When it comes to eating healthier, these days it seems nearly everything is bad for you. Carbs will make you gain weight. Fats and oils will clog your arteries and raise your cholesterol. Sugar contributes to obesity, tooth decay, and a variety of other afflictions. Everywhere you look, there’s a cornucopia of foods you simply shouldn’t eat.
But what should you eat? Amid the horde of unhealthy choices, one word keeps coming up to provide a beacon of hope: superfoods. A healthier option, they’re often described as having virtually miraculous properties. But what are they, and what do they do? What makes certain foods reach the level of “super,” as opposed to merely good for you? Let’s examine just what people mean when they use the term superfood, and whether their claims hold up.
What Are Superfoods?
Essentially, a superfood is simply one with a lot of measurable health benefits, and few if any ill effects. Many such foods are claimed to be able to prevent a variety of ailments, from high blood pressure to cardiovascular disease to cancer.
However, it’s important to note that the term “superfood” isn’t an officially accepted medical or nutritional term. It’s used mainly for marketing purposes, and there are no specific criteria that must be met in order to label a particular food super. As such, it can be applied to just about anything, without research or evidence to back up the claim.
Additionally, many experts have pointed out that different medical studies on a particular food can often contradict one another. So while one may find that cocoa is helpful in promoting heart health, another may find no such connection. A lot of research into nutrition has changed over the years, with foods previously thought to be healthy being found to have negative properties, and vice versa.
However, there are still plenty of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, that are demonstrably healthy, and whose presence in your diet can have a significant positive impact.
Examples of Superfoods
Here are some of the foods that have most commonly been given the label superfood, along with their particular nutritional properties:
- Various studies have tied these fruits to better metabolism, lower blood pressure, enhanced memory, increased heart health, and more. Can these studies be relied on? It’s difficult to say. But one thing is certain: they’re packed with dietary fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, all of which are essential to your health.
- Full of both vitamin A and vitamin C, spinach also has antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and more. Plus its calcium and vitamin K levels are great for promoting bone health.
- Many nuts are incredibly healthy, but almonds are considered by many to be the most beneficial. They have the highest concentration of nutrients, with vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron and more. They also make a great healthy snack that’s both delicious and filling. Just be sure to get either raw or unsalted dry-roasted almonds. Otherwise, the added salt, sugar, and fat could negate the positive effects.
- Most people only eat these in a sauce at Thanksgiving, but they’re healthy enough that they should be a staple year round. They’ve been found to reduce bacteria, which can help prevent urinary tract infections, yeast infections, ulcers, and other afflictions. And of course, they’re high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. The drawback is that raw cranberries by themselves are too bitter for most people to eat. However, sweeter options such as dried, in juice, and yes, in a sauce, have been found to pack the same nutritional punch, in a much more palatable package.
Is there really such thing as a superfood? It’s difficult to say for sure. The term itself means little apart from marketing. And of course, gorging yourself on almonds and cranberries is no substitute for a balanced diet. But the label can still be a good guide, towards foods that have great nutritional value and can put you on the path towards a healthier, happier lifestyle. Given a choice between anything labeled a superfood and, say, a marshmallow Peep – give the Peep a pass.