Superfoods: Myths vs. Facts
Superfoods have been given all sorts of rap over the last decade, from being pure marketing schemes created for selling more products to completely earning the title with the incredible health benefits they bring to the table. That’s why there are more superfood myths than meets the eye and even though some may be true, others have been dismantled by science.
The term superfood was coined during World War I and it was a part of a marketing strategy that The United Fruit Company used to sell bananas, but after carefully analyzing their health benefits, medical experts adopted the label and continued calling bananas a superfood.
Over the years and especially the last decade, we’ve seen a tremendous number of fruits, vegetables, and herbs be called a superfood. Some of them were then recalled and many are still questioned as their nutritional profile doesn’t necessarily bring anything unique or special into one’s diet. That’s where a variety of myths surrounding superfoods and healthy eating even started, when people began questioning their value, especially given the fact that they’re usually more expensive than other foods. And with Covid-19, these myths became even more prominent.
Superfoods Are More Nutritious Than Other Foods
In reality, yes, superfoods should be rich in a variety of macro and especially micronutrients, making it easy for you to get all the essential nutrients your body needs by consuming them. They should be able to provide you with a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and other powerful plant compounds you would normally get by eating large volumes of other foods.
For example, camu camu berries have 60 times more vitamin C than an orange. This means that with one serving of camu camu powder, which is around one teaspoon, you’d get the same amount of vitamin C as you would in 60 teaspoons of oranges. This is why camu camu is labeled as a superfood because it provides you with a unique level of micronutrients in a small serving size compared to other foods containing the same nutrients.
Now, that being said, there is a bunch of foods that may be named a superfood but fail to bring any special nutrient or a combination of nutrients to the table you wouldn’t normally be able to get from your usual balanced diet. Do your research before you switch up your meals for the week and choose the more nutrient-rich superfoods over the ones that are just hyped up.
Superfoods are Just a Marketing Scheme
The label superfood isn’t regulated by the FDA and that definitely leaves room for anyone to call any food a superfood. For marketing purposes, there will always be brands that will try to increase their sales by making their products sound more appealing. They do so with visual aesthetics and attractive packaging, but they also do it by slapping on popular terms such as “healthy,” “gluten-free,” “no sugar” and “superfoods,” which immediately draws people’s attention and has them reaching for their credit card.
Still, even though this type of consumeristic behavior exists, it doesn’t mean ALL superfoods are only named so for marketing purposes. The food industry will always have the goal of selling more products, even if the health benefits aren’t as prominent or unique as they claim. This doesn’t mean that real superfoods don’t help improve your cardiovascular health, support your immune system, help you fight free radicals, and help lower blood pressure.
Superfoods Are Harder to Find and Source
Yes, most superfoods grow in harder-to-reach areas as that’s where their true nutrient values lie. The less the soil has been treated, the more diverse the altitude, and the lower the human impact there is, the richer the superfood in nutrients. Not to mention that most of these foods are quite sensitive which makes them hard to grow. And the demand for all of them has gone through the roof. The moment a particular food gets named a superfood, it seems like every single person wants to get their hands on it and with it, the demand grows like crazy.
Superfoods Need to be Backed by Science
Well, yes and no. Having scientific evidence behind a certain superfood will definitely increase its value and people’s trust in its health benefits, but there are plenty of incredibly nutritious foods known to the indigenous tribes of South American and South Asian countries that are used for their health-boosting properties without much research behind it.
You Need to Eat Superfoods to Be Healthy
No one needs to eat any specific food to be healthy and choosing not to eat a particular superfood doesn’t automatically mean you’re not eating a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet is crucial for overall health and well-being but what will that mean for you could be completely different from your friend, mom, brother, or partner.
The key to the optimal diet for you is to avoid processed foods and excess sugars, stay on top of your micronutrient levels so you prevent any deficiencies, include more plant-based foods into your meals, and avoid or limit foods that cause you digestive distress or stomach pains.
Superfoods are Labeled Organic
To receive a certification with the word organic means you need to pay for it. That’s why many smaller farmers and food producers cannot afford it. It doesn’t mean they don’t follow the same rules and regulations or adhere to the same principles. That’s why many superfoods won’t have the word organic on them even though they 100% are.
There are plenty of myths surrounding superfoods that either turn them into magical components of healthy eating everyone should add to their diets or dispute their nutritional value by stating how they’re in fact nothing special. The health claims and science aside, sticking to a balanced diet and taking care of your health will always be your best health benefit.
Eat healthy, exercise regularly, focus on your sleep, decrease your stress levels, implement self-care practices, and include some superfoods into your diet to help you prevent micronutrient deficiencies and give you a little boost of health. At the end of the day, whether a single food is called a superfood for marketing purposes or not, no processed food was ever given that label, so you can’t go wrong with adding it to your diet. Only your wallet might disagree.