Superfoods: what makes a food so super?

Superfoods: what makes a food so super?

The other night I was having dinner with my friends and we started talking about certain foods. Then someone said that kale is really good because it is a superfood. However, what makes a food product so super and how a food is classified as a superfood?

First of all, let’s start by defining the word superfood. Superfoods are nutrient rich foods that offers a lot of health benefits. They are usually rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, flavonoids and selenium).In general, superfoods are mostly plant based but there are no set criteria for determining if a particular food product is a super or not. The term is more a marketing tool to help promote the health benefit of a specific food. However, as healthy as this food can be, it’s important to know that eating a single fruit or vegetable containing a certain antioxidant will not cure disease.

Superfoods are not “miracle” foods. If you your diet is high in processed foods that are loaded with bad fat, sugar and salt, eating kale or other superfoods will not ward off the diseases associated with unhealthy eating.

Since there are no criteria’s for defining a superfood, a lot of foods such as broccoli, olive oil, chia seeds, chocolate and many more are listed as superfoods. Here are some of the new superfoods that gained a lot a lot of attention in the past years:

  • Blueberries—excellent source of antioxidants, very high in nutrients and low in calories. They are a perfect addition to your daily intake of fruits.
  • Goji berries—these red berries contain vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin A, iron, selenium and other antioxidants. They gained popularity in recent years because of their alleged health benefits. However, the evidence behind the health claims about goji berries is still weak. Considering their high cost, it would be better to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables instead of spending a lot of money on one particular food.
  • Kale—a dark, leafy green that comes from the cabbage family like broccoli and cauliflower. It became very popular and people are using it more and more in their kitchen. It’s packed with nutrients but to say that it’s better than other green leafy vegetables like spinach and collard green would be wrong.
  • Quinoa—almost every restaurant menu now offers a quinoa plate. Contrary to beliefs, quinoa is not a grain product but a seed. It has more protein than any other grain or seed. In fact, it’s the only grain to provide all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce. It’s also a great source of fiber, calcium, B vitamins and iron. The fact that it’s gluten free makes it even more popular.


Take home message:

Diet plays an important role in our health and it’s important to aim for healthy nutrient dense food. While superfoods tend to be very healthy, I wouldn’t advise to focus on one individual food item. The best way to achieve a healthy lifestyle would be to limit processed food, have a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as fresh produce and be physically active.