Super food or super sham?

By: Noelle Harada, Columnist 

Acai berries, green tea, blueberries, kale and are all considered some of the superheroes of nutrition. These foods, and many more, have been recruited to a growing list of “superfoods.”  

Unfortunately, the term “super” is misleading. None of these foods will give you super smarts, invisibility powers or superhuman strength.  

Food does not have the ability to make you superhuman, so how does a food qualify as being “super?”

There is no legitimate medical definition for the term “superfood.” It is a marketing scheme used to promote nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The term “super” implies that eating these foods will make you live forever. Although these foods contain many health-promoting nutrients, they may not be as extraordinary as their name suggests.

Food itself is not what allegedly boosts immunity or health. The vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients making up the food are what provide health benefits. For example, kale is often marketed as a “superfood,” because it contains high levels of vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and other minerals. Although these components are all essential for health, kale is not the only food that contains them. If kale is “super,” why are Swiss chard, collards and sweet potatoes not super? Foods are “super” in their own way. Kale and blueberries are labeled as such for different reasons. If you understand why a food is super, you can incorporate foods with similar nutritional properties into your diet.

Labeling food as “super” implies that all superfoods are healthy; however, this is not the case. A superfood can be healthy, but it depends on a variety of factors. Green tea, for example, is considered a superfood because it contains high levels of antioxidants. On its own, green tea is good for your health. Yet, all green teas are not created equal. Some bottled green teas contain as much sugar as a typical donut. Although green tea may be considered “super,” it is not healthy all the time. The phrase “superfood” may trick consumers into buying foods that aren’t as healthy as they believe.  

Next time you are at the store, don’t fall into the super trap of marketing.

When it comes to creating balance and nutrition in your life, try increasing the variety of nutritious foods in your diet rather than focusing only on a few “super” foods. As with all foods, remembering portion size is important. Diverting your attention away from food trends and toward variety, portion and nutrient density will ensure a lifetime of health.

 

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