Are Superfoods that Super?

By now, you have likely heard the word “superfood” once or twice. Superfoods are defined as foods with a high, rich nutritional value and overall health benefits.

The term “superfood” is widely used as a marketing tool to target people in the healthy and clean eating space. Superfoods are also known as “powerhouse foods” or “top 10 foods.” Scientists and nutrition experts prefer not to call these foods by that name. However, trendy diets and popular advertising campaigns promote superfoods to be an important part to losing weight, slowing aging and clearing your system. So, what does it all mean? Are superfoods as powerful as they are claimed to be?

The earliest recorded use of the word superfood was mentioned back in the 20th century in a marketing strategy for certain types of foods. The difference in the 21st century is that superfoods appear on our social media feeds and articles on a consistent basis, boosting overall sales for superfoods. Throughout this article, the most popular superfoods are examined, so that you can make an informed decision on your healthy purchases.

Types of Superfoods

The key to a healthy diet is to consume various types of nutritious food to maintain a balance in your body. In the right quantities, superfoods can be very beneficial to you. The good news is that many of the foods labeled as “super” may already be those you consume on a regular basis.  Below you will find the many different types of identified superfoods:

  • Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries are all classified as superfoods. Berries are high in vitamins and antioxidants, which could help lower risks for heart disease, specifically in young women.
  • Kale – Kale is one of the most popular superfoods. Kale is high in vitamin A and C and is a widely used salad garnish or base. Kale also contains fair amounts of protein and fiber.
  • Salmon – The American Heart Association recommends you incorporate fish into your diet two to three times a week, at the least. Salmon is a fatty fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to slow any plaque growing on your arteries and reduce triglycerides in your body, which are the form of chemical fats in most foods.
  • Nuts and seeds – Both nuts and seeds contain a high level of healthy fats, which makes them a common addition on superfood lists. Dieticians encourage consumption of nuts but in moderation because even though the fats are healthy, they are still fats and can lead to weight gain when eaten in high quantities.
  • Beans and whole grains – Beans are an excellent source of fiber, making them a standard addition to most superfood lists. Along with being an excellent fiber source, beans are low in fat and high in protein to help keep you full for longer periods of time. Whole grains have similar benefits to beans, with a bit less protein. Whole grains are not stripped of their nutrients during processing, making them a great source of nutrients for your body.
  • Dark chocolate – Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, which helps keeps cells healthy. However, dark chocolate is high in fat and calories, which is why it should only be enjoyed in moderation.

Other foods that often show up on superfood lists are green tea, olives and yogurt. All the above foods are valuable to introduce in to your diet, if you are not already doing so. Through benefits like antioxidants, proteins and healthy fats, these superfoods are known to be an asset to your health. Antioxidants are thought to ward off cancer, and healthy fats are thought to help prevent heart disease. The increased use of superfoods in American diets could prove significant in future studies as currently heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States.

An ideal diet contains an abundance of plant-based foods with various fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Healthy animal products are encouraged as well, like turkey, fish and chicken. Superfoods can be a great launching pad in to a healthy eating lifestyle.

Superfoods Criticism

Though the above superfoods do add many benefits to your diet in moderation, there is a lot of criticism surrounding the term and the identified foods. First, as mentioned, the term “superfood” is a term that was created purely for marketing purposes. The superfoods criticism started as soon as the term was introduced to consumers. Several peer-reviewed articles and studies on superfoods claim they can be harmful if introduced in to your diet due to the processing procedures. While the food groups themselves may be healthy, the processing of the food groups may not be, in turn making them harmful to your diet.

A good example of this is green tea. Green tea sold in the United States can have high amounts of sugar and be blended with other teas. Green tea alone has plenty of antioxidants to help with digestion. Countries like Japan and China do not use sugar in their green tea. Other juices like pomegranate, cranberry and acai berry can often be high in sugar. It is always good to check the label for these reasons. Fruits without added sugars still contain a calorie amount that might not coincide with your diet. Therefore, it is important to eat all foods within moderation.

When food is labeled as “superfood” or “healthy,” people tend to generalize all foods labeled like this to be exactly as advertised. In turn, these generalizations create a mindset that all superfoods and healthy foods can be consumer in unlimited quantities, which is simply not the case. You can gain weight from eating too much healthy food. Second, the term “superfoods” holds no presence in the industry with professional scientists and nutritionists. However, consumers see the label of “superfood” and end up picking one vegetable over another. The superfood mindset prompts consumers to say, “Is broccoli the better vegetable over asparagus?” When in reality, there is no evidence speaking to one food or group of foods is the cure to disease or better health.

Related Article: What is Preventative Health Care?

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