What Makes Superfoods ‘Super?’

“Superfoods” offer exceptional nutrition value over other foods – or do they? Is there any scientific basis to the term “superfoods” or is it all marketing hype?

The label “superfood” is usually attached to a nutrient-dense food, often plant-based, but has no specific medical or scientific criteria established as explained by the American Heart Association. So, the label of “superfood” can be – and is — applied liberally by those growing, selling or distributing certain fruits and vegetables, fish, dairy products and any and all types of even processed foods and dietary supplements.

Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have any jurisdiction in holding individuals or corporations liable for claims about this item or that product being a superfood. Without governmental recognition of a scientific standard or definition, there are no statutes to uphold.

Consumers should do their own research to determine the nutritional value of any food, natural, processed, organic or dietary supplement before adding it to their diet based solely on its arbitrary designation as a superfood. It’s the same advice for any type of food, diet or dietary supplement.

One of the dangers associated with the label of superfood is that it leads to some unrealistic expectations that a food item may hold. Simply adding one or two of the so-called superfoods to an otherwise nutrition-poor diet will not confer any special powers of healing or overall improved health.

Eating large quantities of any one type of food could lead to deficiencies in other areas of your diet, perhaps the under-consumption of a vital vitamin, mineral or phytonutrient. Similarly, eating large quantities of any one type of food could lead to imbalances in electrolytes or abnormally high levels of fat-soluble vitamins or certain trace minerals.

Even foods that are nutrient-dense, that could appropriately fit the term superfood, need to be part of an overall balanced diet. A diet filled with foods from the various food groups, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and protein in adequate amounts to fill your body’s nutritional needs and not exceed your caloric intake is what every person needs unless directed otherwise by a health care provider.

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