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Is there really such a thing as superfoods?

Superfoods... nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Myth or Truth?

To those of us looking to improve our health, superfoods are an attractive thing. To me, the term superfoods means the superheroes of the food world that come in to save the day. They are powerful foods with special powers and abilities that no other food has. Abilities like promoting rapid weight loss, detoxing the body and healing diseases. Cleansing, restorative and fun!

What makes a food a "super food"?

There is no scientifically based or regulated definition for a superfood. Generally, a food is promoted to superfood status when it offers high levels of desirable nutrients , when it’s linked to the prevention of a disease, or it is believed to offer several instantaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value. Salmon, blueberries, kale, turmeric, quinoa, chia seeds, seaweed, matcha, oats, green tea, coconut oil, chickpeas, lemons, goji and acai berry are some of the many foods that make up the justice league of the superfoods. It is however useful to take your time and research what is described as a superfood as it could be a "superhype" ! According to Mintel research in 2015, there was a 36% increase globally in the number of foods and beverages launched that were labelled as a ‘super food’, ‘super grain’ or ‘super fruit’.

Time for a little history, let’s talk about the first superfood and where the term superfood came from. Surprisingly, it didn’t come from a formally scientific study of food by a nutritionist, scientist or dietitian. The earliest known recorded example is around World War I and it was used as part of a food marketing strategy. The United Fruit Company started an advertising campaign to promote its bananas. Informational pamphlets were published to get people to eat more bananas as part of their daily diet. The popularity of the term soared after being endorsed in medical journals, due to physicians publishing their findings of a banana diet to treat conditions like celiac disease and diabetes. The United Fruit Company included these health benefits in its promotional material and popular press.

In modern times, news spreads at a viral speed, so a new superfood seems to appear on almost a monthly basis. As long as the basics are in place i.e. scientific research on a particular food and catchy headlines from the fast-paced popular press; a new superfood is born. Superfoods often translate into super sales, creating a billion-dollar industry. The food industry undoubtedly has an incentive to market a product as a superfood, which boosts sales.

My take on superfoods:

My take is that the superhero in food is food itself. All foods have their redeeming qualities and benefits but some can be singled out for special recognition. These “superfoods” offer some very important nutrients that can power-pack your meals and snacks, and further enhance a healthy eating pattern but they should not blind you to other equally nutritious options that do not have the superfood label yet.

Overall however, being healthy means getting a balanced diet with a full range of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. You need to have a wide range of food in your daily diet. The more of a balanced diet you have, the healthier you’ll be. Do not be distracted by the newest, overhyped food or fad. Instead, fall in love with exploring food, trying out different foods and learning how to select, cook and enjoy nutrient-packed foods. We should all focus on making every meal a ‘super meal’ full of different healthy and flavorful foods. This superhero is the one that will keep you alive, prevent or heal diseases, and boost your energy. Most of all, it will be yummy, fun and exciting.

Till the next one x

References: Harvard Health and Wikipedia.

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