What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods are considered to be nutrient-dense and hence beneficial for one’s health. They are mostly plant-based, though some are also dairy and fish-based. Just a few examples of foods that have earned the “superfood” moniker are blueberries, salmon, kale, and acai. The American Heart Association notes that there are no universal standards for defining what constitutes a superfood. Despina Hyde, a registered dietitian at the weight control department at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, asserted that “superfoods don’t have their own food group.” “Superfood,” in my opinion as a dietician, is more of a marketing phrase for foods that are beneficial to health.
Antioxidants are among the many nutrients found in superfoods and are known to prevent cancer. Additionally, they include fiber, which is known to prevent diabetes and digestive issues, healthy fats, which are thought to protect heart disease, and phytochemicals, which are the compounds that give plants their rich colors and aromas and may have a number of health advantages. Consuming foods that are nutrient-dense (as many so-called superfoods are), according to Hyde, is unquestionably a good thing. However, she continued, eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods in the proper amounts is the secret to a balanced diet.
The original superfood
Where exactly did the phrase “superfood” come from? The phrase has little to do with any official scientific or nutritional study, which may come as no surprise. In truth, the term “superfood” first arose as a marketing ploy for bananas in the early 20th century. The United Fruit Company, which created the term, utilized it to promote the usefulness of bananas as a regular source of inexpensive, easily digestible nutrients. Since the edible component is encircled by a thick wrapping covering, Samuel C. Prescott said in a 1918 article for The Scientific Monthly, “it is successfully protected from the attacks of bacteria, moulds [sic], and other forces of decomposition.”
The fruit’s variety of uses made it practically super: add it to cereal, have one with lunch, toss it in a salad, or fry it up for dinner.
The name of the fruit also spread as it gained popularity. Bananas were once recommended by doctors as a treatment for diabetes and celiac disease, among other conditions. The American Medical Association felt that including bananas in a child’s diet would alleviate the symptoms of celiac disease or perhaps cure it before gluten was discovered.
Food as medicine
Superfood marketing has generated a hugely valuable industry for the food sector. Consumers are seeking “functional foods that give benefits that can either minimize their risk of disease and/or enhance excellent health,” according to a new Nielsen poll. Consumers are prepared to spend more for foods that offer health benefits, according to the poll, but not all health features are valued similarly around the world. Additionally, the poll revealed that about 80% of respondents actively use food to prevent health problems and medical diseases like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, and that about 75% of respondents globally feel people “are what they eat.” These findings appear to be in line with the rising popularity of top-performing superfoods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that are regarded as being healthy.
21st Century superfoods
A word like “superfood,” which was first used more than 100 years ago, is essentially associated with alleged health advantages. Social media and the Internet can spread information about a purported superfood’s advantages quickly. A specific item could become a newly discovered “superfood” in the food industry with just a little scientific investigation, some well-written news pieces, and an effective marketing effort.
While some “superfoods” indeed have scientifically verified health benefits and the approval of nutritionists, detractors contend that passing trends and/or famous people misrepresent other foods by making them popular.
Blueberries: Because they are a superfood that is high in vitamins, soluble fiber, and phytochemicals, blueberries frequently rank at the top of many lists. However, many other berries, such as strawberries and cranberries, also have the same nutrients as blueberries. According to a 2013 study in the journal Circulation, young women may experience a lower chance of developing certain cardiac diseases if they consume a lot of flavonoids, which are compounds present in blueberries and other berries. However, experimental psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale told The Atlantic that the little, colorful fruit might win the top rank simply because it has been researched more frequently.
Kale: The majority of dark, leafy greens, including Swiss chard, collards, mustards (including radish greens), spinach (and other members of the amaranth family), and cabbages, live up to the superfood hype. Kale is no exception. Add broccoli to the list of those foods. It belongs to the cabbage-mustard family and is now planted for its bloom rather than its leaves. These deep-colored veggies are a great source of fiber, calcium, and other minerals, as well as vitamins A, C, and K.
Beans: Whole grains and beans are also mentioned on lists of superfoods. A source of low-fat protein is beans. Insoluble fiber decreases cholesterol, soluble fiber prolongs the sense of fullness, and tons of vitamins and trace minerals, including manganese, that are largely absent from the typical American diet are all present in these nutritious nuggets. Although they don’t have as much protein as beans, whole grains, which got their name because, unlike refined grains, they aren’t stripped of their nutrient-rich bran and germinating portion during processing, have advantages similar to those of beans. Despite the fact that quinoa is not a grain, it cooks like one and is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Nuts: High quantities of beneficial fats and minerals can be found in nuts and seeds. Although they are frequently included on superfood lists, their high calorie content is a drawback. According to Hyde, a little handful of nuts may have more than 100 calories. In this sense, shelled nuts and seeds are best since the process of cracking them open slows you down.
Squash and sweet potatoes: Squash and sweet potatoes frequently appear on lists of superfoods for reasons akin to those given for leafy greens. Both types of food are often top-notch suppliers of fiber, vitamin A, and many other nutrients. They don’t need the butter, milk, or salt that are commonly added to potatoes because they are naturally sweet.
Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in salmon, sardines, mackerel, and some other fatty fish, are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, eating fish may be healthier for you than not eating it because of the mercury it contains. Eat fish that are lower on the food chain if you are concerned about the toxins in your fish dinner. Fish with higher amounts of mercury than smaller fish, such sardines, smelt, and anchovies, include sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.