Whether in the supermarket aisle or in a Shark Tank pitch, we’ve all heard about “super foods.” In a world in which we have more choice than ever about how and where we source what we eat, it’s important (perhaps more than ever) to know the nutritional impact of those foods. But is it just hype?
The phrase “super food” is indeed a marketing term which has no specific basis in science. A dietician has been quoted as saying, “I think ‘superfood’ is more of a marketing term for foods that have health benefits.” So, while the term superfood is a bit of marketing hype, these foods often do have health benefits that, ounce for ounce, can beat out other items in their categories. A short list would include spinach, kale beans, sweet potatoes, salmon, whole grains, blueberries, and acai.
The foods listed above are densely packed with antioxidants and healthy anti-inflammatory fats. They are also often low in calories, gluten-free, and have sometimes have healing properties. Most superfoods are low in calories, gluten free and even have healing elements. “Kale is so nutrient dense, it’s almost like a medication,” says one dietician and author. This is because kale, like other superfoods, contains very strong and particular compounds that protect our immune system, kill harmful bacteria, and stop renegade cells from reproducing.
Blueberries: These are full of fiber, Vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds. Some studies have shown links to memory improvement.
Kale: We already talked about it above but it has levels of iron, fiber, and calcium that far outdistance other fruits and vegetables.
Salmon: Salmon has high levels of protein, Vitamin D, and omega-3 oils. These elements have been shown to reduce the risk of depression, increase cardiovascular health, and even been helpful in treating osteoarthritis.
Cacao: Chocolate! Well, not exactly. Cacao is the source of organic chocolate and its quite powerful in its simplest and rawest form. It has more than 19X the antioxidant value of blueberries. I know you might be thinking “chocolate covered blueberries” as your new health food, but think more of cacao in powder or nib form that you can add into a smoothie or shake. You can also use cacao shells to make tea.
What to do?
The point, as with any diet that makes sense (instead of the fad diet of the moment) is not to lopsidedly consume these superfoods only, but to find thoughtful ways to incorporate them into your diet if you’ve been ignoring them. They definitely can up your nutritional intake and are often tasty too!