In our era of fake news, here’s a reality check: there’s actually no scientifically accepted definition of what superfoods are or what makes a food super. Like comic book superheroes, superfoods are the product of creative minds – in this case, who want to get you to eat better, or sell you foods that you wouldn’t think of buying in the first place.
But while the term might be a bit hazy, there’s no question that many of the foods labeled ‘superfood’ are rich in nutrition and eating more of them – along with regular exercise – is a smart way to improve your health.
Among the benefits often associated with superfoods are:
Improved nutrition – Superfoods are usually rich in nutrients and low in saturated fats and processed sugars.
Strengthened immunity – Nutrients and chemicals in superfoods are believed to keep your immune system in working order so it can fight off colds and some other diseases.
Cell health – Many superfoods are rich in antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals and may ward off diseases like cancer.
Heart health – Much of the good stuff found in superfoods can also protect your heart and keep your circulation system in good shape.
Weight control – The nutrients in many superfoods can help you control your calorie intake and, in some case, even help you burn calories.
Healthy skin – Superfood antioxidants as well as nutrients like Vitamin C can help reduce skin damage and keep it looking healthier.
Not everyone agrees on all superfoods, however most dieticians and nutrition scientists do agree that eating these foods is a pretty super place to start:
Berries – While blueberries get a lot of the glory, other berries like strawberries and cranberries are also rich in vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals like flavonoids.
Whole grains – Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain much of the natural nutrients, including fiber, which lowers cholesterol and promotes intestinal regularity. Beans and quinoa are also pretty super.
Kale – Like blueberries, kale gets all the attention but the truth is a lot of other dark leafy vegetables, like spinach, cabbage, chard and broccoli are high in vitamins, fiber and calcium. While not green or leafy, sweet potatoes and squash provide many of these benefits.
Fish – Plants and vegetables make up the bulk of superfoods but fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are superfoods in their own right thanks to their high omega-3 fatty acid content.
Fruits of the moment – Hardly a week goes by without a TV news report about another fruit superfood, like açai (pronounced ah-sah-EE), dragon fruit and pomegranate. They’re certainly healthy to eat – and better than downing a bag of chips – but often less expensive familiar fruits like raspberries contain many of the same nutrients.
Remember, while these superfoods can help make you healthier when eaten in moderation, be conscious of how you eat them. Many fruit juices, for instance, are so full of added sugar that that their benefits may become questionable.
What superfoods do you like best – or which foods do you think are simply super? Tell us what you think in the Shop Talk blog community forum.