Superfoods are all the rage right now and have been for the past several years; open any health and fitness magazine, or walk around your local grocery store, and you will find the term “superfood” everywhere. Promising to have miraculous powers based on their nutritional components, we are told we need superfoods and without them, we are not doing our health justice. They are the so-called answers to anti-aging, looking great, feeling great, and dropping those last 10 pounds you just can’t seem to get rid of. Be it goji berries, chia seeds, or spirulina, it seems every year there is a hot new list of foods that you must incorporate into your diet as they are missing answers to all of your health concerns, but can it be so?
What are superfoods?
The definition of the word superfood is hard to find and that is because there is no definition. A quick google of the word and you will see that there are thousands of articles dedicated to explaining the latest superfoods, but no definition of what a superfood actually is. The truth is, the term “superfood” was coined was marketers to describe particular foods as nutrient-rich and considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Superfoods are just foods, often from exotic places, considered to be nutritionally dense. The superfood trend began with blueberries and has now grown to include salmon, pomegranates, acai berries, kale, chia seeds, green tea, goji berries, spirulina, turmeric, maca, seaweed and every year a new list of foods garner the superfood label.
Superfoods Are Just Good Marketing
Of course, all of these “superfoods” are healthy and it would most certainly be beneficial to incorporate them into your diet, however, they are not necessary for a healthy diet. The term “superfood” is a meaningless gimmick, and part of the reason why nutrition is so confusing for consumers. Food marketers know there are a lot of people looking for a magic pill, so using a term like “superfood” implies that you get way more nutrition by eating less, along with a solution to all your health concerns. “Superfoods” are often described for their high content of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but in reality, superfoods are just whole foods, and all whole foods have nutritional benefits. Opting for acai berries over local raspberries does not mean you are doing anything more “super” for your body (in fact, gram per gram raspberries contain more nutrition), it just means one took longer to get to your plate.
Although the term superfood is technically meaningless, the concept of superfoods creates unrealistic expectations for consumers. Tired? Just eat goji berries. Overweight? Add chia seeds to your breakfast. Acne? Just buy these super seeds from a far-off land 20,000 miles away at a premium price and you’ll be good to go! Because the term “superfood” is unregulated, anyone can add it to their product in hopes it brings them big bucks as consumers buy into the marketing hype.
There Are No Miracle Foods
As it is used today, the term “superfood” implies that you need all sorts of hard-to-pronounce foods from far-off places in order to be healthy. You can’t just make a smoothie with berries for breakfast, if you are going to make a smoothie it must include sprouted chia seeds, hand harvest spirulina, exotic maca root, cold-pressed coconut oil and run you $12 dollars to produce in order to be considered healthy. Not only is that concept ludicrous, but it suggests that you need to be rich in order to eat well, and that is most certainly not the case. Fry me up a couple of local eggs in butter and I’ll be good to go.
The harsh reality is that there are no “superfoods” and there are no miracle foods that will save your health. If you are eating cereal for breakfast, burgers at lunch, and frozen pizzas for dinner, just because you add a little chia seed to your day you aren’t going to overhaul your well-being. Improving your health requires change and eating real whole foods on a consistent basis.
All Real Foods Are Superfoods
Let’s get one thing straight, any food can be a “superfood”, as long as it is real food in its authentic form. Vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all super foods, regardless of whether they are grown in your backyard or hand harvested by angels in a far-off mountain range. All vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, and when eaten regularly, in a wide variety, help to create an incredibly well-balanced diet. Chia and flax seed are great, but they aren’t necessarily any better than sunflower and pumpkin seeds which are both incredibly nutritious. You don’t need to seek out super grains like quinoa if you have access to local potatoes or oatmeal, they are just as beneficial. Coconut oil and avocado oil are wonderful cooking fats, but if you don’t live near a coconut or avocado tree, you are most certainly ok to use good quality butter and animal fats. Turmeric and ginger are rich in antioxidants and incredibly delicious, but so are locally grown garlic and herbs. As long as you are eating a wide variety of whole foods in their whole format you are eating super foods, you don’t need to fly exotic foods in from faraway lands just to ensure you are eating well.
Go Back to Basics
Eating well is actually so simple but that’s why it doesn’t sell. It’s not sexy, there are no magic pills and there are no new foods. Foods like kale and beets are considered “superfoods” today simply because we moved away from using them as we added processed, packaged, and frozen goods to our diets and stopped eating foods we grew ourselves. Foods like kefir, sauerkraut, bone broth, and sourdough bread are now trendy superfoods, but in reality, these are foods that cultures have been making and eating for thousands of years, we simply moved away from using them. More often than not “superfoods” are simply traditional foods that we have been ignoring as we moved from home cooking to commercial food processing.
The Bottom Line
I am never going to deter someone from buying or eating “superfoods”; you can buy all of the goji berries, maca powder, and quinoa to your heart’s content, but I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to. Eating well should not cost a premium and you shouldn’t need to rack up a credit card bill in order to feed your family all of the latest health craze foods. A humble bag of oatmeal, a carton of eggs, a bunch of carrots, and a can of beans can go a really long way in creating a nutritious and well-balanced diet. There is no need for fancy imported products that cost a premium. Simply shopping locally, eating seasonally, and cooking from scratch is the best, and only way, to eat true super foods.