We’ve all heard about superfoods, foods that contain higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants that neutralize disease-causing free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Including these foods as often as possible provides us with vitamin and mineral nutritional boosts we need to feel great and stay healthy. Ask anyone to name a superfood, and you’ll likely hear salmon, kale, blueberries, avocado. I’ve written before about unusual superfoods to integrate that go beyond the typical superfood lists you’ll read.
But really, superfood is really just a marketing term used to bring attention to foods that boost health. Let’s talk about the absolute healthiest foods on the planet. Many of the below foods may not make it to a superfoods list, but they contain beneficial nutrients, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that should be included daily to keep you feeling (and looking) great while you’re building your body’s defenses and supporting healthy digestion and detox.
The Healthiest Foods on the Planet (and how to include them in your diet)
Try to get as many of these foods in daily as possible.
Cruciferous vegetables: the crucifers belong to the Brassicaceae (or mustard) family and contain sulfur-containing compounds that boost liver detox function. They’re also rich in iron, vitamin K, fiber, vitamin C, and numerous phytochemicals and antioxidants. Most notably, cruciferous contain indole 3-carbinol, a compound that helps detox the body of excess estrogens. Choose from Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, leafys such as bok choy, collard greens, kale, cabbage, chard, turnip greens, arugula, mustard greens, savoy cabbage, Chinese cabbage, rapini and watercress. Watercress tops the list of leafy green superfoods. Cruciferous root vegetables include radish, horseradish, turnip, rutabaga, and wasabi.
Alliums include onions, garlic, chives, leeks, shallots and scallions. Garlic is the superstar here, as it possesses antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and has been touted for lowering lipids and cholesterol. I use garlic frequently as part of my anti-SIBO and anti-candida protocols. The alliums also contain sulfuric compounds that support liver detox pathways. So add those sauteed garlic and onions to your veggie stir-fry dishes!
Salmon & sardines are rich in the anti-inflammatory omega 3s, vitamin D (which is hard to get from food sources), and sardines contain a whopping amount of vitamin B12. A tin of sardines makes a great snack or salad topper. Salmon is super easy to prepare: just sprinkle with herbs and sea salt an roast at 375 for 10 minutes or so. Feed the skin to your dog if you don’t eat it.
Sea vegetables are rich in the critical minerals you’re probably deficient in, and they promote heavy metal detox and support thyroid function. Try arame, nori, kelp, wakame, hijiki, dulse, and kombu. Toasted nori makes a delicious snack, and I love a mixed sesame seaweed salad with wakame and hijiki. Add kombu strips to soups and stews to infuse with flavor and nutrients, and top salads with kelp. Or try crunchy and delicious sea snax right out of the bag!
Mushrooms are such superstars. Think maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, enoki, and reishi. There are over 100 types of medicinal mushrooms that have been studied for health, but the aformentioned are the most common immune boosters. These mushrooms are so potent that they have been shown to be effective at fighting cancer (and preventing it). They stimulate the immune system to fight disease. Many are used as general tonics to promote longevity. You can easily incorporate these into stir-fries or meat dishes. They have a delicious umami flavor that is delicate enough to accompany fish or meaty enough to compliment a steak. Or, take them in a tincture therapeutically to ward off illness or boost immune health.
Coconut is a personal fave, and we mostly hear about coconut oil’s therapeutic benefits for boosting metabolism, thyroid, and skin health. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid that boosts immune function.
But let’s take it a step farther and add some fermented goodness in the form of coconut water kefir. Kefir is a fermented beverage typically made with cow or goat’s milk and kefir grains. It’s rich in gut healing and immune boosting probiotics and enzymes that support good digestion. For the dairy sensitive, kefir can be made with coconut water, which is also rich in electrolytes and minerals. I recommend this brand. Get some fermented foods daily to nourish your gut!
Chia seeds are just the sweetest little powerseed. I made that word up, but those little buggers pack a big punch of protein, fiber, omega 3s, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. I add them to my morning smoothie, or use them in a delicious chia pudding.
Walnuts can reduce your cardiovascular disease risk, improve vascular function, and even aid in reducing LDL cholesterol and body fat. All you need is 4 walnuts a day to achieve these results. How amazing is that?! Walnuts are a great source of anti-inflammatory omega 3s and arginine, which offers vascular benefits to those with heart disease. I keep a bag on my kitchen counter to remind me to grab a handful for a mid-afternoon snack. They’re super filling, too! Or add to smoothies.
Avocados are creamy dreamy high fiber and glutathione-rich fruits. Glutathione is a potent liver protective antioxidant. Avocados boast healthy fats that are great for skin health and hormones and offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving.
Berries are among the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. Blueberries especially are rich in flavonoids that may improve memory, learning, and general cognitive function. Wild blueberry polyphenols improve vascular function and lower blood pressure. Blackberries are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that are incredibly anti-inflammatory. Raspberries are super high in fiber, and strawberries contain a good amount of vitamin C. Add ’em to smoothies. Also try goji berries and acai berry.
Supergreens like spirulina, chlorella, and moringa are disease-fighting powerhouses super rich in oxygen-delivering chlorophyll. These greens include algae and cereal grasses that counter anemia, heart disease, and cancer, and promote detox and beautiful skin. I use moringa in smoothies when I’m feeling run down; it gives me a noticeable boost! (check out my article on moringa). Spirulina is a good source of plant protein, iron, and omega 3s. Add to smoothies, or get a supergreens formula you can mix with water or coconut water.
No discussion of the healthiest foods would be complete without a mention of turmeric! Turmeric is a root that looks a lot like ginger (same family), and curcumin is the compound that gives it its yellow hue. It’s the curcumin that is so super anti-inflammatory that it beats out NSAIDs for arthritis relief (without the nasty side effects). Curcumin has a laundry list of health benefits, including killing cancer cells and suppressing tumor growth, protecting liver cells and enhancing detox, and relieving seasonal allergies. It can also be used topically to make your skin glow. You can take a curcumin supplement if you need potent effects, or incorporate turmeric in your diet via this delicious and easy turmeric tonic.
Liver is nature’s vita-mineral supplement, high in iron, vitamin D, vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, and trace minerals. It boosts energy and vitality, gives you beautiful, glowing skin, helps balance your hormones, and is one of my star pregnancy superfoods. Learn here how to make a tasty liver pate, or if you just can’t stomach the thought, you can take a quality dessicated liver supplement. ALWAYS source quality, organic liver.
Lentils are my favorite legume. Did you know one cup of lentils contains 16 grams of fiber?! All that fiber helps improve bowel function and provides food for the good bugs in your gut. Lentils are a great plant source of protein, and they’re so darn tasty and satisfying. They make a great vegetarian pate or are wonderful paired with chard or kale in a stew.
Dark chocolate not only boosts your mood, it may lower your BMI. Dark chocolate (or cacao) is very anti-inflammatory and may reduce blood clotting and improve blood flow to the brain, making it a good bet for heart attack and stroke prevention if you need a reason to indulge (I don’t). Choose 70 percent or higher dark chocolate, up to an ounce per day, or use raw cacao in smoothies or puddings.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.