Are you looking to add a little more “super” to your plant-based diet? Then look no further. I’ve got the lowdown on all the best vegan-friendly superfoods out there as of 2023, guaranteed to make you feel like a nutritional superhero!
Whether you’re already a nab hand at cooking nutritious vegan meals or just looking to add some more plant-based power to your plate, these superfoods are the perfect way to up your game and give your body the love it deserves.
A well-balanced vegan diet that is made up of a good variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts, is already made up of a whole bunch of awesome vegan-friendly superfoods. Therefore, you may even be eating a few of these already!
See also: the amazing health benefits of a vegan diet
In this article, you’ll be joined by the likes of The Mighty Green Kale, The Antioxidant Avenger Acai, and spirulina, The Blue-Green Blaster. I am going to take you through each of these superhero foods and their potential benefits on your health!
So, grab your fork/blender/spoon and dig in!
What are superfoods?
The term “superfood” refers to nutrient-dense foods that are believed to provide a range of health benefits beyond basic nutrition. These foods are typically rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds.
While there is no official definition for the term “superfood”, nor is it legally defined, the concept has gained popularity in recent years due to the growing interest in healthy eating.
It’s important to note that while superfoods can be part of a healthy diet, they should not be relied on as a magic solution to health problems. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, whether they are labelled as ‘superfoods’ or not, will help you to lead a healthy and well-rounded diet.
See also: my comprehensive vegan nutrition guide
Here are the best vegan-friendly superfoods
1. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are small black seeds that come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico. They’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and plant-based protein. Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, which can help you feel fuller for longer.
Nutrition: One serving of chia seeds (1 ounce or 2 tablespoons) contains about 138 calories, 5 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of fibre, and 9 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Try out this chia pudding recipe for a tasty and nutritious breakfast
2. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant but contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. They’re a great source of protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and fibre. Hemp seeds can also help lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.
Nutrition: One serving of hemp seeds (1 ounce or 2 tablespoons) contains about 166 calories, 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, and 14 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle some hemp seeds into some bread dough to make a nutritious loaf, try out this spelt loaf with hemp seed recipe.
3. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are small, golden or brown seeds that come from the flax plant. They’re a great source of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant and estrogen-like properties. Flax seeds can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve digestive health.
Nutrition: One serving of ground flax seeds (1 ounce or 2 tablespoons) contains about 75 calories, 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fibre, and 6 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: You can use flax seed as a vegan egg replacer in most baking recipes. You can also sprinkle it on top of some vegan yoghurt or blend it into a smoothie.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in both salt and freshwater. It’s a rich source of protein, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3. Spirulina is also high in antioxidants, which can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Nutrition: One serving of spirulina powder (1 teaspoon) contains about 20 calories, 4 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 0.5 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Spirulina has quite a strong taste but you can combat this by blending it into a green smoothie with kale, apple juice, and cucumber.
5. Acai berries
Acai berries are small, purple berries that grow on acai palm trees in South America. They’re high in antioxidants, fibre, and heart-healthy fats. Acai berries are also a good source of vitamins A and C.
Nutrition: One serving of acai berries (100 grams or 1/2 cup) contains about 70 calories, 1 gram of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, and 5 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Blend up acai berries into a berry smoothie or eat them with some vegan yoghurt. If you have the powdered version, then this also works well in smoothies.
6. Goji berries
Goji berries are small, bright red fruits that grow on a plant called Lycium barbarum. They are often considered a vegan superfood due to their high nutrient content. Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. They also contain vitamins C and A, iron, and zinc. Antioxidants in goji berries help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, while vitamins and minerals support immune function, healthy blood, and wound healing.
Nutrition: One serving of goji berries is typically around 1/4 to 1/2 cup, providing around 100-200 calories, 2-4 grams of protein, 10-20 grams of carbohydrates, and 0-1 gram of fat.
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle goji berries on top of a smoothie bowl or simply snack on them throughout the day as they are!
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that originated in South America. It’s a complete protein source with all 9 essential amino acids, making it an excellent plant-based protein for vegans. Quinoa is also high in fibre, magnesium, and iron.
Nutrition: One serving of cooked quinoa (1/2 cup) contains about 111 calories, 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fibre, 20 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.5 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Use quinoa in place of rice in any of your favourite dishes, like with my Rose Harissa Stew. I also like to add a cupful of quinoa to a vegan chilli con carne to thicken it up.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, which also includes broccoli and cabbage. It’s a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Kale is also rich in antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lutein, which can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, it contains flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Nutrition: One cup of raw kale (approximately 67 grams) provides about 33 calories, 2.9 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of fibre, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 0.6 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: The possibilities are endless with kale, but I recommend tearing it up and cooking it into a curry or baking it in the oven to make kale chips.
9. Cacao powder
Cacao comes from the Theobroma cacao tree and is the raw form of chocolate. It’s high in antioxidants, iron, and magnesium. Cacao can also help improve mood and cognitive function.
Nutrition: One serving of cacao powder (1 tablespoon) contains about 20 calories, 1 gram of protein, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, and 1 gram of fat.
Serving suggestion: Use cacao powder to make a delicious vegan hot chocolate that is surprisingly healthy!
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and is known for its bright yellow color. Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. While the amounts of vitamins and minerals in turmeric are relatively small, it’s the curcumin that gives turmeric its superfood status. Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, and may help alleviate symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Additionally, curcumin has potent antioxidant properties, which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Nutrition: One teaspoon of ground turmeric (approximately 2.8 grams) provides 9 calories, 0.3 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of carbohydrates, 0.6 grams of fibre and 0.2 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: I recommend using fresh turmeric for the best results. You can grate it into a curry or dhal, or you can blend it into a fruit-based smoothie.
Maca is a root vegetable that grows in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It’s high in antioxidants and adaptogens that can help balance hormones and reduce stress. Maca is also a good source of vitamins C and copper.
Nutrition: One serving of maca powder (1 tablespoon) contains about 20 calories, 1 gram of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.5 grams of fat.
Serving suggestion: Maca powder pairs nicely with sweet foods so you can add it to a vegan cookie recipe or your morning smoothie.
Vegan superfood FAQs
What is a vegan superfood?
The term “superfood” generally refers to nutrient-dense foods that are believed to have a range of health benefits beyond their basic nutritional content. A vegan superfood is one which is purely plant-based.
There are many vegan foods that could be considered “superfoods” based on their nutrient profile, but some popular examples include:
Chia seeds, kale, quinoa, acai berries, turmeric and maca.
It’s worth noting that while these foods are certainly nutritious, there is no one “superfood” that can provide all of the nutrients the body needs. A balanced and varied diet that includes a range of whole, plant-based foods is the best way to ensure optimal health and nutrition.
What is a healthy vegan diet?
A healthy vegan diet is one that provides all of the necessary nutrients for good health while excluding animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. To achieve this, a balanced vegan diet should include:
- A variety of whole plant foods: This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Including plenty of vegan superfoods!
- Sufficient protein: Plant-based protein sources include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, and seeds.
- Healthy fats: Plant-based fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are important sources of essential fatty acids.
It’s important to note that simply eliminating animal products from your diet does not guarantee a healthy vegan diet. Just like any other diet, a healthy vegan diet requires planning, variety, and balance to ensure all nutrient needs are met.
Read my guide on what food is suitable for vegans to get the lowdown on all things plant-based!