My Top Ten Superfoods
July 14, 2010

Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. So much of my relationship with nutrition and health is founded upon having an open mind; without it, I would never have explored raw foods in the first place! And yet nothing irks me more than inflammatory or misleading health claims, be they conventional or alternative. Glad to hear your perspectives on the agave controversy and superfoods.

Writing about lucuma and maca has me thinking about the real superfoods: that is, foods that have a high phytonutrient content. Last night, I began a mental list of my top ten. Not supplements or fancy schmancy dried fruits, mind you: just the top ten nutrient dense foods that I rely on most to keep me going.

They are, in descending order of affection:

1)

Kale. It is my favorite food. Rich in calcium, iron, beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and antioxidants, kale is a king among vegetables. All hail.

2)

Avocados. I mean, how do I count the ways? I could talk about the folate, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin E, and polyunsaturated fats, not to mention the fiber. But let’s look at these magical fruits from a culinary angle. Avocados are also versatile, rich, and satisfying. And since they’re the stars of so many of my favorite dishes–chocomole, guac, pudding, and dressing, just to name a few–I’d be lost without them.

3)

I love winter squashes of all shapes and sizes. For a long time, butternut and acorn were my favorites. Acorn will always have a special place in my heart, since stuffed acorn squash was the first vegan thanskgiving meal I ever made for my mother and me. But lately, I’ve discovered the joys of kabocha squash, too, and life hasn’t been the same since. These naturally sweet and comforting vegetables are also rich in Vitamins A, C, potassium, fiber, manganese, and have trace amounts of other B-vitamins. They are, in short, as nutritious as they are flavorful.

4)

My favorite fruit. Without bananas, the infamous soft serve would never have been born. And without them, I don’t think I’d ever have been able to get cozy with smoothies. Bananas are famous for potassium, but they’re also excellent sources of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. Most of all, they lend natural creaminess to raw smoothies, puddings, and desserts. They’re sweet and light, like all fruits, but they offer more density, heft, and satisfaction than some of their more watery fruit cousins. Best of all, they’re portable, and you can almost always find them when traveling.

5)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve never met a whole grain I didn’t like love. Whole grains provide us with countless minerals (especially selenium and manganese), and with fiber. They’re frequently rich in protein, too. Stellar sources of fiber (soluble and insoluble), they help to keep elimination regular and strong, and they also give comfort, satiety, and density to vegan meals. God bless ’em.

6)

Where would I be without hummus? I don’t know. And what would I do if I couldn’t add chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, and lentils to my salads, soups, and spreads? Well, I know for a fact that I’d be missing out on a lot of protein, iron, fiber, and minerals–not to mention tastes and textures that I love. Thank goodness for legumes.

7)

If you haven’t heard it a million times before, I’ll say it again: hemp is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (aka, the “good” fats). Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. And hemp proteins are similar to proteins found in the human body, which makes them easy to digest and assimilate quickly, so they’re a great alternative to whey and soy proteins, which are often heavily processed. I sprinkle hemp seeds on salad, enjoy hemp protein in smoothies, and use hemp butter in soups and dressings.

8 )

I’ve heard that excessive carrot consumption can turn people orange. I’m still waiting for it to happen to me. I love carrots. They make for easy, portable snacks, their juice is delicious in soups or with other vegetable juices, and hell, I just like the crunch.

9)

Almonds are most definitely my favorite nut. It’s not only because they’re high in protein and in Vitamin E, or because they’ve been linked to heart health, or because they have more calcium than any other nut. It’s just because I like the mellow flavor, the versatility, and the many gallons of almond milk I make in my kitchen each year.

10)

How is it that I didn’t taste a fresh young coconut until I was about twenty-six years old? Tragic. Thankfully, I’m making up for lost time, hacking open at least a coconut or two each weekend and feasting on them in soups, puddings, and salads. Coconut water, which I’ve written about many a time, is also quite dear to me. Young coconuts are great sources of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and the medium chain triglycerides aid in metabolism regulation and muscle/tissue repair. There’s suggestive evidence that the fatty acids in coconut have antibacterial properties, too. Though it’s true that coconut fat is saturated, clinical evidence shows that the saturated fats don’t have the same impact on LDL cholesterol that saturated animal fats do. In short? Coconuts are where it’s at.

That was actually a really hard list to assemble. There are so many foods that I love! Runners up for the top ten spots included:

11: Broccoli
12: Tempeh
13: Sesame Seeds/Tahini
14: Blueberries (used to hate them!)
15: Flax seeds/flax oil

OK. Your turn. What are your favorite “super” foods, and why?

xo

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    85 Comments
  1. Hi Thats a great list but you did missout on a very important nutand thats Walnut.
    In addition to omega-3, walnuts have the highest antioxidant content of all the tree nuts.

  2. cacao nibs.. one mouthful takes away the chocolate craving instantly. not to mention the nutritional benefits… Chia seeds are my number 2..

  3. […] that are nutrient dense, easy to assimilate, and that give me a boost of energy and focus. Per this post, those foods can be as straightforward and everyday as kale or winter squash. Lately, my superfoods […]

  4. I LOVE Chia seeds. They are so full of health benefits and make wonderful drinks and natural thickeners.

  5. 1.marine phytoplankton – what all else derives from
    2.Goji Berries- rich flavorful – been used in chinese medicine since forever, and is the root of their everything.
    3.Maca
    4. CoCao- chocolate but the nut from which it comes from – the most rich antioxidant food in the world
    5.NONI
    6.Bee pollon

  6. This makes me happy, because although I neither vegan nor raw, I love all of these foods and eat them most of the time, with the exception of hemp and coconut. Not because I haven’t liked it when I’ve tried it, but just because I haven’t come across them much more than…coconut water, which is lovely.

  7. Hmm. I’m just gonna straight up say: Vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds, fruits, nuts, and more vegetables.
    Because I love ’em all.

  8. Great list. Really great list. Love every food on your list. Love your sandwich idea. We use sweet potatoes instead of squash, cucumbers instead of zucchini and add some basil. It’s awesome and so filling.

    Love your blog.

  9. my list is so similar to yours minus a few things i haven’t tried yet. i happen to love a lot of orange foods: mangos, carrots, and SWEET POTATO!! my mom tells me i’ll turn orange one day, i’m the palest thing ever and see no hint of orange. if i wake up looking like an over tanned jersey shore girl then i’ll try and tone it down.

  10. I love this post! Your favorite “super foods” are similar to mine which are in no particular order…

    tahini, bananas, tempeh, spinach, kale, almonds, oats, raw chocolate, baba ganouj (amazing stuff!)

    ah… now i’m really hungry 🙂 And I guarantee that i forgot at least a dozen or so.

  11. Nice to see a top ten superfoods list comprised of real foods. I’m a big fan of bee products, and I also like Brendan’s Vanilla Chai smoothie mix, but otherwise, my list is a real foods list too.

  12. What a great list, and question! I’d have to add EVOO, red wine vinegar, cucumbers (!!), bok choy, tofu, and brussels. Oh and corn tortillas, even though I don’t know if it’s exactly a superfood, I just love them.

  13. I will take it as a good sign that I totall drooled over this list of superfoods. I would be very happy with this as my own list, only coconut would get bumped to the top. Coconut is definitely my #1 fave superfood. If I were to add any to this list, I might need to squeeze in sweet potatoes and my dear love, EGGPLANT. I feel lucky that I genuinely love so many “super” foods! Now if only I didn’t also love some of the not-so-super foods…but hey it’s no fun to be perfect. 🙂

  14. Kick ass list Gena!
    Mine are; hemp (any seed), avocados, broccoli, parsley, mango, goji berries, sesame/tahini, zucchini, quinoa, literally any greens. Wow so hard to narrow it down!

  15. goodness i think you’ve pretty much named my top ten/fifteen as well, those seem like the staples that i always have/use. except hemp and coconut, i’m still pretty new to those (can’t ever find coconut near me). i can’t do bananas just yet (too sweet) but i used them daily when making sweet green smoothies. and we know how incredible they are with nut butter…

    i’m with you on the carrot thing, sometimes i eat a pound of those things a day, especially when they are cooked and not raw… (like when i made carrot fries two days ago for the first time – oh god my carrot consumption is going to skyrocket). it’s one of those things i eat so much that i always buy organic.

    im glad you mentioned tempeh… i want to sneak it into my meals as much as i can… i love flax oil too… i tried udo’s dha oil last month and i actually really like the taste. and tahini is the one seed butter i always have a jar of because i find it way more digestible than nut butters.

    i’d like to add to my own list: spinach, simply because there are days when kale is too much roughage. also, apples, because they were what made me realize that fruit/food is amazing, when i was recovering from my eating disorder.

  16. As so many others pointed out, this list is practically perfect. Avocados, legumes and hummus are definitely tops on my list. All berries, most grains, but especially quinoa, sunflower seeds (and just seeds in general, pumpkin, chia, etc). And the list goes on. Love that you provided the health benefits or each. Definitely some surprises there!

  17. LOVE this list. Kale is #1 in my book too. I’d add chocolate, cilantro, green tea and mangos. Living in San Antonio (high hispanic population= high demand), I can buy mangos for 3/$1. We eat a couple a day.

    Thanks again for an inspiring, yummy looking post!

  18. Good call on Kale, squash, avos, and bananas. I’d like to add spirulina. It’s weird but I love the taste. I love Nori, too. In a gushy avocado salad? DEE-lish!

  19. Yay for young coconuts & hemp. The other choices left me scratching my head a bit. Cacao would be in my top five. Still haven’t look up David Favor’s story I see……

  20. I’d have to say my favorite “superfoods” are broccoli, avocados, hemp, dark leafys (LOVE bok choy), berries of any kind, chia seeds (so I don’t have to grind the flax for my am smoothie!), and whatever bean and grain seem to be floating my boat (lately millet, amaranth, and pinto).

    On the orange thing – it’s true! It’s actually called Carotenemia. It’s very common in infants but if you are eating high amounts of orange, yellow or even green vegetables high in beta carotene the excess of the vitamin that your body doesn’t convert into Vitamin A can show up as an orange, yellow hue. While the issue has been resolved, back when I was drinking a lot of vegetable juice with carrots and comforting myself with warm winter squashes and sweet potatoes on a daily basis, my hands were a very odd color! Beta Carotene overload! I’m very fair, however, so perhaps it was more obvious in my skin tone?

    • Im quite orange as I speak-my excessive love of kabocha during the fall switched to sweet potatoes in the winter and on to grapefruit,watermelon and now summer squash. Everything I like seem to be high in beta carotene! As much as I try to avoid them, I always end up thinking that being a little orange as opposed to having unhealthy habits trump everything!

    • This is funny because my family is always commenting on that. They are all olive skin-toned and I’m fair. I thought I was just finally able to take a tan but nope… It’s the greens and carrots. Either way. I like it! But my hands do look funny sometimes.

  21. Awesome post! I’m surprised zucchini isn’t among the top ones…

    I would have to include apples, extra-virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, and cashews (love cashews) 🙂

  22. Avocados, blueberries, almonds, kale, sweet potatoes, any other sweet winter squash, quinoa, hazelnut milk, raw ice cream(ha, but that’s not necessarily a super-food), dried mango, coconut (in all of its forms), cilantro (with sweet potatoes and coriander sprinkled over with EVOO is one of my staples), Asian greens (e.g., bok choy), hemp seed or almond butter, flax….I guess I second your list of foods. Thanks for your great posts! And if you are ever in London, I can totally be your foodie host.

  23. Hmm..it’s a tough one. I’d have to say avocados, hemp oil, virgin coconut oil, quinoa (I love, love, love the stuff), dulse, broccoli, watermelon (I know it’s got a high GI but still..), cucumbers, almonds, gomaisho (spirulina and sesame seed combined).. and I’ve already hit 10..
    Also wanted to say how much I love your blog/ recipes/ posts – the whole lot! It’s such a delight to find a balanced raw/vegan blog that celebrates the eating of healthy fats…. I’ve recently started to eat a high raw diet and your blog and recipes has made the whole process easy, enjoyable, and, oh yes, tasty.

  24. Oh, coldpressed coconut oil is my number one for sure, followed by rosehip, or the nordic orange as we call them here in Sweden. 🙂

  25. I can tell what my favourite superfoods are by looking at what I grow in my allotment, it’s nearly half kale, half winter squash…go figure! I love hemp too, both seeds and oil. I’m so glad hemp grows very well in the UK. I use it as a local olive oil. I have only just gotten to like avocados! I used to hate them. I eat everything in your top 10 quite regularly, except coconut, because it’s just not quite worth the air miles. For that reason, I don’t eat or buy ‘superfoods’ like lucuma, maca, goji etc. I love how your list is made up of easy to find, WHOLE foods! Thanks for being there to educate about good clean (tasty!) food:)

  26. I could have written this list. Except, I would take out the almonds, because I just don’t like em. I try to, but it doesn’t happen.

  27. I’m totally addicted to kale and broccoli 🙂 I put them in everything. Great list! I’ve never tried hemp…if I can find it somewhere, I should give it a try. My husband eats like 10 carrots a day and he’s not orange, haha. I’m trying to eat more avocado these days, since I’ve tried to omit MOST fats from my diet.

  28. Dang, Gena, you’re turning into a posting machine!! Is this 3 in 3 days? I am pleasantly surprised when I see new post from Gena each and every day the past few 🙂

    You missed a fave of mine…NOOCH!
    I love broccoli, brussels, cruciferous veggies in general.

    Also, I’m with Mama Pea on the Coffee 🙂 And I do like dark choc but coffee, have to have.

    Oh and for me tomatoes, I eat one per day. Have to have them.

    Carrots and turning people orange? I turned Skylar orange when she was 11 mos old…she was eating lots of carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and anything else I could whir in the Vita…well, she went for her 1 yr physical and her dr. asked me if I was feeding her lots of orange veggies? I said yes, why?! Well, b/c she looks orange to me! hah! It was a subtle orange I guess b/c I didnt notice it but apparently a trained eye did. So, there, Orange Person story for you!

  29. Great post Gena… But I kept waiting for zucchini to come up and it didn’t!

    Most of those things would be on my list too. I have found over the past few weeks I have been CRAVING kale. Sounds a bit CRAZY, I know.

    Your list is pretty sound! All of those things would make it on to mine except hemp (can’t get it in Australia unless it’s in beauty products). I’d have to add savoury yeast flakes, raw cacao powder, olives & goji berries!

    • Yes, I’m also upset that we cannot buy hemp seeds for human consumption! We grow a lot of it and export it and there have been recommendation papers to change the legislation. Silly government. You can buy ‘cold pressed food grade hemp seed oil “for external use only” ‘ if you want to get around it.

  30. kale, avocado, strawberries, bananas, hummus (anything with chickpeas, really), sunflower seed butter, lettuce, walnuts, fresh tomatoes in season, and fresh corn from the East Coast

  31. My excessive carrot consumption actually did begin to turn me orange. My mom looked at my feet and screamed, “Serena, what the hell happened to your toes!?” They were yellowy-orange… at that point I was eating up to three packs of baby carrots a week…maybe more! Since then the color has faded, but not my love of carrots.

  32. This post is perfect. All of my favorite. The most delicious superfood is definitely the banana soft serve. It is much better than ice cream.

  33. What a great list! I would add Chia seeds to that list simply because I don’t have to grind them before eating and they provide all the benefits of flax seeds!

    Oh..and my morning coffee!

  34. Would life be worth living without chocolate? Barely. So I guess I have to put cacao nibs in there (chocolate in its whole food form). I love your list–kale tops my veggies, too–and love to eat everything on it (though haven’t yet been able to find kabocha squash–sniff boo hoo!) But I’m wondering about hummus. Not too be tooooo anal, but isn’t it technically a combination of foods? Of course, the chickpeas, as representatives of the legume family, are a great superfood, as is the tahini for the sesame seeds. And let’s not forget the garlic in there! 🙂

  35. This list should help people realize that eating raw is a delicious way to live! Very inspiring to me…

    And avocados? I eat one a day!

  36. raw cacao nibs I just love I will eat those straight from the bag sometimes mix it with goji berries and snack away.

  37. oh gena!!! what a perfect list…i wouldn’t change one thing…i love all of those, in that exact order…kale and avos are two ingredients i can’t live without…i would add seaweed (rich in vitamins and minerals that also include calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron and zinc. these are the edible ocean plants. they have vitamins such as vitamins c, niacin, bB1, B2, B6 and B12)…cherries (vitamin C, vitamin A, bioflavonoids, ellagic acid, perillyl, anthocyanins, melatonin)…

  38. I noticed you put tempeh on your list. I had assumed that all soy products were less than great for you, save for a little organic miso or soy sauce. Is tempeh different because it’s fermented? If so, I would love to start eating it!

    as for the food list…i think it’s pretty much impossible for me to narrow it down. my likes go in phases- one month it’s spinach, the next it’s kale, the next all i want is cauliflower. go figure.

    • Marina,

      Why’d you make that assumption? Excessive consumption of processed soy foods isn’t great, and some women have good reason to avoid most soy. But non-GMO, organic tofu and tempeh are quite alright in healthy moderation.

      G

  39. Our top ten are almost identical! I would replace the winter squash with sweet potatoes (I hate opening winter squash) and I would replace the hemp seeds with dandelion greens (because I can’t find hemp seeds at the Whole Foods in Chicago).

  40. That hemp dish does look tasty.. I would not mind the recipe to that!

    For those who are trying to eat better, give hemp a good look – you may be surprised by the facts.

  41. I’m all for peanut butter. I’ve heard about how they’re hard to digest but honestly the combination of fat and flavor with a little protein and fiber is just too good.

  42. love this list – most of my favorites. still haven’t tried hemp at home though. i love broccoli, kale, spinach, bananas, blueberries, flax, tahini, avocados, and carrots – i eat all of these on a daily basis for sure.

  43. Where kale used to be my favorite green ever, it has been replaced by dandelion greens. They truly are my favorite and so versatile that they can replace or enhance the presence of my 2nd favorite: kale 🙂

    All whole grains are deliciousness to me, but I think my personal favorite is spelt. Almonds are also my favorite nut (good to know about the calcium), and of all legumes, white beans and chick peas are my two favorites without which I could not thrive. Hummus is a mainstay in my life (made with almond butter, yum) and Tuscan beans and greens with cannelinis and dandelion greens, spiked with some carrot chunks is probably my any-time comfort food.

    Hope I didn’t overwrite my welcome 😉

  44. You have a good list here. You listed some foods that I like..well love! 🙂

    I’d have to say my very favorite of all time is the avocado. I don’t know what I’d do without it. It is simply a powerhouse.

    Take care!
    -Evelyn

  45. I think you got all the winners in my book! I think spinach goes hand in hand with kale, so I won’t get nitpicky on that one. But what about dark chocolate?!

    (and *cough, cough* coffee?)

    • HA! Coffee WOULD make the list, but I don’t think it has enough phytonutrients. And chocolate is amazing, but probably not top 15 – top 20 for sure!

  46. Great post. As usual, your photos leave me drooling. What is in the dish with the hemp topping? I’d like to replicate it ASAP.

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