What is a Superfood?Published on Monday, March 06, 2023 by
When shopping the aisles of the grocery store, I often get distracted by colorful packaging and claims that an item is a “superfood”.
I immediately picture myself gaining super strength or super energy by loading up my cart with these choices. But what exactly is a superfood, and will it give me the super benefits it claims?
It is important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recognize “superfood” as an official term. This means that there is no regulatory body approving the labeling of specific items as a superfood. Instead, the term is often used by a company as a marketing tool to boost sales, or it is attributed to specific foods that are trending by the media.
However, the term generally references nutrient-dense foods that contain moderate to high amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fatty acids, and/or fiber.
Oftentimes there is some research to indicate that these foods can contribute to disease prevention. “Superfoods” tend to be minimally processed, low in calories, and low in added sugar. Some examples of commonly named superfoods include leafy greens, whole grains, berries, and nuts.
Because many superfoods offer a big bang for our buck nutrient-wise, they can be excellent foods to incorporate into your diet. When I come across a new superfood in the store, I ask myself a series of questions to determine if I should buy them. These include:
- Is the food processed and packaged? If yes, what other ingredients are in the item? Added sugar? Saturated fats?
- Is there an obvious way I can incorporate this into my diet? For example, can I sprinkle it on top of a salad or add it to my oatmeal?
- If there isn’t an obvious way I can add it to my diet, do I have the time to try a new recipe this week?
- Does this item fit within my grocery budget for the week, or is there a more affordable option? For example, can I purchase fresh dates for cheaper than it costs to buy a pre-packaged date product?
- Have I tried it before and enjoyed it? If not, leave it behind and find another powerhouse food that will satisfy me more.
When it comes to disease prevention, a general, well-balanced diet includes a variety of foods from all food groups and is limited in saturated fats, processed meats, and added sugars. If your diet is loaded with these less healthful choices, no single food or “superfood” can outweigh the negative. Instead, I recommend trying to get as many nutrient-rich items in your overall diet as you can.
A good guideline is to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with a protein source, a quarter with a fiber-rich carbohydrate, and a source of heart-healthy fat. If one or more of these items on your plate claims to be a “superfood”, then great! You are well on your way to fueling your body to give it all the energy and strength you need through the power of a “super plate”.
- Kaputk. (2022, December 8). What is a superfood, anyway? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-a-superfood/
- American institute on cancer research (n.d). AICR’s foods that fight cancer and foods to steer clear of, explained. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/food-facts/
Savannah DuffyMS, RDN, LD