JUL 11, 2018 5:35 AM PDT

What's So Super About Superfoods?

Nutrition is important, and eating a healthy diet is the best way to manage weight, stay fit and reduce the risk of some diseases. Food is what sustains us, but is there really such a thing as a “superfood?” It’s a buzzword in health and nutrition circles, but what does it really mean?

Do kale leaves come with little capes and a big “K” on the front? Is there a comic book that chronicles the adventures of a gang of teenage mutant ninja broccoli stalks? If you draw a mask and pointy ears on an egg, is it then BatEgg? Is that why Batman’s sidekick is named Robin? Did he come from a super blue egg?

Of course not. Saying something is a superfood is more of a marketing term than a scientific term. At least according to Dr. Nina Shapiro who wrote a book called “Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims, and Bad Advice.” She calls the term “completely made up” and in an interview with Business Insider Magazine, she said, “The notion of a superfood is that is so good for you, it will prevent cancer and even treat cancer or stave off evil illnesses, but food alone cannot do that. When we talk about superfoods, primarily we think of berries, foods with high antioxidants. And it's really a misnomer. There is no such thing. There are foods that are good for you and foods that are not so good for you, but the idea of a superfood treating or preventing an illness is false.”

Dr. Shapiro points out that there has always been marketing around the idea of healthy food. In the 1970s, pasta that was made with unbleached flour and had vitamins added was touted as the superfood of its time. Later on, it was frozen yogurt and bran muffins. Even though these items had just as much sugar, calories, and fat as ice cream and cake, people were buying them in droves because ad executives knew how to market them as health food. Granola was popular for years before people realized that some of it was deep-fried during preparation. 

Nutrition expert Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD, volunteers with the American Heart Association. She talked about the superfood trend saying, “Eating ‘superfoods’ won’t hurt you. Most are very healthy. As a registered dietician, I’d like to see people eat more of the super foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, fatty fish and all fruits and veggies. A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.”

While food and beverages like berries and green tea are considered “nutrient dense” and have antioxidants, the way they are processed and prepared matters. Green tea from China is usually pure green tea leaves and no added sugar, but in the US, green tea “beverages” are often made with large amounts of sugar. Berries that are nutritious, but baked in a pie with a scoop of ice cream on top, aren’t really that super. Check out the video included for more information on superfoods and what the term really means.

Sources: Business Insider  American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 28, 2020
Microbiology
The Flu Vaccine Will Not Increase the Risk of COVID-19
SEP 28, 2020
The Flu Vaccine Will Not Increase the Risk of COVID-19
Scientists and clinicians want people to get their flu shots this year, especially because of the ongoing pandemic.
SEP 29, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
What We Call Parkinson's Disease May Actually be Two Distinct Disorders
SEP 29, 2020
What We Call Parkinson's Disease May Actually be Two Distinct Disorders
Researchers have used imaging tools to show that Parkinson's disease may actually be two different diseases, one that st ...
SEP 30, 2020
Cancer
Chemokines Could be the Key in Controlling Glioma Stem Cells
SEP 30, 2020
Chemokines Could be the Key in Controlling Glioma Stem Cells
The transformation of a healthy cell into a cancerous one often comes with a slew of cellular signaling changes.  T ...
OCT 01, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
HPV Vaccine Protects Against Cervical Cancer, Large Study Finds
OCT 01, 2020
HPV Vaccine Protects Against Cervical Cancer, Large Study Finds
It has been known for some time that the HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus infection, genital warts, and ...
OCT 13, 2020
Cardiology
A Kidney Toxin Could Act as a Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk
OCT 13, 2020
A Kidney Toxin Could Act as a Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk
Biomarkers have taken the diagnostic field by storm over the past decade. The search for stable, easy to access indicato ...
OCT 19, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mapping the Human Proteome
OCT 19, 2020
Mapping the Human Proteome
To learn more about biology and medicine, researchers have used advances in molecular techniques and computational biolo ...
Loading Comments...