Is a “superfood” really a super food? A superfood is considered to be a food that is rich in nutrients and has superior health benefits to the human body. This notion came about in the 20th century, with spinach being the forerunner touted for “superfood” powers.
Some examples of “superfoods” today are:
Claim: boost immune system and brain activity, and fight against cancer and heart disease
Reality: Antioxidant reports tout 13 glasses of goji juice = 1 red apple, however specific antioxidant diversity is unknown. Most sources are sold as dried berries furthering the difficulty of comparison. Major caveat is that they’re often grown in China where there may be contaminated with heavy metals
Claim: higher protein than any other grain and high fiber content, gluten free
Reality: like all grains, not a complete protein, but higher in protein-building amino acids than wheat, as with ALL grains, those with Celiac may react.
Claim: high in potassium and magnesium
Reality: also high in natural sugars, so can be problematic for those trying to manage blood sugars or with chronic yeast imbalances, but a far better option than Gatorade or the commercial alternatives for replenishment after rigorous exercise when your body craves natural sugars and electrolytes.
Claim: double the antioxidants as blueberries and touted for weight loss
Reality: true about the antioxidants, though double the expense of blueberries and not proven for weight loss, not freshly grown in the US
Claim: neutralizes pH, detoxifies, superior nutrient content than any other vegetable
Reality: a lot of plants and your body itself are good pH regulators and good at getting rid of toxins in your body; pound for pound, the same nutrient content as other veggies
Some great whole food sources of nutrients are: spinach, parsley, romaine, red pepper, pumpkin, broccoli, carrot, tomato, salmon, nuts and organic strawberries. Good news is that you may already have those on your grocery list!
Undoubtedly, these foods have some pretty great nutrients in their natural package, and it would benefit to include them in a balanced diet, but when do we draw the line at dubbing a food super? In reality, these “superfoods” would be more accurately named “nutritious, unprocessed, whole foods that come from nature”.
When it comes to nourishing our bodies and ensuring a balanced nutrient intake for good health and well-being, it is important to remember: variety and moderation. In general, it is beneficial to increase our fruit and vegetable intake, as well as to focus on less processed foods. The variety of nutritious foods in our diets is arguably more important than focusing solely on a handful of foods claimed to be super.
Yours in health,
Starkel Nutrition Student Intern
*It is important to note that no extensive studies have been done on the direct effect superfoods have on disease prevention and health in general.