At this point almost everyone has heard the term “superfood” thrown around. But what are superfoods? The term has a lot of mystique, evoking the idea of a modern panacea that you can pick up at the grocery store. In truth, the term “superfood” is more marketing and less science.
That’s not to say superfoods have no merit! Each food in question has a unique ingredient or mineral known to combat varying health conditions. Which health conditions you are at risk for (and what superfoods you should eat to combat them), are, of course, highly dependent on genetics.
So, while the whole idea of superfoods is more the idea of grocers than doctors, it does have merit. The high nutritional value packed into superfoods have made them popular among those looking for as much health value as possible. So what are the mainstay foods of these categories, and what are superfoods filled with that make them so good for you? Let’s discuss...
Types of superfoods
If there is one superfood that everyone has heard of, it has to be the blueberry. Besides being delicious, blueberries are filled with vitamins, fibre, and phytochemicals including flavonoids, which have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease. However, many other types of berries have many of these same benefits—blueberries get to be the stars since they’ve been studied so much. With so much flavour and nutritional value in such a small package, it's no wonder berries commonly cited as super.
Another case of good things coming in small packages are nuts. As with berries, many types of nuts have been associated with better heart health. Aside from having a lot of useful minerals, nuts and seeds are also filled with “good fats” that can combat cholesterol buildup in arteries. Nuts are also known to be quite filling for their small size, making them a useful tool for fighting food cravings.
These days the “supergreen” that gets the most love is kale. It’s not hard to see why though. Every piece of kale is like a miniature nutrition supplement, filled with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, iron, and fibre. This means kale can be excellent for your heart, brain, and bones. Some studies even suggest it can help combat diabetes and even cancer. Just don’t forget the other supergreens - kale has some other superfood cousins in broccoli and spinach.
Another food that’s often linked to anti-cancer properties is the sweet potato. The beta-carotene in these vegetables has been linked both to reduction in cancer risk as well as better eye health. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of fiber and vitamin C. As an added bonus they are a good source of potassium, which is linked to good heart health.
The king of what we could call “superfish” is most certainly the salmon. Along with fish like sardines and mackerel, salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids (a term you’ll see in connection with a lot of the other foods on this list). These acids are linked to lower risk for heart disease as well as stroke. Salmon also tend to be full of Vitamin D, and low in saturated fats.
Some superfoods are superdrinks. Green tea has long been known to contain antioxidants—also associated with those berries at the top of the list—which have been linked to reduced risk of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Green tea has also been linked to better brain and heart health.
Do superfoods live up to the hype?
So now that we know what superfoods are, the question remains: do they live up to the hype?
With all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutritious substances in them, it’s impossible to ignore the health benefits of superfoods However, the idea that a single superfood can fix everything is simply misguided. As the list above hopefully shows, superfoods are “risk mitigators”, helping you lower the chance of diseases that any person may or may not be genetically disposed to having. These foods can be your hero, but you need to know what hero to call on, and how often. Get a DNA test done today and find out what foods are super for you.