The World’s Healthiest Foods:
The Top 56 Nutrient Dense Foods For Supercharging Your Health
BY CHRISTINE BAILEY
not all foods are created equal. some are far, far more nutrient dense foods than others, which if you are seeking greater health and wellness, you’ll definitely want to include in your diet. photo: nitsa citrine
Supercharged foods are natural ingredients that not only provide a wealth of nutrient density in a concentrated form but also have the ability to restore balance in the body. There is no such thing as a perfect food,
The foods listed in this section are a selection of superstar, superfood ingredients that have been chosen for their ability to assist fat-burning, build muscle and stabilize blood sugar levels while promoting health and longevity. Many of these nutrient-dense foods are known to boost liver function, cleansing and detoxification, which are particularly effective in promoting weight loss. They have all been included in the recipes throughout the book. Many of the supercharged foods are now available in local health shops and supermarkets; all can be purchased online.
These include chlorella, spirulina and seaweed fakes. Both spirulina and chlorella are highly nutrient-dense foods and excellent sources of digestible protein, making them valuable for vegans. As they are strongly cleansing, I recommend that you introduce them gradually into your diet to allow the body to adapt to their properties.
1. Chlorella Known for its detoxification and energizing properties, chlorella is a single-celled, water-grown alga. It is rich in chlorophyll, a nutrient that can support energy as well as detoxification in the body. Chlorella is extremely nutrient-dense and is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, polysaccharides and other beneficial compounds. Buy as a powder for use in recipes or blend up ‘cracked cell’ tablets. Cracked cell ensures the nutrients are readily digestible.
2. Nori is an edible red seaweed that is eaten in East Asia, especially Japan. It provides protein and omega-3 fats and is a useful source of iron and calcium. It also contains iodine and trace minerals, which are needed to support thyroid function and metabolism. Buy as flakes.
3. Spirulina belongs to a class of single-celled, blue-green spiral algae. It is a highly nutrient-dense food and is rich in chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), polysaccharides and a vast spectrum of antioxidants. Buy as a powder or tablets.
There are a number of good-quality bee products that have powerful anti-ageing and health-promoting benefits.
4. Bee pollen is an incredibly nutrient-dense food, supplied with amino acids, vitamins and minerals. A great source of energizing B vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and polysaccharides, it is thought to regenerate the body at a cellular level. Buy as granules.
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6. Royal Jelly is the food given to bee larvae by the nurse bee for the first days of their life. It is thought to rejuvenate and regenerate the body and is often considered to be an anti-ageing food. A particularly nutrient dense food rich in folate as well as other B vitamins, it is valuable as a brain and energy tonic and is also nourishing for the adrenal glands. Buy as a powder or in capsules.
Berries and Fruit
The fruits listed here are just a few of those known for their diverse range of antioxidants, nutrient density and vitamin C content. Fresh and dried berries add a sweetness to blends and are perfect for boosting energy. You can buy blended superberry powders that can be useful in the recipes. Certain specific berries are also available and beneficial for their concentration of valuable nutrients.
7. Acai berry The dark-purple acai is an exceptionally high-antioxidant fruit and a very concentrated source of anthocyanins, which are known for their protective, anti-ageing benefits. The health properties of acai are boosted by the presence of healthy fats, fiber, phytosterols (plant fats that help to lower LDL cholesterol) and amino acids. They are also naturally low in sugars. Buy as a powder, freeze-dried capsules or as the unsweetened frozen pulp.
8. Amla Also known as Indian gooseberry, amla is an exceptionally nutrient-dense food high in vitamin C, making it a protective, immune-supporting fruit. It contains chromium, which the body needs for blood sugar balance, and gut-friendly fiber. Buy as a powder.
9. Baobab fruit has a unique, tangy taste like a blend of grapefruit, pear and vanilla. With three times the vitamin C of an orange, iron and the minerals calcium, potassium and magnesium, baobab is a highly nutrient-dense food that is energizing and alkalizing. It is also rich in fiber and is fabulous for digestive health. Buy as a powder.
10. Blueberry Freeze-dried blueberry powder is a concentrated source of nutrients. Packed with phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, and with vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids, blueberries help support immune function, cognitive health, and protect against cancer and urinary tract infections. Buy as a powder.
11. Camu camu The small, reddish, cherry-like camu camu fruit is an exceptionally nutrient-dense food high in vitamin C. Studies show that it contains a concentration of vitamin C of between 2 and 3 per cent (approximately 3,000mg per 100g/31⁄2oz of pulp), which is one of the highest known of any fruit. It also contains a range of antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, iron and calcium. It is high in fiber and particularly useful for aiding weight loss and detoxification. Buy as a freeze-dried powder and use in small amounts only, due to its exceptionally high vitamin-C content. Between 1⁄4 and 1⁄2 teaspoon daily is sufficient – an excess may have a laxative effect.
Do not heat camu camu, as this will destroy the vitamin C.
12. Elderberry is known for its anti-viral and immune-supporting properties. It is rich in flavonoids and exceptionally rich in vitamin C. It also contains beta-carotene, potassium, fiber and vitamin B6, making it a fairly nutrient-dense food. It is traditionally used to relieve respiratory infections, arthritis and to combat an upset stomach. Buy as a syrup or tincture.
13. Goji berry (also known as wolfberry) is frequently used in Chinese medicine for boosting longevity and enhancing energy and immune health. It is an extraordinarily nutrient-dense food high in amino acids and rich in carotenoids, vitamin C, various B vitamins and iron. Buy as the dried berries and as a powder.
14. Incan berry (also known as goldenberry, Cape gooseberry and Chinese lantern). The dried berries are delicious as a snack and have a citrus, slightly sweet–sour flavor. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins A and C, they are useful for strengthening the immune system. Buy as the sun-dried berries.
15. Lucuma The delicious Peruvian lucuma fruit is useful as a natural sweetener and has a caramel-like flavor. It contains a variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fiber, such as beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and niacin, as well as the minerals iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorus, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods and berries on the planet. Buy as a powder.
16. Maqui berry This traditional Chilean food is renowned for its anti-ageing properties. It is one of the highest antioxidant fruits in the world and is especially rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, which help to protect and repair the body’s cells. It’s a great source of vitamin C. Buy as a powder or as capsules.
17. Montmorency cherry This tart cherry delivers a much greater content of anthocyanins than sweet cherries, as well as higher amounts of other nutrients. It has been shown to improve insulin function, aid weight loss and support cognitive function. Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin to promote sleep. They are anti-inflammatory and may help lower your risk of gout and reduce the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Available as a concentrated juice or dried sour cherries.
18. Mulberry leaf has long been used for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, as it contains compounds that suppress high blood sugar levels. Mulberry leaves are high in antioxidants including quercetin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Buy as a powder.
19. Noni is the common name for Morinda citrifolia, a tropical tree native to the Polynesian islands. The ripe fruit has a citrus-like flavor and is rich in polysaccharide compounds known to support immune health. Packed with powerful antioxidants, noni is a wonderful anti-ageing and nutrient-dense fruit. Buy as a powder.
20. Pomegranate has high levels of antioxidants and potassium, which can help maintain healthy blood pressure. It also contains phytoestrogenic compounds, making it helpful for balancing the female hormones. Buy as the fresh fruit or as a powder.
21. Sea buckthorn This orange berry is known for its skin-regenerating properties and as a rare but powerful nutrient-dense food. It is very high in vitamin C and quercetin, an anti-inflammatory phytonutrient. It contains omega-7 fat, making it very nourishing for the skin. Buy as 100 per cent pure sea buckthorn juice.
22. Cacao This is the raw, unprocessed source of chocolate. Raw, unsweetened cacao powder, which is high in antioxidant flavones, is very different from the common, commercial cocoa drinks and chocolates. Cacao is derived from cacao beans, one of nature’s most supercharged, nutrient-dense foods due to its mineral content and wide array of unique and varied properties. Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium. It is also exceptionally rich in chromium, which is used to help control blood sugar. It contains a number of compounds known to boost mood and relaxation such as tryptophan, theobromine and phenylethylamine (PEA). As well as the powder and butter, some recipes use cacao nibs, which are slightly bitter and have a strong chocolate flavor and a wonderful crunchy texture.
Dried Fungi, Grasses, Herbs, Leaves, Roots and Vegetables
23. Aloe vera is particularly useful in supporting digestive health and blood sugar balance, and is an ideal cleansing tonic, great for radiant skin. Buy as a juice or gel. Look for brands that contain 100 per cent aloe as these are higher in nutrient-density.
24. Ashwagandha – often referred to as ‘Indian ginseng’ – is an adaptogenic herb (to enhance endurance) widely used in many parts of Asia. It is also used as a rejuvenating tonic, sedative, immune-supporting and nutrient-dense food, and is valued as an anti-ageing herb. It may help to calm the mind, improve memory and harmonize body systems. Buy as a powder or tea.
25. Astragalus is one of the great tonic herbs used to support the immune system and strengthen the body. It is a popular energy tonic for athletes and anyone looking for more day-today energy and vitality. Buy as a powder.
26. Chaga is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms and is known for its strong immune-enhancing properties, its high levels of antioxidants and its anti-viral properties. It is an amazing health-and-longevity tonic, full of phytonutrients that slow down the ageing process. Chaga contains a range of active ingredients: sterols, triterpenes, saponins and polysaccharides and it is also immunostimulatory. Buy as a powder.
27. Cissus quadrangularis is a perennial plant and a member of the grape family. It is used to help stress levels, lower high cortisol and reduce anxiety. It is also taken to maintain healthy bones, digestive function and respiratory health and is an exceptionally nutrient-dense food. Buy as a powder.
28. Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest trees known for its benefcial properties and has been used to support health for thousands of years. The leaf extracts contain several active constituents with neuro-protective and cardio-protective properties. Rich in favonoids, which help to strengthen the capillaries, promote healthy blood fow to the brain and maintain cognitive health, ginkgo is ideal for a mental boost. Buy as a powder or tincture.
29. Ginseng products are usually used as a general tonic and adaptogen to help the body adapt to daily stress. They are particularly useful for improving physical and mental performance, vitality and to reduce fatigue. Ginseng contains a range of compounds: ginsenosides, saponins, phytosterols, peptides, polysaccharides, fatty acids and polyacetylenes, as well as vitamins and minerals, making it an exceptionally nutrient-dense food. There are several species of ginseng: Panax ginseng, often chosen for its abilities to help tackle stress; American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, to improve blood sugar or to ease dry coughs; Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, an excellent energy, stress and blood tonic – great for athletes. Buy ginseng products as a powder or tincture.
30. Green coffee is unroasted coffee beans that are particularly rich in phytochemicals known as chlorogenic acid. These have been shown to improve insulin function, boost metabolism and weight loss. Buy as a powder or capsules. Do not take if you are sensitive to caffeine.
31. Green tea and matcha green tea powder Of green and black tea, green is the least processed and provides the most antioxidant polyphenols, notably a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is believed to be responsible for most of the tea’s health benefts. For optimal benefts, use matcha green tea powder, because when you The Supercharged drink matcha you ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water. One glass of matcha is the equivalent of 10 glasses of green tea in terms of its nutritional value and antioxidant content, making it a powerful nutrient-dense food when consumed in this form. It is an effective fat burner and energizing food, and its high antioxidant levels mean it is also helpful in protecting the body from harmful free-radical damage. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which stimulates the production of alpha brain waves to create a state of calmness and mental alertness. Buy as a powder or use an infusion of green tea in drinks.
32. Gynostemma This adaptogenic herb is taken to invigorate the body and restore strength and vitality as well as to calm the body to relieve anxiety. The main active ingredients are saponins, which have potent antioxidant, liver-supportive and anti-infammatory activity. Buy as tea bags or as a powder.
33. Maca A radish-like, nutrient-dense root and food, maca is known for its adaptogenic properties and has the ability to help the body adjust to stress, build up resistance to disease and support immunity. It can also be taken as an energy food for combating fatigue. Its delicious, sweet butterscotch flavor means that it blends beautifully with cacao in drinks. Maca works directly on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands: the body’s ‘master glands’, which help to regulate other glands, such as the levels of sex hormones in men and women. Buy as a powder.
34. Milk thistle is a great addition to cleansing programmes, because it is packed with antioxidants, which help to protect the body from damage. Buy as a tea, powder and tincture.
36. Mucuna pruriens (also known as velvet bean and cowitch) is mostly known for containing a substance called L-dopa from which a very powerful neurotransmitter (a chemical at a nerve ending) is formed. L-dopa is an amino acid that converts into the ‘focus and motivation’ neurotransmitter, dopamine, making it effective for boosting mood. Mucuna can also help increase the production of human growth hormone, thereby boosting lean muscle and breaking down fat. It is also consumed as a nutrient-dense food in many parts of the developing world. Buy as a powder or capsules.
37. Turmeric root The health benefts of this, nutrient-dense food and curry spice lie in the active ingredient, curcumin. Studies have shown that turmeric possesses a wealth of properties including anti-infammatory and antioxidant benefits. It has also been shown to help support brain function and is valued for its anti-ageing benefits. Buy as the root or ground.
38. Wheatgrass powder is well known for its rejuvenating and alkalizing properties. Light and clean tasting, wheatgrass is packed with chlorophyll, making it incredibly energizing. It is also rich in B vitamins, antioxidants and vitamin A, as well as numerous minerals, including manganese, zinc and magnesium, earning it a spot as one of the world’s healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods. Its high fiber content means it is also a great addition to green juices and is beneficial for digestive health. Buy as a powder. There are also green superfood blend powders that will include wheatgrass and other green supercharged foods.
39. Yacon is a tuber native to South America. It is rich in inulin, a type of fiber that breaks down slowly and provides food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Yacon is enjoyed as a natural sweetener because it has a low glycaemic index, meaning that it can be helpful for balancing blood sugar levels. It has a light molasses flavor. Buy as a syrup.
Fats and Oils
Natural fat is an essential macronutrient for health and longevity. The right types of fats in the correct proportions are important for brain function, lowering infammation, providing sustained energy, and for maintaining healthy cell membranes and nervous system function. They form the building blocks of hormones, which influence many biological processes throughout the body. In addition, fat helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, it reduces cravings and helps you achieve a healthy weight loss. Certain fats have also been shown to boost the metabolism – so eating fat can actually assist weight loss and enhance the absorption of nutrient-dense foods. The following natural fats are used in the recipes in addition to the fats found in other foods, such as nuts and seeds.
40. Coconut oil provides richness to smoothies. Although it contains saturated fats, it is predominately rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which sustain energy levels and increase the metabolic rate. This makes it ideal for taking before workouts, for example. It also provides lauric acid and caprylic acid, which support immune health and possess antimicrobial properties, which enhance the effects of nutrient-dense foods by healing the gut and improving absorption of nutrients. For quality, buy organic virgin coconut oil, available in jars.
41. Lecithin granules Made from soya or sunflower seeds, lecithin contains a naturally occurring mixture of phospholipids. Phospholipids are an essential component of cell membranes and particularly important for brain health and the nervous system. They are also a nutrient-dense food on their own. Buy as granules.
42. MCT oil MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. It is comprised primarily of caprylic and capric fatty acids, and is a light-yellow, odourless, translucent liquid at room temperature. It is normally derived from coconut oil. MCT oil is processed by the liver and immediately burned to produce energy. It may increase metabolism, thereby helping you to burn fat. Buy in bottles.
43. Omega-3 and -6 oils There is a range of omega-rich oils that provide a good balance of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and -6. These include flaxseed oil, chia oil and hempseed oil, as well as omega-blended oils, which happen to also be nutrient-dense foods in their own right when unprocessed. Store these oils in the fridge. Buy as organic cold-pressed oils.
44. Kefir and kombucha are nutrient-rich, fermented drinks that have been used for thousands of years to promote health and vitality. They provide a wide variety of beneficial probiotic bacteria, which are essential for supporting overall health, immune function, digestion and detoxification. Some of the recipes include kombucha, water kefir, milk kefir or coconut kefir to boost your intake of these beneficial bacteria. You can either make your own fermented drinks or purchase them from health shops or online.
Nuts and Seeds
Many of the recipes in my book include nutrient-dense nuts and seeds to provide additional protein – essential for maintaining muscle mass – healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Super-seeds are:
45. Chia seed is a an exceptionally nutrient-dense food and rich source of protein, omega-3 fats and soluble fiber to balance blood sugar and support bowel health. It also contains valuable minerals including calcium and iron. Its high soluble-fiber content makes it absorb water very easily, making it plump up when added to liquids. Once digested, chia expands in the stomach, creating a sensation of fullness. Buy the whole seed for use in the recipes.
46. Flaxseed Like chia, flaxseed is a seed and food known for its exceptional nutrient-density fiber content and high levels of omega-3 fats. It also contains lignans, a type of phytochemical (plant chemical) that can help to balance hormone levels. A good source of protein, flaxseed is also useful for stabilizing blood sugar levels and supporting energy. Buy the ground flaxseed.
47. Hemp seed Hemp provides a wealth of nutrition, including good levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and fiber. It is also a rich source of minerals, especially iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium, making it one the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Hemp protein powder gives smoothies a rich, earthy flavour. The seeds add a lovely nutty flavour to drinks. Buy as soft, raw shelled hemp seeds.
In order to support a healthy weight loss and retain muscle, it is important to consume sufficient protein. For this reason, I have added protein powders to some of the recipes in my book. These can be particularly helpful in stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping you feeling fuller for longer as well as maintaining muscle mass, which is important for boosting metabolism.
If you are active or work out regularly, including protein powders post-training can assist your recovery, as they are nutrient-dense foods in terms of their amino acid content. Protein powders vary tremendously in terms of their constituents, so choose a high-quality powder without unnecessary fillers, additives and sweeteners. You will find a range of flavors, but I use plain, vanilla or chocolate in this book. Whey protein powders are popular and contain a good bioavailable source of amino acids and other components to support health; however, some people find dairy products difficult to digest. The recipes in this book use soya- and dairy-free vegan protein powders such as pea protein, hemp, rice or a sprouted superfood blend, which are also low in allergens and highly nutritious.
Supplements and Minerals
48. Collagen is a highly nutrient-dense food and natural protein component of the skin and the main building block for cells, tissues and organs. About one-third of the protein content in your body is made up of collagen, which is found in the bones, muscles and tissues of the organs. Collagen, keratin and elastin give the skin its strength, elasticity and structure. Taking a collagen supplement can be helpful for improving skin health, supporting the gut lining, the bones, joints and healthy muscle mass. It is normally derived from marine or bovine sources. Buy as a powder.
49. Colostrum is the first milk produced by breastfeeding mothers, and it is renowned for its immune-boosting properties and as a unique and powerful nutrient-dense food in its own right. Bovine colostrum is used as a supplement and has a similar structure to colostrum produced by humans. Research has supported its many health benefits, particularly for improving digestive function and nutrient absorption, but also for balancing the immune system, increasing energy and reducing inflammation. Buy as a powder or as capsules.
50. Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in the muscles and this makes it a popular supplement to use post-exercise to aid muscle recovery. Glutamine may also support the production of the growth hormone, which helps to improve muscle mass, making it ideal for weight loss programs. A key amino acid for the gut, glutamine also helps to repair and nourish the intestines and support immune function. Buy as a powder.
51. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic sulfur compound – an essential nutrient found in the body, playing a critical role in detoxification and in reducing inflammatory conditions. MSM is a beneficial nutrient for bone health, helping arthritis and improving joint flexibility. It has been shown to break down the calcification that is frequently associated with chronic inflammation, particularly in the arteries. It also increases the thickness and strength of nails and hair, and supports healthy skin. Buy as a powder.
52. Nutritional yeast flakes are formed from deactivated yeast and are a complete protein that is particularly rich in the B vitamins, making it a useful energizing and highly nutrient-dense food. Buy in tubs.
53. Probiotic powders Beneficial bacteria (probiotics) are naturally present in the gut and are vital for overall health, digestion, detoxification, immune function and can even influence our mood. Beneficial bacteria can be easily diminished through stress, medications and a poor diet and they are an important part of a nutrient-dense foods diet as they help us to absorb nutrients from food. Probiotic powders are a convenient way to increase your levels of healthy bacteria.
54. Shilajit is a brown pitch or tar that exudes from layers of rocks in several mountain ranges of the world, although it is often referred to as a herb. Because it possesses a range of minerals and itself is a highly nutrient-dense food, it is used as a supplement to mineralize the body. It also contains fulvic acid, which aids nutrient absorption as well as being a strong detoxifer. Buy as a powder or capsules.
55. Tocotrienols Commonly derived from rice bran, this highly nutrient-dense food provides a natural, concentrated source of bio-available vitamin E plus other nutrients and plant-based fats important for optimal health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals and adds a delicious, sweet flavor to a smoothie. Buy as capsules or as a powder.
56. Zeolite is a natural volcanic mineral and one of the most powerful negatively charged minerals in nature. It is used as a natural chelating agent that allows the release of toxins, pesticides and heavy metals from the body. It is commonly used as a detoxifer. Buy as a liquid or powder.
Juice Recipes Incorporating Nutrient-Dense Foods
+ 1 cucumber
+ 2 celery sticks
+ 1 handful of spinach leaves
+ 1⁄2 lemon, peeled
+ 1⁄4 tsp wheatgrass powder or green superfood blend
Wheatgrass powder is a fabulous weight loss aid and highly nutrient-dense food. It adds nutrient intensity to this light juice while boosting detoxification. You need only a little to increase your vitamin and mineral intake and benefit from its cleansing power. Put all the ingredients, except the wheatgrass, through an electric juicer. Stir in the wheatgrass and serve immediately.
Nutritional information per serving
Kcals 63 | Protein 4.4g | Carbohydrates 7.9g, of which sugars 6.7g | Fat 0.8g, of which saturates 0.1g
+ 2 carrots
+ 1⁄4 small pineapple, skin cut off 1cm/1⁄2in piece of root ginger
+ 2 handfuls of spinach leaves
+ a pinch of ground cinnamon
+ 1⁄2 tsp Maca powder
+ 100 ml/3.5fl oz/generous 1∕3 cup coconut water
Keep your energy high as you detox with this refreshing juice. Maca powder is an adaptogenic herb and nutrient-dense food, known to strengthen the body and help to maintain optimal stamina and endurance. It is ideal as a cleansing and caffeine-free energizer.
Put all the ingredients, except the cinnamon, maca and coconut water, through an electric juicer. Stir in the remaining ingredients, or transfer the juice to a blender or food processor and blend to combine. Serve the juice immediately.
Nutritional information per serving
Kcals 150 | Protein 4.1g | Carbohydrates 30g, of which sugars 24.5g | Fat 1.4g, of which saturates 0.3g
This article on nutrient-dense foods is excerpted with permission from The Supercharged Green Juice & Smoothie Diet by Christine Bailey.
About The Author
Christine Bailey is an award winning Nutritional Therapist, Functional Nutrition Practitioner, Chef, Author and Broadcaster with over 18 years of experience. Trained in Functional Nutrition and with a passion for creating delicious nourishing recipes Christine has a reputation for transforming people’s health and love of real food. True health and happiness is not about depriving your body or counting calories. It’s time to fall back in love with food and enjoy preparing, simple, delicious beautiful food that nourishes your body, mind & soul. Visit her website: christinebailey.co.uk