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What Really Is a Superfood?

BY KAMAL PATEL FOR EXAMINE.COM, MAY 12, 2015

A superfood is a food product that can be included in a meal or eaten by itself while providing supplement-like benefits. Some superfoods are claimed to even have medicinal properties, which can lead to a lot of hype.

Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of defining a superfood, new superfoods pop up in the media as often as a super-celebrity decides to share their favorite food with their fans.

 

Defining a superfood

 

Since there are no specific characteristics that define a superfood, marketers have an easy time promoting new products.

Some vegetables, like garlic, have evidence to support their superfood status. Garlic has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, cognition, and even fight off infections.

Other vegetables, like kale and acai, contain high levels of antioxidants, but lack studies and evidence to support their effects. Instead, the high levels of antioxidants are assumed to be ‘healthier,’ and the vegetables are labeled as superfoods regardless.

‘Superfood’ is essentially a marketing term. Putting garlic, kale, and other less-studied foods in one category is not helpful for people looking to improve their diet, since the food may or may not actually be good for you.

 

Eating well despite marketing

Instead of seeking out specific superfoods, aim to eat at least 10 servings of vegetables a day. If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, start by incorporating more of the vegetables you already like. For example, adding peppers and mushrooms to your steak will increase the fiber, potassium, and nitrate content of the meal.

The more fruit and vegetables you eat every day, the less you need to worry about including specific foods. People that eat fewer than 5 servings of vegetables a day can consider including specific foods based on their dietary goals. For example, eating beets will increase nitrate consumption, which has been shown to improve blood flow. Kale contains indoles, which have anti-cancer properties, while cranberries or pomegranates can protect against urinary tract infections.

 

Ignoring marketing labels

Eating a varied diet means there’s no reason to seek out ‘superfoods.’ Acai may contain a lot of antioxidants, but so do other vegetables. The term ‘superfood’ is used primarily to sell product and generate clicks. Luckily, eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean eating the foods discussed on television.