Superfoods are nutritionally dense plant-based foods containing high levels of vitamins and minerals — and they’re a great source of antioxidants that provide your body with protection against cell damage and diseases. While most of these foods can be purchased at farmer’s markets and the grocery store, you can also grow many of them in your own garden.
- Chia Seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
- Goji Berries
Blueberries are among the most popular superfoods. They’re packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids (which help protect us from stress). In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties in blueberries can help lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
Research shows blueberries can also improve cognitive function. A study from the University of Cincinnati found these superfoods enhance memory and learning function in older adults. The research showed that a high intake of flavonoids from berries can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
You can plant blueberries in the early spring. You just need pick the right variety for your climate and make sure your soil will provide the right growing conditions. For blueberries to thrive, the soil must be moist, high in organic matter, very acidic, and well-aerated. It’s best to do a soil test before you start planting.
Quinoa is a super grain that’s high in fiber and protein. In fact, it has the highest protein content of any grain and is high in iron and potassium. A half cup of this superfood contains 14 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.
It may look like other grains, but quinoa tastes a little different. It has a mild, nutty flavor and comes in a fluffy texture. It can be cooked like rice and incorporated into tons of recipes. You can use quinoa for making pancakes, salads, burgers, and even muffins.
Quinoa grows best in an environment where the temperature doesn’t exceed 90 degrees. In many northern states, the best time to plant quinoa is from late April to May. The soil should be most and seeds shouldn’t be sown more than one quarter-inch deep.
We often hear that greens are good for our health, and when it comes to plant-based food, kale is a real powerhouse. A cup of kale contains 14 percent of your recommended daily calcium, over 600 percent of your daily vitamin A, and more than 900 percent of your daily vitamin K. This superfood is also a very good source of iron. A serving of kale is packed with more iron than an ounce of beef.
One of the best things about using kale is that it’s so versatile. You can braise it, turn it into chips, add it to a morning smoothie, or incorporate it in your favorite dishes like mac and cheese.
Growing kale on your own isn’t hard. All you need is a sunny area where you can sow the seeds during early summer or spring. Although this vegetable grows best in sunny spots, it can also stand shade better than many vegetables. You can start harvesting the leaves between three to four months after sowing the seeds.
“Chia” is a Mayan word meaning “strength,” and chia seeds were a source of energy for the Mayans. Chia seeds contain more protein than many other grains. They’re also rich in calcium (in fact they have five times more calcium than milk), they’re packed with omega 3 and six fatty acids, and are believed to have more antioxidants than blueberries. Research shows that aside from boosting energy, chia seeds also promote digestive function.
When planting chia seeds, it’s important to spread the seeds carefully; give them plenty of space to grow, then cover them gently with soil. The seeds should be watered daily. You can expect chia sprouts just a week after planting them.
Sweet potatoes are tuberous roots that were a major source of nourishment for soldiers during the Revolutionary War. They’re considered one of the most nutritious foods in the vegetable kingdom as they’re packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium.
These potatoes are naturally sweet and can be prepared in a variety of ways - mashed, baked, or incorporated into your favorite dishes. They make great substitutes for products like white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes grow well in loamy soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.2. These plants need proper aeration and should be planted between 12 to 18 inches apart. Although sweet potatoes can grow in relatively poor soil, they grow better with a little fertilizer. These vegetables are ready to harvest when the ends of their vines begin to turn yellow.
A native plant of North Africa, Asia, and Europe, beets are among the vegetables with high sugar content, and if eaten in moderation, they can provide many health benefits. They can help lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, prevent cancer, and boost immune system function. They’re rich in vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like manganese and potassium.
The leafy green tops of the beets can also be eaten. Beet greens are rich in protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium, copper, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Research shows that beet greens help fight off osteoporosis, boost immune system function, and provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Beets grow well in a cooler environment. They thrive best in soil with temperature between 60 to 65 degrees.
When planting beets, remember to sow the seeds a half-inch deep in an area where they’re protected from heavy winds. These plants should be placed at least 2 to 3 inches apart as overcrowding will lead to poor development of the roots. This won’t be a problem though if you’re only after the leafy tops.
Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They contain vitamins C, A, B2, iron, and selenium, plus antioxidants that help boost immune system function, reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, and improve overall health. These berries are also great sources of antioxidants and other phytonutrients, which contribute to eye and skin health.
Goji berries are perennial plants, and are very adaptable and can grow in containers.
These are just some of the superfoods you can grow on your own. It may take patience, but the payoff is you can have all the superfoods you need right inside your yard — plus even before you eat them, you get the benefits of growing them, including being outside, being active, witnessing the miracle of nature, and reducing your stress.