The term “superfood” is a very convenient term for marketing; it just sounds so compelling! It combines our nostalgic love of super heroes, with our more adult passion for…well, food. This term was once seemingly reserved for the exotic foods, like the acai berry, for example. Now just about any plant food can be found masquerading on a health-related website as a superfood. Just now, the top search return for “what is a superfood,” produced a list that began with tomatoes (1). Now, there’s nothing wrong with tomatoes; they’re wonderful fruits. But it does seem as though the term has become a bit watered down – lost its luster.
Unfortunately, because the term “superfood” does not have any scientifically established definition (2), anyone can proclaim any food as being a “superfood.” Make no mistake, there are some foods out there that truly do pack a nutritional punch, compared to others. However, we feel it is important for the public to be aware that, as enticing as the term sounds, it truly is a marketing gimmick – most often used to increase sales of some over-priced food with unsubstantiated claims (e.g. 3); if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Let’s consider the not-so-humble wheatgrass, as an example. Proponents often claim that wheatgrass contains an exceptionally high amount of chlorophyll, and that chlorophyll’s structural similarity to your blood hemoglobin – which carries oxygen – means that consuming wheatgrass will aid a person’s oxygen carrying capacity! Sounds wonderful, except that it’s utterly untrue. The chlorophyll content of wheatgrass is not exceptionally high, and more importantly, chlorophyll is broken down in the gut, so it never makes it intact to the bloodstream (2).
So rather than spending exorbitant amounts of money on unproven “superfoods,” I suggest investing in your health by finding a scientifically-sound and customizable nutrition program that encourages eating a variety of real whole foods – limiting processed foods as much as you can – and the nutrient profile will take care of itself!
- Superfoods you need now. Health.com website. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306775,00.html#tomatoes-1. Accessed February 2, 2017.
- Williams C. A blueberry a day: Do “superfoods” have miraculous health-giving properties, or are they a rotten swindle? NewScientist. 2016:27-31.
- Do goji berries deserve their A-list status. NHS.UK website. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/superfoods/Pages/are-goji-berries-a-superfood.aspx. August 26, 2015Accessed February 2, 2017.