this is a great alternative to yogurt). It also helps neutralize free radicals, one of the ways to get younger-looking skin.
You can thank Baobab Foods for bringing this fruit to the mainstream via its bite-size fruit morsels made with only organic baobab fruit powder, fruit concentrates, and pectin. This particular snack has zero fat, cholesterol, or preservatives, is high in antioxidants (particularly vitamin C, which helps fight inflammation), and it has 3 grams of fiber.
It may not be the most flavorful root vegetable, but jicama is great for digestion thanks to its high level ofinulin, which works to optimize healthy bacteria in the gut.
Matcha is a powdered green tea that’s especially potent in its antioxidant power; in fact, ¼ to ½ teaspoon of matcha is equal to 8 to 10 cups of regular tea in terms of its antioxidant power, which contributes to matcha’s cancer- and disease-fighting properties. A big reason matcha is so much more beneficial than regular green tea is that the tea leaves are whisked together with hot water (versus steeped) meaning you’re ingesting the ground leaves. Because it comes in powder form, matcha is also easy to add into baked goods.
5. Dandelion greens and roots
Long used in teas, these greens also make for a healthy addition to salads given that they’re high in calcium, iron, and antioxidants and work to stimulate digestion. They’re also good for detox juices as they’ve been shown to have a diuretic effect.
6. Coffee fruit
Typically it’s discarded, but the outer flesh of the coffee berry is actually full of antioxidants giving it the power to boost the immune system, protect against free radicals, and act as an anti-inflammatory. While it’s becoming particularly prominent in skincare, you can also find it in energy drinks, tonics, instant coffees, enhanced waters, and meal replacements.
Maca is an Andean root dried and ground into a nutty-caramel flavored powder. It’s often singled out by healthy living pioneer Amanda Chantal Bacon (yes her last name is, ironically, bacon) for being a very potent adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress while boosting energy, mental stamina, mood, and libido. It’s a great addition to morning smoothies.
8. Bee pollen
Another Bacon favorite, you can eat it straight out of the jar for an energy boost. High in protein, bee pollen has more amino acids (22 essential ones) than any animal source. It’s also rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and vitamin B (which works to fight acne and wrinkles), and is said to support fertility and stamina. If you don’t want to eat it on its own you can sprinkle it in your morning fruit bowl or smoothie.
9. Umeboshi plum
More like an apricot than a plum in appearance, the umeboshi plum is most often dried and preserved in a salty brine resulting in a salty/sour flavor. Most often they’re served with rice in traditional Japanese, Korean, and Chinese dishes, and they’re said to be a digestive aid, prevent nausea, eliminate toxins, and combat fatigue.
10. Kaniwa and Freekeh
Think of Kaniwa like quinoa minus the gluten. High in protein and iron, the brown grain is versatile and filling. Meanwhile freekeh, another increasingly prominent quinoa alternative, is a green wheat loaded with fiber (double that of quinoa), protein, vitamins, and minerals.