We have all heard the word ‘superfood’ thrown around by members of the public, advertising campaigns and especially as a marketing scheme, with one leading supermarket in particular dedicating an entire section purely for these so called ‘superfoods’. But what exactly warranted this term to be coined? At first glance, evidence would suggest it is nothing more than a marketing ploy. There is in fact no clear definition of what a ‘superfood’ is, and many doctors and health professionals even disregard the term completely. As consumers we are trained to react upon hearing the word, we know it’s good for us and that potentially we can benefit from it, but apart from that we don’t know anything else.
So when we really get down to it, is there such a thing? Well, I believe there is, or at least there is food out there that contains so many nutritional benefits they really do deserve the title ‘superfood’. But what exactly makes these foods ‘super’? Well let’s start with what we know. The most common foods that are labeled in this category are obvious ones such as broccoli and blueberries. Brocolli is packed with antioxidants, in particular vitamin C, which is great for the immune system, whilst also containing sulphoraphane which contains anti-cancer properties. They are also are a food that is low on the glycaemic index (GI) chart, meaning they are a type of good quality carbohydrate, one which digests slowly, allowing glucose into the bloodstream and giving a temporary sugar boost. In terms of fruit and vegetables broccoli is a heavyweight, ranking at the top of them all. Blueberries are a food that is low on the glycaemic index chart too, also packed with antioxidants and full of phytonutrient content such as anthocyanins and flavonols, which are basically the building blocks of the antioxidants, all necessary for a healthy immune system.
It’s worth mentioning some food that isn’t part of the fruit and vegetable family, to give a varied opinion on the different types of food that meet the criteria of being labeled ‘superfood’. Nuts are a good example, as they’re stacked with essential fats. People often misinterpret the fats to be a bad thing in nuts, but as they are very low in saturated fats and contain monounsatured and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats), they actually aid in weight loss, as the body recognises this type of natural, essential fat and puts it to good use. They are also rich in fibre and very high in protein and antioxidants, a recurring element in these foods.
Already it’s clear to see a common pattern. All the foods contain phytonurtrient content; allowing them to be packed full with antioxidants, and the carbohydrate content is low on the GI chart. On top of this, they all bring their own little element, for example, the sulphoraphane in broccoli has anti-cancer properties and nuts hold one of the highest sources of protein for a plant based food. There are tons of other foods that meet the criteria to be known as a ‘superfood’. A few examples would be pumpkin seeds, apples, quorn, olive oil, salmon, oats, ginger root, green tea, kale (or any dark green vegetable for that matter) and sunflower seeds, just to name a few. All these foods follow the trend of being packed with antioxidants, with many of the fruit and vegetable foods holding different types of healing properties, whilst the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds follow the nut, and contain a huge amount of protein and essential fats.
It is very clear to see what kind of food fits the bill when talking of this generic term that is ‘superfood’. Whether or not the term actually exists, or if it is indeed a marketing scheme in an attempt to boost sales for certain products, it is still very obvious that particular foods out there deserve this label. There is a particular trend within these foods where they literally have no negative flaws, yet provide essential qualities for the human body. What is remarkable is that there is so many more out there than you or I realise, and it is only when research is done into these foods that we can really begin to see the amount of ‘superfoods’ that we should be eating. That is really what it comes down to; ‘superfood’ is a word simply emphasising the sheer brilliance of the food itself, and the obesity crisis that our nation finds itself in suggests we should be eating more of these types of food. Whether people want to accept the term or not, there is food with so many nutritional benefits and that is quite simply so good for us, that it deserves to be labelled a ‘superfood’.