Are Superfoods really super?

Posted on July 31, 2015 by Brynna Gabrielson

Are superfoods super?

A big part of living a healthy lifestyle is geared around what we eat and the kind of diet we bestow upon ourselves. In our recent Simplyhealth/YouGov Everyday Healthcare Tracker we asked Britons to answer questions on what kind of foods they eat and at what frequency. Interestingly we found that women over 55 are the most health conscious eaters, with 30% of this demographic saying that they eat superfoods at least four times a week. While just 19% of all respondents said that they eat superfoods at the same rate. But what exactly are superfoods and why are they regarded as 'super'?

Some of the better known superfoods include beetroot, blueberries, broccoli, garlic, goji berries, oily fish, pomegranate and wheatgrass.

A superfood is 'a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing'1. This definition suggests superfoods are the healthiest you can eat and this could be where the word 'super' applies.

However, an overwhelming amount of dieticians and nutritionists claim that the term 'superfood' is nothing more than a marketing tactic2, used as a vehicle to increase the sales of certain foods rich in nutrients. It is thought to have no scientific basis and is a term that has caught on among the general population via the media, as well as through marketing campaigns from the food industry.

Research into just how super such foods really are has been mixed. The main issue is that most of the research tests chemicals and extracts in concentrations that are much higher than of those found in the food in its natural state. So while it is true that garlic contains a nutrient that helps to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, you would have to eat up to 28 cloves a day to equal the concentrations used for research3.

This is not to say that superfoods cannot be healthy additions to your diet. Incorporating such foods as part of a well balanced nutrition plan can certainly be healthier than eating too much of one thing. Dieticians suggest a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods, along with some lower fat dairy products and some other non-dairy sources of protein. The key to eating healthily is not to focus too much on one thing. So rather than eating high volumes of superfood and hoping it works wonders, we should eat a variety of foods, including five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, to make sure our bodies get enough of the nutrients they need.4

With this in mind you could say that any food that isn't processed should be considered 'super'.

About the Everyday Health Tracker

The Simplyhealth/YouGov Everyday Health Tracker paints the broadest regular picture of UK health, covering everything from diet and exercise habits, to the health issues that concern people most. New results will be released every three months and over time the Everyday Health Tracker will highlight key trends to emerge. Find out more here.5

Sources

1. Oxford Dictionary Definition
2. Live Science: What are superfoods?
3. NHS: What are superfoods?
4. NHS: What is a healthy balanced diet?
5. Simplyhealth: Yougov everyday health tracker.

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