Superfoods, What Makes Them Super?

Courtesy of Cosmos and Chaos (Flickr CC0)

It is widely believed that the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has been heard by millions of people. The phrase is believed to cement the fact that apples were if not first, one of the first superfoods, before the phrase was created.

Nowadays, a week will not go by without brand new trending superfoods on social media, that claim to have crazy health benefits. Some of the most recent foods parts of this trend are kale, chia seeds, and quinoa.

Something more important is if people actually eat these said foods, will it truly support one’s health? Or did someone trick plenty of people making them believe these outrageous claims?

Nutrition and food expert, Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot from UNSW School of Chemical Engineering says, the term has been used very differently from the original, by “lifestyle gurus.” Although there is no official agreed-upon definition for the term there is a value for health benefits due to the compounds found in them.

“Scientifically, there is not such thing as a superfood—they are basically referring to having lost of nutrients foods or compounds that have properties that can have an effect on health—but with a noticeable label,” Associate Professor Arcot says.

Courtesy of Carriagehouse2011 (Flickr CC0)

“Nevertheless, the term can, unfortunately, confuse people into thinking that specific foods have tremendous incredible nutritional and health properties and eating them can solve almost every health problem.

“Although there is not one singular food group that has the answers to unlock great health benefits, we know that some foods are more beneficial for us than others. As we become more concentrated on looking after our health, instinctively we start to pay more close attention to what we consume.

“Just food itself cannot address health concerns, but it is possible to play a role as part of a holistic treatment plan. If the end goal is to lose weight, eating one of the superfoods such as blueberries will not achieve that on its own.

“Although, it’s finding the balance of the right combo of these foods and in modest quantities, for it to have some kind of an impact to health.”

Going back about 10 years ago before the term “superfoods” was widespread, the term “functional foods” was used in the health and food community. Function foods are used in the idea that foods have advantages physiologically, and are more probable to lessen the risk for disease development due to the inclusion or removal of certain nutrients.

Later, the term “superfoods” was established to describe foods with said health benefits. still, Associate Professor Arcot says that every food can be put under the category of functional due to the fact they all have some sort of an effect on the body. “We know that drinking milk, which has a high amount of concentrations of calcium, is great for making our bones and teeth stronger, or that consuming foods high in vitamin A is very good for the health of our eyes,” she says.

“Foods that are high in fat are mainly avoided due to the risk of making cholesterol higher. But that would be very important to someone who is already at high risk because it is known that their good fats exist such as avocado, and chia seeds which are said to be superfoods.”

It is likely that kale is one of the most mentioned foods that is a superfood. Multiple studies have shown the anticarcinogenic potential, and antioxidant in contained in kale, but there is still not enough publications fully make sure that kale has more health benefits than other foods.

Written By Lance Santoyo


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Featured Image Courtesy of Cosmos and Chaos Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Carriagehouse2011 Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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