- October 16, 2022
- Modified On: September 19, 2022
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
30 Plant-Based Superfoods
Looking for plant-based superfoods? Look no further than this list of vegetarian superfoods and vegan superfoods!
Wanting to eat more plant-based superfoods these days? You’re in luck, because this list is filled with some of the healthiest summer vegan and vegetarian superfoods out there!
What is a superfood?
What makes a plant-based superfood? Superfoods are super in the sense that they are extremely nutritious foods that support your health.
But no singular food is the cure all for anything. Eating a balanced, healthy diet that includes the foods we peg as superfoods is really what it’s all about.
That’s why I don’t love the term “superfood.” It implies that other healthy foods are less superior, or if that you were to eat only kale for the foreseeable future that that would be a good thing.
But I get asked about plant-based super foods super often, so I put together this list for you.
So before we get into a conversation about these plant-based superfoods, I want to make a few things clear.
Yes, you should incorporate the foods I’m about to share with you into a healthy, balanced diet. That includes both vegetarian and vegan superfoods.
But no, you shouldn’t exclude other healthy foods, unless they’re ones that you choose not to eat. And you can eat too much of a good thing. Even calories from multiple servings of banana-based chocolate nice cream add up!
Now, onto the list of those best vegetarian and vegan superfoods!
30 plant-based superfoods
Most people assume healthy eating requires drastic changes from day one. But my wellness strategy is a little bit different!
I like to recommend small changes to add in plant-based superfoods to your diet, such as adding seasonal veggies to dinner or switching up a mid-afternoon snack.
Swaps like these don’t take a lot of time or effort, but they do add up to pretty big changes over time!
Without further ado, here’s my list of the top plant-based superfoods.
1. Bell peppers
Did you know green and yellow bell peppers can help your skin health? Yup, they can help decrease wrinkling in the crow’s foot area! Plus, they’re a terrific source of fiber.
They’re delicious sliced and paired with guacamole (and eaten raw), or in a grilled corn salad.
This is such a delicious gem of a vegetable, making it a top vegan superfood!
For just about 30 calories per cup, you get fiber, protein, immunity-helping vitamin C, and disease-fighting vitamin E. Grill up asparagus, or roast up lemon garlic asparagus.
I love kale. Why am I singing this green gem’s praises? Well, it’s a prime source of lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins very important for eye health. This makes it one of the top plant-based superfoods out there.
When you eat lutein and zeaxanthin, they’re deposited directly into the eye and work as natural sunblock to help filter harmful blue wavelengths of light that can damage sight.
This means that as part of an overall healthy diet, the veggies could help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a landmark study published in American Journal of Ophthalmology.
4. Frozen broccoli
“I love the convenience and versatility of frozen vegetables,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, the host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and co-author of The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers.
“Broccoli contains fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K,” she says. “I love to use frozen broccoli in my Creamy Broccoli Soup Makeover recipe. It’s easy, hearty, comforting, and nourishing—and has 9 grams of fiber per serving!”
5. Frozen peas
“My kids love peas frozen better than cooked ones for an easy side dish,” says Heather Hall, RDN, LD, CLT, a dietitian at Food Medicine 101. Plus, peas provide satiating protein and fiber––making them a surprising vegan superfood.
6. Frozen corn
Corn might be a surprising vegetarian superfood, but it’s loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. “Frozen corn makes an easy addition to black beans and it tastes better than canned,” says Tessa Comstock, RD. It also tastes great in a honey lime corn salad.
7. Frozen green beans
“A lot of healthy eaters skip the frozen veggies, but I always have them on hand,” says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, co-author of Sugar Shock.
“When I start to run out of fresh produce mid-week, I can always turn to something in the freezer,” she says. “Not only are they just as nutritious as fresh veggies, they don’t require any prep.”
“And they can be easily seasoned with pesto or coconut aminos or jazzed up with chopped walnuts or slivered almonds.”
Berries contain antioxidants—those are what give them their vibrant colors. And these antioxidants help prevent inflammation and also help to prevent chronic disease. Add them to a smoothie or overnight oats.
Not only do prunes boast antioxidants, they also offer many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K. The benefits don’t stop there: By eating five to six prunes a day, you can help your bone health.
Add prunes to anything from a smoothie to brownies.
10. Frozen wild blueberries
Here’s a vegetarian superfood that’s always in my freezer! I add frozen wild blueberries to anything from a blueberry peanut butter smoothie to wild blueberry lemon nice cream.
The berries are a great source of anthocyanins, which may benefit your brain health, heart health, and even your skin health.
11. Frozen cherries
“This is a super easy and convenient way to add flavor and nutrients to yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies,” says Josten Fish, RD, a dietitian at Muscle and Manna.
Add frozen cherries to a cherry oatmeal bowl. Cherries contain health-helping antioxidants, as well as health-helping fiber.
“I like having shelled edamame as a freezer staple,” says Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, a vegan registered dietitian at Nutritious Vida.
“It makes for the perfect addition to salads and soups—or can even be a quick snack,” she says. “Edamame is a great plant-protein. And for anyone wanting to eat more plant-forward meals, this makes a convenient item to have on hand.”
Tofu is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. This makes it a top plant-based superfood. Make an easy baked tofu dish!
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, chickpeas are one of the easiest ingredients that can quickly add filling protein and fiber to a summer dish. The canned variety makes doing so even easier. I like to whip up a vegan cookie dough.
15. Canned beans
“I keep a variety in my pantry at all times because they’re so versatile for recipes from tacos and quesadillas, to chili, dips, and even bean brownies,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, author of How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook.
“They’re also full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and protein,” she says.
16. Olive oil
Research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that eating olive oil or nuts as part of a regular diet could lead to more weight loss, versus eating a reduced-fat diet!
You can use this heart-healthy fat to cook up almost anything with. “I use this to make easy dips,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, author of My Indian Table.
“These are packed with nutrients that are great for brain health,” says EA Stewart, RD, a gluten-free blogger at The Spicy RD.
“For the best prices, I stock up on nuts when I’m at Costco or Trader Joe’s. I use them in smoothies, on yogurt, or to top off overnight oats.” You can also use ’em to make almond butter protein balls.
18. Almond butter
“I keep nut butters on hand for good fats, vitamin E, and protein,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. Add almond butter to chocolate almond butter balls.
“I use tahini regularly in salad dressings, marinades, and even homemade energy bites,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, author of Planted Performance.
“I recommend tahini to people with a nut allergy because it’s a paste similar to nut butter, but it’s made with sesame seeds,” she says.
“Two Tablespoons of tahini has about 5 grams of plant-based protein and plenty of healthy fats to keep you full,” she adds. “I use tahini as the glue that holds these Oatmeal Protein Balls together.”
“For dinner, I will have salmon, some kind of whole grain like quinoa, and a pile of cooked veggies like snap peas or asparagus,” says Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, author of Pregnancy Cooking and Nutrition for Dummies.
“I love to put sliced almonds, walnuts or pine nuts with my veggies to add a little more healthy fat, protein and fiber.” Dietitian Chris Ruzicka Edge is also a fan. “The nutty flavor, high protein content, fiber, and gluten-free properties make it a versatile grain,” she says.
“I tend to make a big pot of it since it take about 20 minutes to cook, and I freeze smaller portions that can be pulled out and defrosted quickly,” adds Ruzicka Edge. When I’m hungry, sometimes I can’t wait 20 minutes to cook and eat!”
21. Whole-grain pasta
Yup, pasta can be a plant-based superfood! Keep things fun by having several different varieties on hand. Think regular pasta, whole-wheat flour, and pasta made from beans.
You can also go for different shapes, such as penne, macaroni elbows, and spaghetti.
“I use oats to make a filling, fiber-packed breakfast,” says Kyla Kurczewski, RDN, LD, NASM-CP, owner of KYLA Nutrition & Wellness and author of Mastering the Art of Grocery Shopping.
“I also grind them into flour to make pancakes, cookies, and other baked treats—or to make energy bites for a quick snack.” Other dietitians are a fan, too.
“My favorite breakfast is hot oatmeal topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a big dollop of Greek yogurt,” says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and author of Nutrition & You.
You can also make mango oatmeal with this vegetarian superfood!
This ancient grain with a chewy texture originates from the Middle East and is for sure a plant-based superfood. Freekeh is protein rich, with 8 grams per quarter-cup serving.
It’s also rich in fiber, with 4 grams per serving. And it contains minerals such as zinc, which is good for the immune system, and manganese, important for blood sugar control.
Stuff a bell pepper with freekeh, make a cold salad with goat cheese and chickpeas, or mix it with onions, garlic and spinach.
This tiny ancient grain originates from East Asia. It can be purchased as a hulled grain in many colors—white, yellow, red or gray—and the cracked version is sometimes made into couscous.
You can also buy it as a puffed cereal, or you can pop it into a “popcorn.” Millet is protein-rich, with 6 grams per quarter cup, along with 4 grams fiber. It also boasts important minerals such as copper, manganese, and magnesium.
25. Wheat berries
This vegetarian superfood tastes delicious in a cold pasta salad-–pair them with dried cranberries, pecans, and diced apples; or use the grains in tabbouleh for a chewier bite.
Wheat berries contain more fiber (6 grams per quarter cup) than any other grain we’ve talked about, plus 6 grams protein—and pack a dose of iron.
This is another ancient grain and plant-based superfood. It’s rich in the essential amino acid lysine (essential, meaning you must get it from food), which helps build and repair tissues in the body.
A ¼-cup serving of amaranth also contains a good amount of calcium.
27. Fortified cereal
When it comes to plant-based superfoods, don’t forget about cereal!
Cereal is the No. 1 source of whole grain and fiber for all Americans at breakfast, and it’s also the top source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and vitamin A for all Americans at breakfast.
That’s a lot of nutrients for a vegan superfood!
28. Plant-based milk
Shelf-stable milk is fantastic to have on hand. You can use it in cereal, in a healthy coffee smoothie, and more. The good news is that even though soybeans are one of the top eight major food allergens, soybean allergies are actually less common than you might think.
A study in Nutrition Today found that the prevalence of soybean allergies to be lower than the prevalence of the other top seven allergens that include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and wheat.
29. Vegetable broth
“I use this to add to tomatoes and beans to make chili, soup, or a vegetarian cassoulet,” says Denise Barratt, MS, RD, a dietitian at Vine Ripe Nutrition and author of Farm Fresh Nutrition. Use vegetable broth to whip up a creamy cauliflower soup.
30. Dark chocolate
Yes, I’m telling you to eat dark chocolate in moderation–especially if you want to reduce the risk of heart disease! Yup, studies show this benefit.
Chocolate is a sweet treat and can be good for your health. A study in the journal Heart shows that regular consumption may help heart health, resulting in a reduced risk of heart disease and strike.
Regular chocolate intake can also help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Dark chocolate is the healthiest type of chocolate, as it contains the most disease-fighting antioxidants. Yum!
Additional plant-based superfoods
Add these vegan superfoods to your list, too.
- Acai berries
- Collard greens
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Avocado oil
- Brussels sprouts
- Chia seeds
- Goji berries
- Green tea
- Hemp seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
What other nutrient-dense foods would you add to this list of the best superfoods?
When it comes to shopping for plant-based superfoods––and incorporating them into your diet––you have a very large list of vegan and vegetarian superfoods.
Try as many of these vegan superfoods as you can, and remember that variety goes a long way to taking in a plethora of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
- A landmark study published in American Journal of Ophthalmology
- Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, the host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and co-author of The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers
- Heather Hall, RDN, LD, CLT, a dietitian at Food Medicine 101
- Tessa Comstock, RD
- Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, co-author of Sugar Shock
- Josten Fish, RD, a dietitian at Muscle and Manna
- Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, a vegan registered dietitian at Nutritious Vida
- Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition
- Research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
- Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, author of My Indian Table
- EA Stewart, RD, a gluten-free blogger at The Spicy RD
- Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim
- Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City
- Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, author of Pregnancy Cooking and Nutrition for Dummies
- Chris Ruzicka Edge, RD
- Kyla Kurczewski, RDN, LD, NASM-CP, owner of KYLA Nutrition & Wellness and author of Mastering the Art of Grocery Shopping
- A study in Nutrition Today
- Denise Barratt, MS, RD, a dietitian at Vine Ripe Nutrition and author of Farm Fresh Nutrition
- A study in the journal Heart
I’d love your thoughts! What are your favorite plant-based superfoods? What would you add to this list of vegetarian superfoods?
- bell pepper
- dark chocolate
- flax seeds
- goji berries
- hemp hearts
- meal planning
- pomegranate juice
- weight management
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