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6 Superfoods for Optimal Health

Top off your healthy diet with these natural nutrition boosters.

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You’ve heard of superfoods, and odds are you’ve sampled a few. But what exactly does it take to earn the illustrious title?

There is no single definition, but generally speaking, superfoods are fruits, berries and veggies that are particularly packed with disease-fighting nutrients. Incorporating these plant-based powerhouses into an overall healthy eating plan will give your diet a serious boost. Here are some of most potent—and delicious—options to try.

Medically reviewed in October 2018. Updated in June 2021.

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Beetroot

In addition to adding color to salads and smoothies, beetroot packs a punch of nutrients, including vitamin C (important for immune function), potassium (which boosts heart and muscle function) and folate (necessary for proper cell division).

One review of research suggested that beetroot, when consumed as a juice, may lower blood pressure. A related study suggested that beetroot juice can relax blood vessels, potentially easing stress on the heart. Another review indicated that beetroot juice may boost exercise performance of inactive or recreationally active people. Beet juice may also enhance the performance of elite athletes, like runners, but more research is needed to determine the efficacy.

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Goji Berries

More research is needed to establish the true benefits of this berry, but there’s little downside to incorporating them into your diet. Try adding a handful to your yogurt or whole grain oats, or blend them into a smoothie. One ounce of goji berries is loaded with vitamin A, which aids in promoting cell division and keeping white blood cells healthy. They also contain vitamin C, which helps your body’s ability to heal.

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Blueberries

Toss some blueberries into your cereal or throw a few in your lunchtime salad for a boost of vitamins C, K and manganese—24, 36 and 25 percent of your daily value (DV), respectively, per cup. These nutrients promote bone and tooth health, are imperative for blood clotting and can help your body more efficiently use fat and carbs.

Studies suggest a berry-rich diet can improve heart health, too. One study indicated that eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week was linked to lower risk of heart attack risk in women, when compared with those who ate berries once a month. Another study of post-menopausal women revealed a blueberry supplement, when consumed over an 8-week period, reduced participants’ blood pressure.

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Papaya

One cup of papaya contains 144 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues, and 31 percent DV of vitamin A, which helps keep cells healthy. Bonus: It contains only 55 calories per cup.

Another selling point of papaya is its fiber content. One cup contains about 10 percent DV. Dietary fiber helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels and promotes bowel health.

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Acai Berries

Acai bowls, a colorful and flavorful treat that layers blended acai berries with fruit and granola, have made this berry a household name.

Acai berries contain healthy amounts of dietary fiber, which aids digestion, and vitamin A, which is important for vision and immune function. Acai also contains loads of antioxidants. These are chemical compounds that are touted for their ability to protect cells against the damaging effects of free radicals. Plus, unsweetened acai berries have only a mild effect on blood sugar levels.

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Turmeric

Turmeric, a versatile spice commonly associated with curry, is rich in iron, which helps your red blood cells carry oxygen to your organs. It also contains manganese, necessary for normal brain and nerve function, and vitamin B6, which helps your body transform food into fuel. Per tablespoon, this spice also adds a boost of protein and fiber.

Best known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can be blended into a smoothie, steeped as tea or incorporated into any of your favorite dishes. The spice can be used to reduce inflammation in many parts of the body, including the stomach, skin, joints, liver, gallbladder and more. How? Research suggests that curcumin, an element of turmeric, may inhibit several molecules that cause inflammation.

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