What is a superfood?

The oxford dictionary defines superfood as “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Honestly, going by this definition, I think every single fruit and vegetable out there should be called a superfood. Generally speaking though, when people mention superfood, they mean foods that contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than others.

As a quick internet search will reveal, certain foods are touted as being superfoods since they supposedly contain higher amounts of nutrition. The most commonly referred to superfoods are berries (including blue berries, goji and açaí, maqui), cacao, seeds (flax, hemp), brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale), nuts (walnuts, almonds), pomegranate, avocado, coconut oil, seaweed, salmon and green tea.  Not far behind in this list are sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot, kefir (or even probiotic yogurt), eggs and oats. These are all nutrient dense foods, but here’s why you shouldn’t get too carried away by them.

These foods are extremely nutritious but sadly, the term ‘superfood’ is actually a marketing tool. A Frost & Sullivan Market Insight mentions that unfortunately, marketing channels create an undue hype about superfoods, sometimes without revealing the actual percentage concentration of a superfood used in the product. This is especially true in case of packaged products that advertise the superfood content in them.

For example, the product’s front label may highlight a superfood, while the actual ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, sodium benzoate and filler juices. Obviously then, these ingredients lower the nutritional value of the superfoods. Don’t let companies fool you into thinking a packaged product is healthy because of their use of the term ‘superfood’. Even if they do not use the word, you should be wary of packaged products highlighting any healthy food. Always read the label to look for ingredients that shouldn’t be there. Do not count on a packaged product to make you healthy unless it is organic and without sugar/ sweeteners and other additives. If you can pick these foods from a store in their whole, natural, unprocessed form – that’ll make you healthy. However, some in dried/ powdered form available at health stores aren’t bad, but do still read the labels. ‘Superfood’ juices are most likely to contain fillers and sweeteners.

All I wanted to say with this piece is don’t be hooked onto the word ‘superfood’. The list is constantly updated and changing, and fruits and vegetables not in the list but in their organic, unprocessed forms are also very nutritious. A front label advertising certain superfoods is not necessarily the best choice.



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