Spring is coming, and you know what that means: You’ll have even more fresh produce at your fingertips. When you’re checking out the produce aisle at the grocery store or looking through options at the farmers’ market, make sure you’re keeping an eye out for these vegan superfoods, too.
What are superfoods, anyway? While all the fruit and veggies you’ll come across are loaded with vitamins and minerals, the term “superfood” is given to foods that are a step above the rest. Those that are, according to Harvard, “rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.” In other words, things that are extra good for you.
Some classic examples of nutritious superfoods are leafy greens like kale and spinach. But what else makes the cut? Here are some of the most popular vegan superfoods to add to your plate.
16 Nutritious Vegan Superfoods to Try
The term “superfood” was first used around the time of World War I as part of an advertising campaign by the United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita Brands International). The company wanted to sell its bananas, telling consumers all about this multi-purpose, nutritious fruit.
The term then exploded when a link was found between bananas and the treatment of diabetes and celiac disease. Today, bananas are still extremely popular, and other superfoods have popped up left and right.
2. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (DGLVs)
Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are high in a wealth of nutrients including—but not limited to—calcium, iron, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. These qualities may help them decrease your risk of chronic illness. In addition, the anti-inflammatory components have the potential to fight off some types of cancer. Pretty super, right?
Enjoy your DGLVs in smoothies, in chip-form (hello, kale chips!), and more. Other vegetables—like radishes, broccoli, mushrooms, and asparagus—are also considered superfoods.
Blueberries are small but mighty, also containing their fair share of health benefits. The low-calorie berries are high in vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and vitamin K. They have loads of antioxidants that have the potential to fight off various diseases and the aging process. Lastly, they’re good for cholesterol, blood health, muscles, and memory. Use them in this yogurt parfait breakfast recipe.
Nuts are packed with nutrients, with almonds considered one of the healthiest. They’re among the top contenders in the world of monounsaturated fat, protein, and high-fiber snacks. They’re also a good source of antioxidants and can help keep cholesterol in check.
Walnuts are also loaded with healthy fats. They do, however, potentially surpass their fellow nut comrades in terms of antioxidants. As an added bonus, they’re said to have anti-inflammatory properties, too.
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain treated much like rice or oats. It’s filled with protein, as well as a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Some of these include iron, manganese, fiber, protein, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains antioxidants and is beneficial for metabolic and blood health.
7. Lentils & Beans
Lentils and beans are both part of a bigger food group called legumes. Both are wonderful sources of iron and folate and contain large amounts of protein, fiber, and magnesium.
Legumes can also improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and protect against heart disease. Because of their high protein content, they’re a great replacement for animal protein in meat-free diets. Add them into this vegan breakfast burrito.
8. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds may be tiny, but don’t let their size fool you: They have tons of fiber, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. That can help keep your heart in tip-top shape, lowering cholesterol, regulating blood pressure, decreasing inflammation, and more.
Ginger is the definition of a superfood. It’s packed with gingerol, a key force in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It helps with digestion, nausea, and can help fight off seasonal colds. It’s also been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Next up on our list of vegan superfoods is turmeric. Similarly to how ginger contains gingerol, turmeric contains curcumin, which has been linked to better memory. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties.
11. Dark Chocolate
When you’re choosing dark chocolate that has a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher, studies suggest it may help keep your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure in check. It’s also loaded with antioxidants.
12. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are filled with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals—particularly when eaten with the peel on. As illustrated by their bright orange color, sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which helps keep your eyes healthy. Sweet potatoes have also been linked to improved brain function.
13. Green Tea
Antioxidant-packed green tea comes with plenty of health benefits. Studies have also found a link between green tea and a lower risk of certain types of cancers, like breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Green tea is also tied to extended life spans, weight loss, prevention against type 2 diabetes, and protection from cardiovascular disease. More examples of healthy teas include kombucha and matcha.
Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, K, B5, and B6, as well as potassium and folate. On top of that, they’re full of monounsaturated fatty acids that are good for the heart. Studies show avocados may also lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
One thing to keep in mind: While they’re a much better option than animal-based foods, there are still some downsides to eating them, like how much water they require and all the food miles they log.
Garlic, known for its medicinal properties, has been treasured for centuries. It contains a compound called allicin that may help with cholesterol regulation and heart disease prevention. Garlic has long been known for its anti-inflammatory immune benefits, which help fight off the common cold and flu.
16. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids that protect against heart disease and improve HDL cholesterol. It’s may also have antimicrobial effects and help reduce the risk of seizures. It’s also a great natural body and hair moisturizer.