The term superfood doesn’t have a standard definition, but in general it means a food that has high nutritional value. Most superfood category foods are considered high in antioxidants and may offer beneficial protection of body cells against damage from free radicals. When cells are damaged from free radicals, risk for chronic diseases increases.
Superfoods are also considered natural foods with no preservatives, artificial chemicals or harmful fats. They are usually low in calories and are conducive for a weight loss diet.
If you want to jumpstart weight loss while eating for overall health, it is recommended to eat a variety of foods high in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, heart healthy fats, whole grains and legumes.
Some, but not all, studies have shown a lowered risk for some cancers associated with higher intake of fruits and vegetables and whole grains (1).
Limiting processed red meat is also recommended for health and can be helpful to jumpstart weight loss. Jumpstarting your exercise routine along with dietary changes shouldn’t be overlooked.
Two nutrients, fiber and protein, can be helpful for keeping you feel full after eating. These nutrients should be incorporated during meals and snack times for healthy weight loss.
These superfoods to jumpstart your diet are high in antioxidants, fiber and some are also a source of protein.
Remember, this is not an exclusive list for helpful foods to eat to jumpstart weight loss. Incorporating variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is always recommended for the biggest health gain.
Watermelon is a popular fruit in the summer. The sweet, juicy red fruit is refreshing and a natural sweet treat, and eating it could help jumpstart your diet for many reasons.
Watermelon is very low in calories; it provides under 50 calories for a 1 cup serving.
Watermelon is mostly water, so eating it helps keep your body hydrated. Because of the high water amount, you can also feel satisfied after eating it.
A cup of cut up watermelon provides potassium, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium and a small amount of iron. Like other fruits, watermelon is a rich source of antioxidants.
In particular, watermelon, like other red fruits and vegetables, is high in the antioxidant lycopene.
The good thing about lycopene from fresh watermelon is it is highly absorbed, and some research suggests the lycopene from raw watermelon is absorbed more than from raw tomatoes (2).
Some research suggests eating foods high in lycopene could help lower risk for some cancers.
Besides being associated with lowering risk for some cancers, lycopene is anti-inflammatory, is beneficial for heart health and bone health.
The riper the watermelon, the higher the amount of lycopene. Let your watermelon sit at room temperature, uncut, to fully ripen. Once the watermelon is ripe, cut up and enjoy. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Adding watermelon to your diet can be a way to enjoy a guilt free sweet treat and a bonus to help your body stay hydrated.
Watermelon is versatile; you can add it to fresh salads, use it as an add in to flavor water, eat by itself or blend up for a juice.
Tart red cherries
Another red fruit that has shown to have positive health benefits is the red tart cherry. Sweet cherries are packed with nutrients and antioxidants as well, but the red tart cherry has some special advantages.
Tart red cherries have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, have heart health benefits and may even help reduce muscle or joint pain associated with exercise or arthritis (3).
Cherries are high in the phytonutrient anthocyanins which help give them their vibrant color.
These anthocyanins also provide heart health benefits like lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and can even help lower belly fat (4).
Some research from mice (5) has shown when obese mice eating a high fat diet were put on a diet with anthocyanin extract from tart cherries, the mice actually lost weight.
Could the same effect be seen in humans? More research is needed, but this may suggest adding tart cherries to your diet may help you jumpstart weight loss.
A nice thing about tart cherries is they can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, dried and in juice form.
They are versatile for adding into your diet and can be enjoyed many ways. If you are drinking the juice, keep portion intake in moderation.
Also, make sure you are getting pure tart cherry products, not alternatives with some natural cherry flavors.
Cruciferous vegetables: arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.
Cruciferous vegetables have sulfur containing substances called glucosinolates which give cruciferous vegetables a unique smell and taste. Other cruciferous vegetables include: Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, radishes, rutabaga, turnips and watercress.
If you like things on the spicy side, horseradish and wasabi are also in this category.
Through cooking and digestion, the glucosinolates get broken down in the body into something called indoles or isothiocyanates. These indoles have been shown to fight cancer cells (6).
Animal studies have shown these glucosinolate derivatives help protect cells from damage from free radicals, inactivate carcinogens, are anti-inflammatory and can even inhibit cancer cells from metastasizing.
Some studies in humans have also found a lower risk of some cancers in people who have higher intake of cruciferous vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables are high in many nutrients including: fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, selenium and iodine. These vegetables are of course naturally low in calories, so they are very nutrient dense.
Cruciferous vegetables are versatile and can be used many different ways while cooking. If you want to jumpstart your diet, make sure you are including a variety of cruciferous vegetables in your diet.
These little seeds have become popular in recent years even though some cultures have been eating them for hundreds of years.
Hemp seeds are a source for many nutrients including: omega 3’s, protein, fiber, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
Hempseed oil is a source of all essential amino acids and is also high in a precursor for nitric oxide which can play a beneficial role for keeping blood pressure low (7).
Hempseeds are a source of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, which are both considered essential fatty acids. Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory and are important for heart health.
Most Americans get too much omega 6’s and not enough omegs 3’s which can promote pro-inflammation. Hempseeds provide a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio of omega 6 and omega 3, respectively.
This is the suggested ratio for a healthy diet (8). Hempseeds are also a source of anti-inflammatory fatty acids gamma linolenic acid and stearidonic acid.
Hempseeds can be eaten by themselves for a snack that provides a soft, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. They can also be used as a topping for oatmeal, salads, smoothies, yogurt or with a trail mix.
Chia seeds have some benefits for jumpstarting weight loss that are similar to hemp seeds. They have also been used by ancient cultures but have only recently gained popularity from Western societies. Chia seeds are a source of omega 3’s, protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Chia seeds can be eaten plain like hemp seeds, but chia seeds absorb more water than hemp seeds.
They can be consumed as a mix in water, like a chia gel or made into a pudding like consistency. They should be eaten with fluids, otherwise they could cause some stomach cramping especially if you’re dehydrated.
Like hempseeds, they can also serve as a topping for salads, mixed smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal.
Since hemp and chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, they can leave you feeling satisfied long after you eat them.
Nuts were not always at the top of the list as a superfood for people to jumpstart their diet because they are higher in calories. However, many research studies have shown health benefits from nuts, and there are studies also showing a benefit for stable weight control while having nuts as part of your diet.
Nuts are higher in calories and fat, up to 80% of calories can come from fat. However, most of the fat in nuts is considered heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Nuts are also a source of fiber, protein, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamin E.
Frequent nut consumption has been associated with lowered rates of cardiovascular disease, and research has also shown an inverse association frequency of eating nuts and body mass index (BMI) (9).
As part of a healthy, balanced diet, there isn’t need to fear eating nuts as part of a weight loss diet. If anything, eating nuts in moderation should be encouraged.
Although nuts are high in fat and calories, they also provide a high level of satiety. The combination of fat, protein and fiber can keep you feeling satisfied long after eating them which could help regulate appetite.
Even though nuts are higher in fat, some studies have shown people eating a higher intake of nuts excrete more fat from the digestive tract (10), but more research is needed.
A one ounce serving, or a small handful, is considered a serving of nuts. Eating this amount for a snack through the day, paired with some fruit, can offer a healthy, satisfying, nutrient rich snack to your diet.
Spices and herbs
Whether fresh or dried, spices and herbs add more than flavor; they are full of antioxidants and some benefits that may help with weight loss. Ground cinnamon has been shown to have some benefit for blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.
Tumeric is known for being high in antioxidants, and one of the main ingredients in turmeric, curcumin, can help lower inflammation (11).
Red pepper or chili powder may help suppress appetite which could help for jumpstarting weight loss. A main ingredient in spices like chili or cayenne is capsaicin.
Capsaicin may help temporarily boost metabolism after eating, even if the effect is slight. Black pepper and ginger may have a similar effect on metabolism. Researchers are not clear on all the ways spices and herbs interact with weight regulation, health and metabolism, so more research is needed.
Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc. are also high in antioxidants and may help lower inflammation in the body. Obesity and associated co-morbidities are often associated with inflammation.
Therefore, incorporating more foods into the diet that promote anti-inflammation can be beneficial during weight loss.
There are many foods that can be considered superfoods, as the definition of a superfood is not universal. In general, superfoods can be considered high in nutrients, free of chemicals, natural foods that offer health benefits.
If you are looking to jumpstart your weight loss, it is important to eat foods that provide high amount of nutrients. Eating a variety of foods is recommended, as there are health benefits from different types and colors of foods.
Watermelon is very high in lycopene, and some studies have shown the lycopene from watermelon is highly absorbable. Watermelon is a very hydrating food and can serve as a natural sweet treat for weight loss. For maximal health benefit, eat watermelons when they are ripe.
Studies have shown red tart cherries are anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, can help relieve pain after exercise and may be beneficial for fighting weight gain around your midsection. Tart cherries can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, dried or as 100% juice.
Cruciferous vegetables have special compounds that have been shown to fight cancer cells and may help lower risk for certain cancers. They are full of many other nutrients, high in fiber and very low in calories.
Nuts, hemp seeds and chia seeds are a good source of protein and fiber, two important nutrients for weight control. Although nuts are higher in calories, research has shown a higher intake of nuts is associated with a lower BMI.
Spices and herbs can be beneficial for jumpstarting weight loss because they are rich in antioxidants and may help suppress appetite after eating.