The Truth About Superfoods

When I eat, I have three primary factors that influence how I eat: taste, nutrition, and quantity. To keep things simple, I want to eat as much tasty, healthy food as possible anytime I eat.

I mention how I eat because I believe I have a good understanding on how to eat, and I do not fall into buzzword traps. Meanwhile, terms like superfood are overtaking most people’s nutrition lingo.

By the Oxford Dictionary definition, a superfood is, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”¹ This definition is very loose and vague, as many foods are nutrient-rich, and those that typically are nutrient-rich provide health benefits. With superfood being such a huge buzzword right now, it seems like a smart time to see just how properly termed this is.

More than anything, we should strive to have people eating healthy diets in a sustainable (replicable) manner. So, are superfoods all they are made out to be, and do they help people consume a heathy, sustainable diet? When I mention sustainability, I do so in a manner that applies to each individual uniquely. People need to eat a diet that they can eat, feel happy and comfortable eating daily of whatever food they choose to eat.

The Guardian published a piece looking at multiple studies on superfoods recently. Although they wrongly stated that superfoods have, “no actual benefit to health”² based on the European Food Safety Authority, they do make a point that buzzwords have a strong affect on diet influence as 61% of British bought foods based on the word superfood alone.

Additionally, foods like avocado, and  pomegranate are two example foods looked at in this study review. Avocados are talked down by this review because the avocado study they are looking at is paid for by the Hass Avocado Board, and is inconclusive with regards to cardiovascular benefits. However, the study does show positive benefits on lipid profiles, which means avocados are good for people.  Again, pomegranates are talked down because they are not guaranteed to reduce artery damage from cholesterol; however, it is overlooked that they add plenty of nutritional value when eaten.

This review clearly diminishes superfoods while ignoring values these foods still have. Although superfoods are not all they are held up to be, they still are of benefit in anyone’s diet.

In the end, as professionals we need to find ways to dictate more of how studies are turned into layman terms and articles. While superfoods are not all they are made out to be, it is on us to make sure information is handled properly. Nutrition is very important, and we need to provide correct information, so people eat healthy, replicable diets.

  1. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/superfood
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/29/truth-about-superfoods-seaweed-avocado-goji-berries-the-evidence
  3. http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/The-science-behind-superfoods/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/
  5. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/superfoods/Pages/is-pomegranate-a-superfood.aspx

2 Comments

  1. It is so amazing to think that terminology and buzzwords can have such an amazing influence on public perception and behavior. Hearing superfood does make it sound like something that you must include in your diet for optimal health. It has definitely got me, but the point about the value the food still has is important to acknowledge. Regardless of whether or not these foods have super powers to change the overall health of an individual, there are still healthy foods that can have positive impacts. In addition when the media takes a bit of research and runs with it, many uniformed americans hear it that might otherwise not include as many healthy choices on a normal basis.

  2. It remains in question how powerful superfoods can benefit our health, as indicated by The Guardian article. The avocado study only talked about the potentially beneficial component in avocado without clear evidence from clinical trials. However, avocado is not any therapeutic products that will show its effect in a few months and it is not realistic to do a clinical trial about avocado. What we can conclude that avocado has potential benefits for cardiovascular health based on its nutritional contents. On the other hand, “superfood” is more of a marketing term than scientific term. This term is not so commonly used in professionals and scholars. The Hass Avocado Board did the avocado study partly to persuade consumers to purchase more avocado. We should still advise our clients to eat a balanced diet composed of a good variety of foods instead of consuming a few kinds of superfoods.

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