A superfood is something that is nutritionally dense. Many are plant based, but things like salmon also have made the list. What does it really mean to be a superfood? Is there any research or is it a marketing tool?
There isn’t a set criteria to determine which foods are superfoods. Foods on the superfood list have extra-large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help ward of diseases and support a longer, healthier life, but so do fruits and veggies not on the list. Many of the superfoods are high in antioxidants shown to reduce risk of cancer; healthy fats to reduce the risk of heart disease; fiber which helps with diabetes and digestive problems; or phytochemicals which have many health benefits such as reducing certain heart conditions in young women.
What’s on the list?
Blueberries because they are rich in vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals (but many other berries are too). Kiwifruit is very similar to berries in its nutritional value. It also contains serotonin, which is linked to depression and sleep.
Beans and whole grains are on the list because of their fiber content, loads of vitamins and minerals which are typically absent in American diets such as manganese. Quinoa is usually lumped in this group but it’s not a grain. It is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Nuts and seeds have high levels of minerals and healthy fats. You do have to go easy on them because they are high in calorie, but don’t cut them out of your diet.
Kale and other dark leafy greens such as collards, swiss chard, mustards, spinach, cabbages, and broccoli. These are great sources of vitamin A, C, and K. They also contain fiber, calcium and other minerals. Sweet potatoes and squashes can be thrown into this mix too. Their added benefit is they are sweet and don’t need anything added to them to be loved.
You’ve got salmon, sardines, and mackerel on the list because of their omega-3 fatty acids, which you can also get from many nuts (walnuts are the best) and seeds (flax and chia) as well as vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids lower your risk of heart disease.
Exotic fruits such as, acai berry, noni fruit, dragon fruit, rambutan and pomegranate, also end up on the list. It’s always fun to try new fruits and veggies, but if you think you’re getting something other superfoods don’t have your wrong.
I’ve also seen the following on the superfood list: goji berries, maca powder, cacao powder, hemp seeds, chia seeds, apples, cranberries, cauliflower, pumpkin, beets, lentils, papaya, seaweed, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, pineapple, spirulina (algae), and avocado, just to name a few.
Bottom line is scientist don’t use the term superfoods to describe any food. It appears that the term has been coined by marketing peeps. The best advice is to reduce the amount of processed food you eat. Buy whole grains, raw sugar, whole fruits and veggies. Eat different colored fruit and veggies.