What is Super About Superfoods?
Superfoods, mostly plant-based but the category includes some fish and dairy. The name Superfood is derived from the proportionally higher concentration of nutrients than in other foods. This makes superfoods good for one's health.
Blueberries, salmon, kale and acai are just a few examples of foods that have garnered the "superfood" label. However, there are no set criteria for determining what is and what is not a superfood, according to the American Heart Association. The category superfood is more of a marketing term for foods that have health benefits. With many of us looking to eat healthier and lose weight, dietitians and other food experts have us convinced that we are doing better by eating these foods.
Superfoods contain a variety of nutrients, such as antioxidants, which are thought to ward off cancer. They also have healthy fats, thought to prevent heart disease; fiber, thought to prevent diabetes and digestive problems. Superfoods contain phytochemicals which create the deep colors and smells in the fruit classified as superfoods. These phytochemicals have numerous health benefits to our bodies over and above creating the specific smell and color of the fruit. The key to a healthy diet is to consume a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities however by concentrating the nutrients into fewer calories, superfoods can by vital to a weight loss eating plan.
Blueberries often top many lists of superfoods because they are rich in vitamins, soluble fiber and phytochemicals. The same nutrients found in blueberries are also found in many other berries, including strawberries and cranberries. A study published in 2013 found that a high intake of phytochemicals known as flavonoids — which are found in blueberries as well as other berries — may reduce the risk of certain heart conditions in young women. The small Blue berry takes the top spot purely because it has been more frequently studied, with strong data to back the claims.
Kale lives up to the hype it has attracted as a superfood, but so do most dark, leafy greens: Swiss chard, collards, mustard's (including radish greens), spinach (and others in the amaranth family) and cabbages. Include broccoli on that list as well. It's in the cabbage-mustard family; the modern version is grown for its flower instead of its leaves. These dark leafed vegetables are loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and other minerals.
Sweet Potatoes and squash also qualify for the superfood list. Like the dark leafed vegetables, sweet potatoes and squash are loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and other minerals. They are also naturally sweet and don't require the butter, cream or salt typically added to potatoes.
Beans and Whole Grains are also included on superfood lists. Beans are a source of low-fat protein. These nuggets of nutrition contain insoluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol; soluble fiber, which provides a longer feeling of fullness; and loads of vitamins and trace minerals largely absent in the typical American diet, such as manganese. Whole grains unlike refined grains still contain their nutrient-containing bran and germinating part. Whole grains have benefits similar to those found in beans, though they don't contain the same high levels of protein. Quinoa is not a grain, but it cooks up like one, and is also a remarkable source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Nuts and Seeds contain high levels of minerals and healthy fats. Although nuts and seeds are commonly referred to as superfood's, they are high in calories. A small handful of nuts could contain more than 100 calories. Eating shelled nuts and seeds are ideal because they take time to crack open, which slows your eating down.
Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel and certain other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are often thought to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits of eating fish may far outweigh the risk of harming your health from the mercury these fish contain. If you are concerned about possible contaminants your fish dinner may contain, avoid eating fish that are higher up on the food chain. Sharks, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish, contain higher levels of mercury than smaller fish, like sardines, smelt and anchovies.
Since a superfood list is mainly about the hype, we need to include an "exotic fruit of the year." The buzz fruits are definitely acai berry, noni fruit, dragon fruit, rambutan or pomegranate. These fruits might be healthful, but scientific studies haven't shown that their consumption will make you healthier than eating less exotic (and therefore less expensive) fruits, such as blueberries. Some of these fruits may be particularly dense in certain kinds of nutrients. Pomegranate, for example, contains ellagitannins (ellagic acid), which may have anti-cancer properties. Red raspberries are just as delicious as pomegranate seeds, also contain ellagic acid.
Criticism of the nomenclature
Scientists claim that use of the term "superfood" is largely a marketing tool, with no root in academic research. Another general criticism of the use of the term "superfood" is that, while the food itself might be healthier than other options available, the processing might not be. For example, when green tea is freshly brewed, it contains several antioxidants. Commercially manufactured bottled green tea, however, are often brewed with copious amounts of sugar and are not truly the same.
The term "superfood" is not scientific and it can mislead consumers, prompting them to eat one kind of food over another. Instead,those who are trying to lose weight, should eat everything in moderation. Just because we label these foods as 'super' and 'healthy,' does not mean that you can eat them in unlimited quantities.
Research has shown that the ideal diet is one that is largely plant-based, with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats. Superfoods might be a good entry and eye opener into healthy eating, and understanding the nutritional value of the food you eat. There are lots of healthy foods out there to explore, even if it doesn't come with a cape!