Once you've created a baseline of healthy eating habits, it's not the time to get passive. The science of nutrition is constantly advancing, and there are an endless number of new discoveries—especially in the realm of superfoods.
These five nutrient-dense superfoods will automatically enhance your diet and take your meals to the next nutritional level.
Raw Cacao1 of 6
Can't give up chocolate? There's a reason for that: It has a natural mood-enhancing effect. Cocoa-rich chocolate provides some healthy fats and antioxidants, but commercial milk chocolate is far too high in fat and sugar for a worthwhile trade-off.
A much better choice is ditching it altogether for a healthier replacement. Raw cacao is chocolate in its most natural form, made from the bean before it's processed into cocoa.
It also has 20 times the antioxidants of dark chocolate and has natural MAO inhibitors that decrease appetite. It also boosts serotonin levels, protects against free radicals and contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Add it to nut-milk and honey for a healthy hot chocolate or investigate its use in many mouthwatering vegan desserts.
Coconut Oil2 of 6
You might have heard the recent buzz about oils. Deciding which fat to cook with has become a crucial health decision. The excessive amount of omega-6 in vegetable oil can cause a cellular imbalance, and while olive oil is a nutritionally rich option when raw, heat destroys many of these benefits.
Coconut oil is a naturally occurring saturated fat that is significantly less susceptible to heat. It also promotes weight loss through its numerous medium-chain triglycerides, which helps cells efficiently convert to energy rather than fat.
Other health benefits include its ability to lower blood pressure, improve brain function, increase immune system and target stomach fat.
Whole Grains3 of 6
You have likely heard of the importance of whole grains. They're high in fiber, help regulate blood sugar and help you feel fuller for longer.
For athletes, whole grains should be your bread and butter (pun intended). Did you know that refined grain also has some pretty detrimental effects on health? Not only does it increase visceral adipose tissue, a fat surrounding the vital abdominal organs, it can also cause the thickening of arteries that leads to heart disease.
Switch to whole grain for an easy-to-make change that will have significant results.
Watercress4 of 6
Salad is a great fallback for a healthy diet. It's high in nutrients and low in calories. That being said, are you really getting the most out of your lettuce lunches and snacks? Common salad-leaves are actually pretty nutritionally sparse.
Add different leafy greens to your salad to ensure a more diverse range of nutrients. Watercress ranked highest for antioxidant amount and nutrient density, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health benefits include improved cognition, due to the high folate levels; more vitamin C than an orange; and it's packed with antioxidants and calcium.
Spirulina5 of 6
Put down the pill bottles and get your nutritional boosts from natural sources instead, starting with blue-green algae, like spirulina.
Easily absorbed, this sea vegetable provides eight essential and ten non-essential amino acids alongside 65 vitamins, minerals and enzymes. A NASA study praised one gram of spirulina as equivalent to 1000 grams of fruits and vegetables.
It is also packed with anti-inflammatory properties and increases energy, endurance, speed and mental agility. If that's not enough, it can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol and suppress appetite.