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Superfoods -are they indeed super?

Updated on May 14, 2017

First, do you know what is a 'superfood'?

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Blueberries, quinoa and coconut oil. All of them are part of a group of food that has gained celebrity status due to their unique label of 'superfoods'. I became very interested in 'superfoods' because of, firstly, increased health awareness and, secondly, the recent incident when my mom was diagnosed with nutritional deficiency. So, I would spend a minimum of an hour browsing the web for a list of 'superfoods', which sounds similar to searching for an elixir or something. Every website I went to has their own list of 'superfoods'. You know, in one website there's avocado on the list, then in another website, avocado isn't included. What the heck?

There is actually no official definition of a 'superfood', and the European Union has even banned the use of the term and its health claims, unless scientific, empirical evidence substantiates it. The group Cancer Research UK says, "the term 'superfood' is really just a marketing tool, with little scientific basis to it."

Botanical name: Vaccinium corybosum, tiny but surprisingly healthy when consumed
Botanical name: Vaccinium corybosum, tiny but surprisingly healthy when consumed | Source

The term 'superfood' refers to food that you eat to become a superman, a superwoman, or anything super under the sun. It refers to food that has an exceptionally rich source of a particular nutrient. Typically, such foods are hailed as having the power to slow down ageing, boost our intelligence and even present or cure diseases. While many of these foods are indeed nutritious and salubrious, the superfood trend is more a marketing ploy rather than a quantum leap in science. Perhaps the word 'superfood' is whimsically coined because it is the way of saying: Hey, this food is super awesome! You got to try this!


Given the conflicting and deficient evidence on the research on superfoods, it is perhaps too early to identify with certainty what the exact impact these foods have on our health. You know, laboratory studies are typically carried out using a purified ingredient from a food. So if researches want to test the effect of an antioxidant in blueberries, they will use a purified version of that chemical rather than fresh blueberries. That means, the study isn't accurate.

At the end of the day, most fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and could all be considered 'superfoods' in one way or another. A well-balanced diet that includes food from an eclectic source of food groups is more beneficial in the long run than any particular 'superfood', juice or supplement.

Whether a food is 'super' or not, it doesn't matter. But whether a food is healthy or not, it does matter.


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