So What Does It Mean To Be a Superfood?

superfood smoothie

   Photo credit: avlxyz on flickr

We are definitely in a superfoods era.  In today’s world, it’s not enough to be nutritious, now you need to be a superfood.

What does it really mean to be a superfood?  And why are foods desperately trying to defend their superfood status?  How did this all get started any way?

I wonder if Dr. Steven Pratt, author of the first SuperFoods book, had any idea how much he’s changed the landscape.  I don’t think he had sprirulina smoothies, meal replacements and supplements in mind when he first introduced the concept of superfoods in 2004  Did he?  The book was about 14 foods that will change your life — including blueberries, beans, walnuts and spinach.superfoodcapsules

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He was talking about nutrient-dense foods — a concept that’s being reinforced in the new Dietary Guideline for Americans.

These are foods that provide a high ratio of nutrients per calorie.

The new Dietary Guidelines define nutrient-dense foods as:

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds that are prepared without added solid fats, sugars, starches, and sodium.

Ok, so maybe “superfoods” sounds sexier.  But that’s basically what it means.  And there’s a lot more to choose from than the original 14 superfoods (Pratt added 10 more in his second book).  However, I believe all fresh, whole foods belong on a superfoods list.

What I don’t think belongs are manufactured products trying to be a superfood.  But there’s a whole industry that’s sprouted up trying to convince you that they’re deserving of the superfoods title — often based on how many antioxidants they contain, if they’re derived from a mysterious berry from the Amazon or the jungles of Africa, or if they’re really really green.

I’m sorry, but those are not superfoods to me.

What is a superfood is oatmeal.

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But I found it a little sad that Quaker had to defend its position as a superfood.  Have you seen the new ad campaign?

However, this is the era that we’re in.  Of course oatmeal is a superfood, but it’s being overshadowed by pseudo superfoods. Oatmeal is deserving of the title.  And I’m OK that they’re trying to tout it.

Maybe people need to be reminded that superfoods are already in your cupboard.  They don’t come in a pill, don’t come in a green smoothie. They’re real, whole foods– and they don’t need to cost so much.  You don’t really have to eat grass.

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  • http://www.rochesternutrition.com Carol Plotkin

    Ah, the lunacy of men to think that we can make it better than mother nature! Or perhaps I’m the lunatic because I refuse to jump on the band wagon and sell superfoods products and make mega bucks preying on people’s niavete.

  • JT

    Some “superfoods” have their place. There are many out there that are luring consumers by false advertising and such, but a lot of good ones too. You’re right in the fact that there are just as many super foods grown in our own backyards so no need for funky berries from all over the planet but….
    in today’s culture where most people eat the SAD, one of the “green smoothies” is going to be great for someone who otherwise refuses to eat anything green. Baby steps.
    I thoroughly enjoy my morning green smoothies, but I make them at home with veggies and fruits (that ARE already super) and I may just add a scoop of green “superfoods” powder. Especially around Christmas time or when my immune system needs a boost.
    So the fact is that people just need to be educated and be taught that no you can’t eat McDonalds all day and expect that a pre-made green or red smoothie will make it OK.

  • http://www.lifegoddess.com bluskygirl

    The idea that a superfood can be constructed by a manufacturing/processing system is pushing it. I think that there are such things as superfoods, but I tend to believe that those foods are only ones that come “au natural” and are not in any way modified by humans. In modification I also include genetic modification. I agree with JT, however, to an average adult’s diet, a green smoothie probably is a superfood. Good post.

  • http://www.momskitchenhandbook.com katie

    Amen. Totally agree. Hope you don’t mind me telling you there’s a tiny typo in the first paragraph..it’s the blogging version of telling you there is spinach in your teeth.

  • http://www.mealsmatter.org/blog LeAnne Ruzzamenti

    Yes! Thank you! Why do we try to make it so complicated for ourselves? There really is no secret or secret ingredient for healthy eating. Just filling up on whole foods would do the trick. Do you think people just want a quick fix and/or is marketing to blame? Either way, as a society, we have definitely lost perspective.

  • http://NormaYrNutritionist.blogspot.com Norma Iris Vidal

    I want my Superfoods in their natural state. Paying for all those supplements is probably more expensive and not as satisfying. I had oatmeal for dinner & recently 2 mangoes, they were so good.Eating healthy is NOT more Expensive, ck out my blog:
    http://normayrnutritionist.blogspot.com/

  • http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com Bryanna Clark Grogan

    Absolutely agree with you! I cannot fathom why people think they have to pay incredible amounts of money for things like acai and mangosteen juice, and goji berries, when we have (here in our own backyard, so to speak) antioxidant-rich blueberries, currants, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, plums and yes, apples, among other fabulous foods! (In addition, these exotic foods are no doubt purchased very cheaply from the 3rd world countries where they grow and are then sold at a huge profit in North America. I would also not trust the claims of organic on these, either, as said countries can’t always guarantee the veracity of those claims.)

    Here’s the list of the top 20 food sources of antioxidants, based on their total antioxidant capacity per serving size:
    from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20040617/antioxidants-found-unexpected-foods
    1 Small Red Bean (dried) Half cup 13727

    2 Wild blueberry 1 cup 13427

    3 Red kidney bean (dried) Half cup 13259

    4 Pinto bean Half cup 11864

    5 Blueberry (cultivated) 1 cup 9019

    6 Cranberry 1 cup (whole) 8983

    7 Artichoke (cooked) 1 cup (hearts) 7904

    8 Blackberry 1 cup 7701

    9 Dried Prune Half cup 7291

    10 Raspberry 1 cup 6058

    11 Strawberry 1 cup 5938

    12 Red Delicious apple One 5900

    13 Granny Smith apple One 5381

    14 Pecan 1 ounce 5095

    15 Sweet cherry 1 cup 4873

    16 Black plum One 4844

    17 Russet potato (cooked) One 4649

    18 Black bean (dried) Half cup 4181

    19 Plum One 4118

    20 Gala apple One 3903

  • http://www.bionic-electronics.com/extensiveweightloss/ Tony

    This was great advise, ill be sure to put it to the test soon. I also have an informational blog about eating right and being on a healthy diet. For more info, please visit http://www.bionic-electronics.com/extensiveweightloss/ for the details

  • http://www.slimmingskinny.com Seb@SlimmingSkinny

    Love your article! Indeed, the term superfood sounds so glamorous and many people seem to think it represents a miracle food (with a somewhat exorbitant price tag for any products derived from it). The truth is superfoods are everywhere. It can be something from a garlic to acai/blue/black berries and so on. As long as we eat a balanced meal with various ingredients implemented, we are already reaping the benefits of these superfoods!

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