If optimal health is your goal, there is no getting around your diet. Both your physical and mental health are a clear reflection of what you put into your body, and how you live your life in general. While pre-packaged processed foods might be a convenient option provided that little or no preparation is required, cooking your very own meals using fresh unprocessed ingredients is an absolute must if you want to improve your health.
The term “superfoods” has become more of a marketing buzzword in recent years, largely describing foods that are minimally processed and nutrient-packed, promising to protect your body against illness.
Nonetheless, many processed foods nowadays boast similar ingredients to these superfoods, but let’s not forget that processing only denatures ingredients, which makes them far inferior compared to the originals.
Below is a list of my top 7 superfoods that pack high amounts of protein and other important nutrients. Aim to incorporate as many of these foods into your diet on a daily – or at least weekly – basis, and you will be off to a great start.
Spirulina is, I think, one of the most protein-dense superfoods one can possibly consume. As a matter of fact, spirulina contains 65-71 percent protein by weight, and all essential amino acids that your body needs to function properly.
Although you will not be getting as much protein as you would from eggs or milk, spirulina packs 45 percent more protein as compared to lentils, and 49 percent more protein than beef.
Most importantly, spirulina provides twice as much protein as carbohydrates, which makes it a popular option for dieters attempting to shed pounds while getting their nutritional values boosted.
A study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry in Mexico has shown that 4.5 grams of spirulina eaten every day, without other dietary changes, can help regulate blood pressure. Furthermore, this superfood has been shown to contribute to weight loss, which is why I strongly recommend integrating it into your diet.
DID YOU KNOW THAT 90g serving of blendea supergreens contains up to 30% of spirulina?
Hemp is oftentimes utilized by both dieters and athletes to make green, natural smoothies. Known as one of the densest plant-based protein sources, hemp packs a whopping 33 percent of protein per 30 grams, which equals 11 grams.
I must remind you that hemp is richer in protein as compared to chia seeds, which contain only 4 grams of protein per 30 grams, and pumpkin seeds, which pack 10 grams.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score, or PDAAS, of hemp to determine the bioavailability of the protein contained in this plant. The results showed that hemp seeds have a greater PDAAS than some vegetables and grains.
Furthermore, a serving of hemp seeds can provide between 25 and 30 grams of protein, which helps improve digestion and facilitate weight loss.
Another study published in Wei Sheng Yan Jui in 2008 suggested that hemp may have immunity-boosting properties that prevent common colds, reduce fatigue, and also improve cardiac hypertrophy and kidney function.
I remember first eating quinoa seeds a couple of years ago. While at first I was not completely aware of their properties and nutritional values, I eventually conducted my research and discovered that every cup of cooked quinoa seeds provided a whopping 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Furthermore, quinoa is a natural source of iron, zinc, selenium and plenty of vitamin E, which improves bone density and also help control your body weight.
Most notably, quinoa is gluten-free, which makes it an ideal choice for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
In 2009, the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil has publicly released the findings of a study they conducted on the importance of quinoa for a balanced diet. The study suggested that quinoa can greatly lower blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes, and lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.
At the same time, a 2005 study at the University of Milan discovered that quinoa has natural appetite-suppressing abilities that help control your appetite, and also curb food cravings.
Quinoa also possesses potent antioxidant properties due to the high amounts of free phenols it contains, which fight off free radical damage in the body. This, in turn, slows down the aging process, delays the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and also decreases the risk of cancer.
I suggest that you substitute rice for quinoa in your next meal, or add it to your green salad to bring variety to the texture. You may also include quinoa in your day-to-day green smoothies, as it will blend beautifully with the rest of ingredients.
COOKING TIPS: 31 must-cook recipes with quinoa
As one of the most popular grains currently available, buckwheat is a superfood that comes with a lot of important benefits for your health. In the first place, this grain contains 13 grams of protein per 100 grams, as well as 10 grams of fiber and plenty of vitamin C.
What’s more, buckwheat packs high amounts of amino acids lysine and arginine, which are both essential to a healthy heart and increased immunity.
A research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has proven that a single serving of buckwheat can lowered blood glucose levels by 12-19 percent within 90 to 120 minutes. Moreover, buckwheat has also been shown to be a source of tryptophan, which can help you get a good night’s sleep, also reducing stress and anxiety.
Due to its high content of insoluble fiber, this superfood also prevents gallstones, according to a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology.
Add cooked buckwheat to soups and stews to enhance flavor and improve texture. Alternatively, you may cook this grain on its own or in conjunction with oats to get a nutritious and nourishing morning breakfast.
COOKING TIPS: 20 delicious recipes with buckwheat
Although many so-called experts regard almonds are unhealthy due to their very high cholesterol level, these nuts are a popular superfood you can add to your diet to load it with more protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds pack 21 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber per 100 grams, not to mention that they are an excellent source of vitamin E.
Most importantly, almonds are rich in both mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids that are responsible for lowering low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. This prevents the buildup of fatty deposits in arteries, hence decreasing risk of heart disease substantially, as suggested by a new research by the University of Toronto.
I typically prefer eating raw almonds, as they are completely unprocessed and have their properties intact. You may eat a handful of almonds in-between meals to satisfy your sweet tooth, add a few to your smoothies, or even eat it in conjunction with plain yogurt, dried fruits, and other protein-dense nuts.
VIDEO TIP: How to make vegan-friendly almond milk?
In terms of protein content, the difference between almonds and salmon is nearly nonexistent. Salmon packs 20 grams of protein per 100 grams, as well as 53 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B12, and 30 percent of vitamin B6. The American Heart Association recommends eating salmon on a daily basis due to the high amounts of omega-3s it contains, which have been shown to decrease risk of heart disease.
Several studies have been conducted on the health benefits of salmon, and it seems that this fish species has powerful antioxidant properties that prevent aging and diminish free radical damage. Moreover, the vitamin E contained in salmon prevents the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, hence reducing the buildup of plaque in coronary arteries.
The research has found that salmon has a protective role against the formation of cataracts and development of cancer, and might possibly boost the immune system as well. On top of that, salmon is one of the most delightful foods you will possibly eat, especially when baked along with fingerling potatoes and paired with a lovely big green salad. Consider replacing beef or pork with salmon to reduce your everyday calorie intake and lower your “bad” cholesterol levels.
COOKING TIP: Juicy baked salmon 4 ways by Tasty
Who hasn’t heard about the ever-popular chia seeds? With 17 grams of protein and 34 grams of fiber per 100 grams, chia seeds provide a great nutritional boost that will certainly improve your health. Chia seeds are loaded with important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, which makes them a lot better as compared to most dairy products, including milk and yoghurt.
Researchers at the University of Litoral in Argentina have found that chia seeds can completely prevent insulin resistance and improve metabolism at the same time. Furthermore, a study published in the “ournal of Molecular Biochemistry has revealed that chia seeds can also limit the growth of cancer cells in both cervical and breast cancers. Due to containing high amounts of vitamins A and zinc, chia seeds will also prevent tartar buildup on your teeth.
The best way to incorporate these seeds into your diet is, in my opinion, in green salads and smoothies. For weight loss purposes, you can soak two tablespoons of chia seeds in a glass of water and eat them, as this will curb your appetite and help avoid overeating.
Most modern diets nowadays lack the nutrients our bodies need to function normally. By eating these superfoods, you will manage to successfully take in very high amounts of these nutrients while also improving your health at a great deal.
Although there is no need to eat all of these superfoods every day, you should restructure your meal plan so that it includes as many of them as possible, especially since the most of them pack lots of protein and fiber.
Writer, contributor and a huge fan of healthy lifestyle. I write about my own experiences with different types of food.