What are "Superfoods?"
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
You’ve probably heard the word before, but do you know what it means? “Superfood” is a common term used in the nutrition world.
Maybe you’ve seen weight loss companies marketing their magic pills and supplements on the premise that they contain “superfoods.” Or perhaps you know the word from reading a blog or listening to a nutrition talk.
But What Are Superfoods, Really?
Despite the popularity of the term, superfood has no official definition. Advocates of superfoods would like you to believe that these foods have magic-like powers to prevent disease or reverse chronic health conditions.
In reality, foods that are deemed “super” are usually some type of highly nutritious fruit or vegetable. Contrary to popular belief, these foods do not provide significantly more benefit on their own than the combination of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Superfoods may also get their designation because research has identified the possible health benefits of a specific nutrient that they contain. However, it’s important to note that research typically focuses on high doses of nutrients in supplement instead of whole food forms.
You may have heard that red wine is a superfood because it contains an antioxidant called resveratrol. Studies confirm that resveratrol might have health benefits, but consuming the amount used in research would require drinking a lot more red wine than one nightly glass.
In fact, it would probably be physically impossible for humans to drink enough wine to reap the benefits of high doses of resveratrol.
So, Does that Mean I Should Take Supplements for Superfoods?
Research on specific nutrients in so-called superfoods is interesting and promising, but it’s best to stick with getting nutrients from food first. There is not enough research on the long-term effects of high doses of nutrients to warrant everyone popping pills and powders.
Some individuals may benefit from supplements recommended under the supervision of a medical provider. But for the average healthy adult, eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods is still the best-known way to promote health and prevent disease.
A Balanced Diet is “Super”
Eating a variety of whole foods from all food groups will ensure that your body gets all of the nutrients it needs. Stick with unprocessed foods in their most natural form, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and lean proteins.
Focus on colorful plant foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats instead of trying to eat the new superfood that you hear about in the news. By doing this, you will reap the known benefits of a balanced diet with the optimal distribution of macronutrients!
Note from Healthy For Life Meals: While we do incorporate many superfoods into our menu, our main focus is on ensuring that all of our diet meal plans include a variety of whole foods from all food groups, focusing on colorful plant foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Our 1200-, 1500-, and 2000-calorie meal plans are nutritionally complete and designed to help you get all the nutrients you need! Instead of falling victim to another fad diet or “superfood” powder or supplement, get started with us today.