The Truth About Superfoods, Plus 10 To Try
The Oxford English dictionary defines a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being," while the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a super nutrient-dense food, loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and/or phytonutrients.”
However, the unsettling truth about superfoods is that there is no formal or academic definition of the term. It actually seems to have originated in a 20th century marketing campaign for bananas, which are seldom named a superfood today.
Now, though, food research has become more advanced and information can be spread more quickly than ever, allowing the label "superfood" to take on unprecedented power. Yet it seems that that power is also often unwarranted.Nutritionist Duane Mellor for instance, calls Brussels sprouts better than "super" kale, salmon better than "super" chia seeds, and blueberries no better than any other berries!
He was also worried by the fact that 14 per cent of people said they were willing to pay more for superfoods. He judged some exotic high-priced superfoods like goji berries, wheatgrass, and quinoa healthy enough, but not especially healthy compared to cheaper and more conventional fruit and grain options.Even more dangerously, some companies slap the label "superfood" on a bottle of green tea or fruit juice that's dripping with added sugar, or that has been otherwise heavily proccessed or prepared in a way that ameliorates its benefits. No manufactured product is going to be more super than clean whole food is!
Some also criticize the concept of "superfoods" because it gives people the idea that eating enough superfoods will protect them from the unhealthy food that makes up the bulk of their diet, which is pretty ludicrous. Some manufacturers have also touted superfoods as a miraculous cure to certain health problems, claims that tend to be dubious at best.
Superfood mania could also encourage someone to focus on a limited amount of superfoods instead of eating a varied and truly healthy diet, which can be problematic given that any food consumed in excess can have negative health consequences.Even antioxidants can be detrimental in high doses, as can overdoses of vitamins or minerals that you might end up with if you focused on "superfoods" to the exclusion of the rest of plant-kind!For example, too many of the antinutrients in "super" leafy greens could build up and cause thyroid problems and kidney stones, and too many "super" berries could lead to an overly high sugar intake.
In extreme cases, an obsession with superfoods can even become orthorexia, a psychological disorder in which someone is so focused on healthy eating that it, ironically, becomes detrimental to their physical and mental health.
All that being said, most of the foods labeled "superfoods" are relatively healthy ones, so we've rounded up a few of the best of the bunch. As long as we think of them as merely "super" rather than possessing any mythical health powers, eating them in moderation should be just A-OK!
Beans are low-calorie and rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber , meaning they're great for gut health. They're also high in antioxidants and micronutrients, and higher in protein and iron than most other plant foods. Plus, while coffee beans weren't the kind we were talking about, those have plenty of their own health benefits, so feel free to indulge in them as well!
Salmon is a type of fish that is one of the highest in crucial omega-3 fatty acids. It's also high in protein, B vitamins, the minerals potassium and selenium, and the antioxidant astaxanthin, which can help control cholesterol levels, prevent skin damage, and reduce inflammation.
Tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been associated with increased heart and skin health and reduced tumor growth. Tomatoes also contain the nutrients potassium, Vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene. Fit more into your diet by trying them in a healthy sauce!
A food that has everything needed to produce a whole chicken has gotta be pretty nutritious, right? Eggs are a complete protein source that happens to be suitable for vegetarians (though not vegans) and relatively low in fat and calories. They also boast the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin!
Berries get their bright colors from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce heart attack risk, enhance exercise performance, improve cholesterol levels, and fight cancer. They also contain tons of vitamins and healthy soluble fiber. Since they're naturally sweet, they're also a great way to satisfy your sugar cravings the healthy way! Plus, they're great frozen, so feel free to enjoy them no matter the season.
6. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, and broccoli are high in vitamins A, C, K, and B6 as well as fiber, calcium, manganese, iron, and potassium, as well as beneficial antioxidants and phytochemicals including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles. Most green veggies also have cancer-fighting properties; the precise profile you get depends on which veggie you choose!
Though avocados are on the high calorie side as far as fruits and vegetables go, they come with a big dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and eleven to seventeen grams of fiber per avocado. They're also full of healthy plant compounds including phytosterols, carotenoids, and flavonoids as well as vitamins K, C, B5, B6, and Vitamin E. Plus, a ton of potassium!
Green tea is probably the best beverage of the bunch, packed as it is with fat-fighting, energy-boosting, and immune-strengthening antioxidants, but there are plenty of other amazing teas out there just waiting for you to sip them up, including black, oolong, chammomile, white, peppermint, and chai teas.
Garlic has antibacterial, prebiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a natural diuretic and full of cancer-fighting, fat-burning, and heart healthy antioxidants. If garlic is a little out of your comfort zone, you can get a lot of similar benefits from onions, which come from the same family!
Apples are rich in nutrients, including vitamins C, K A, E, B1, B2, and B6 and the minerals potassium, manganese and copper. They also contain the antioxidant quercetin, the filling soluble fiber pectin, and plenty of other beneficial phytochemicals. Choose a Granny Smith if you want the best bang for your apple buck, and you can also try apple cider vinegar for a concentrated dose of apple's nutrients without all that sugar!