10 superfoods you should be eating for overall health

Load up on these nutrient powerhouses that help rev up your fat-burning engine, boost your stamina and protect your overall health.

Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, says eggs are the best protein source on the planet. They contain all nine essential amino acids that help your body to build muscle, repair tissue, and grow strong hair and nails. And take note: The more muscle you have, the greater your fat-burning potential, since it takes more calories to maintain muscle than fat.

Start your day with scrambled eggs instead of whole-grain waffles. Or get creative and cook an egg inside an avocado for a dose of healthy fats. Slice the avocado in half, remove the pit and carve out some space in the centre, then crack an egg into the hole. Bake in an oven at 220 deg C for a few minutes and voila!

These tiny black seeds are big on benefits – 28g contains 11g of fibre and 4g of protein, not to mention high amounts of calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorous, and vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Studies suggest they can help protect against the risk of heart disease and cancer, and boost energy. Gram for gram, chia seeds contain even more omega-3 fatty acid than salmon. With their neutral taste, the gluten-free seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. So start your day right with Morlife Chia Seeds ($64.90 for 1kg), which is available at Four Seasons Organic Market. They're great sprinkled over oatmeal, cereal or porridge, or added to yogurt or your favourite juices and smoothies. They can also be used in cooking to thicken sauces and casseroles, or added to baked goods and salads. For a quick energy boost, add one tablespoon to a glass of water and chug it.

A particularly sweet study found that daily consumption of around 28g of dark chocolate (about one square) reduced the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol for long periods of time can impair mental function, slow down healing and metabolism and destroy healthy muscle.

Researchers suspect that compounds in chocolate, like caffeine and theobromine, may be responsible for its positive effect. More reason to indulge in moderation: Another study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that adults who eat chocolate regularly are actually thinner than those who don’t, even though they consumed more calories and get the same amount of exercise. 

Look for chocolate that contains at least 70 per cent cocoa – the darker the better. Pair a square with a cappuccino for a mid-morning pick-me-up, or stir some chunks into homemade trail mix.

This root vegetable is a great source of nitrate, a compound that can help lower blood pressure and improve physical stamina. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2013 by scientists at the University of Exeter found that 600ml of concentrated beetroot juice, taken two and a half hours before exercise, helped increase stamina during moderate-intensity exercise. Beetroot is also rich in iron, magnesium and potassium, and vitamins C and B6. For an all-natural, performance-enhancing beverage, you can’t go wrong with Beet It Organic Beetroot Juice ($7.90 for 750ml), which is available at Four Seasons Organic Market. Blended with 10 per cent apple juice, the deep-purple juice is sweet, with hints of earthiness. There isn’t a more delicious or healthier way to boost your stamina and take your workout to the next level.

Nuts are filling and naturally curb calorie intake throughout the day. “Peanuts induce a strong thermic response, which means the process of digesting them actually burns calories,” says Dr Carol Johnston, professor and associate director at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that when people consumed 500 calories of peanuts daily for 19 weeks, their resting metabolic rate increased by 11 per cent – even without added exercise.

But don’t go nuts, as peanuts are calorie-dense. Keep a stash in your purse for a quick snack (aim for one ounce or about two tablespoons daily) or make a pad thai dish with ground peanuts for a delish fat-burning dinner.

This superfood has double the protein of most grains and three times the fibre of brown rice. It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. The low-GI (glycaemic index) food helps regulate blood sugar and increases the feeling of satiety, making it an ideal replacement for foods like rice, noodles and pasta. A great tasting, organically-grown brand to try is Eden Organic Red Quinoa Whole Grain ($13.90 for 454g), which is available at Four Seasons Organic Market. It boasts a mild, sweet flavour and texture that’s at once crunchy and fluffy, making it perfect for tossing into salads, or added to stews and soups for that extra bit of heartiness.

Animal studies show that plant chemicals in sesame seeds called lignans enhance fat burning by increasing liver enzymes that break down fat. “Many studies have found that essential fatty acids and protein increase metabolic rate, and sesame seeds are loaded with both,” explains Dr Christine Gerbstadt, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They’re also a rich source of minerals and fibre.

Roast sesame seeds (spread evenly on a baking sheet and put in an oven at 165 deg C for about 15 minutes until they’re golden brown and fragrant), then sprinkle on salads, soups, stir-fried vegetables, chicken and fish.

One yellow pepper supplies 341mg of vitamin C – nearly three and a half times the amount in a large orange. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and is essential for the production of collagen. A study in the Journal of Nutrition has also found that people with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood have lower BMIs and less body fat. 

This tropical fruit promotes digestive health and can possibly help the body to fight infections. About half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Many benefits have been attributed to using coconut oil, such as increased resistance to disease, energy boosts and improved thyroid function. Try Melrose Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil ($20.60 for 300ml), available at Four Seasons Organic Market. It's a cold-pressed oil that is not refined or processed, which preserves its health benefits while helping to retain its natural aroma and flavour. It can be used in shallow frying or as a replacement for butter in baking.

New research suggests that whey protein triggers satiety hormones, including an important one called cholecystokinin that sends your brain a “Hey, I’m full” signal. And whey, a protein found in milk, contains the muscle-building amino acid, leucine. “When you’re losing weight, eating whey protein can help reduce the loss of lean muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism revved,” says Dr Gerbstadt.

Mix whey protein powder into smoothies, yogurt and pudding; add it to the dry ingredients when you’re baking muffins or cookies; or stir it into oatmeal before cooking.

This article was originally published in Simply Her April 2015.