What’s So Super About Superfoods?

Separating the health from the hype.

A superfood must be a wonderful thing if it has earned such a label, right? Maybe. It’s a catchy label and it sounds great—but a label alone doesn’t make a food good for you.

What is a Superfood?

It turns out there really is no official definition of superfood. You won’t catch a lot of nutritionists or food scientists using the term because they know the real truth—that nutrition doesn’t exist in a vacuum and no single food can provide all of the nutrients we need. In fact, some nutritional scientists question whether we can understand the nutrient properties of any food by breaking it down because foods should be taken as a whole, as the nutrients likely work in concert to provide health benefits.

Defining Superfood

The term superfood sounds like something that should be printed on the packaging of food-like products, but, ironically, superfoods don’t come in packages. These are whole foods, produced by Mother Nature and inherently designed to provide super nutrition. Most superfoods are fruits and vegetables, although some people consider salmon to be a superfood.

Although there is no single definition of the term superfood, most foods that are labeled as superfoods have a combination of the following characteristics:

  • Low calories
  • High fiber
  • High proportion of omega-3 fatty acids
  • High in phytochemicals
  • High in vitamins and minerals

A superfood is typically considered to be extremely nutritious or beneficial to your overall health and wellness. Some people believe that superfoods can prevent things like heart disease, cancer, and more.

The Bottom Line

The truth is that the term superfood has probably been overused as a marketing tool. As with anything, a little common sense goes a long way. Incorporating superfoods into your diet can’t hurt, and it might help—but it’s no substitute for making overall healthy lifestyle choices. In other words, superfoods can’t repair the effects of other damaging habits such as smoking—they are just one piece of the overall health puzzle. It’s more important to make consistent healthy choices, such as exercising, getting proper rest, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet overall.

Superfoods aren’t magic—they’re super because they’re loaded with nutrients that play a role in promoting health and preventing disease. While the term may be overused and overhyped in the media, it is useful for identifying foods that deserve top billing on the menu.