We are regularly encouraged to eat our fruits and vegetables because they are good for us. Yet many of us struggle to consume the recommended daily servings. Although it may seem difficult to get the recommended amount, are there certain foods that provide an extra boost of nutrition and health benefits when we fail to consume enough fruit and vegetables? You might have heard of super foods, but is there really such a thing or is it a marketing ploy?
So what is a super food? A super food is defined as a food that appears to offer additional health benefits beyond simple nutrition, providing multiple disease-fighting nutrients. Foods that are considered super foods are usually a combination of the following:
- Low in calories
- Contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids or monounsaturated fatty acids
- High in fiber
- Contain phytochemicals
- Rich in phytonutrients (antioxidants)
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- Low in saturated and trans fats
- Low in refined sugars
A number of fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, apples, and broccoli, are considered super foods because they are low in calories and are high in fiber and phytochemicals. These super foods can help lower cholesterol and lower your risk of developing heart disease or cancer.
According to nutrition expert Penny Kris-Etherton, “Many so-called “super foods” are good for your heart and your overall health when incorporated into a heart-healthy diet that’s balanced in lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk and dairy products. This diet also should include nuts, seeds and legumes, fish, and liquid vegetable oils.”
However, marketing tactics can create myths regarding super foods. There is currently no regulatory definition for super foods. The term is often used by marketers and the media to describe foods that claim extra health and nutritional benefits. This could lead consumers to believe that a food is more beneficial than it actually is and cause them to not focus on a well-rounded diet.
This is why most nutrition experts try to avoid using the term. Marion Nestle, a nutritionist, views super foods as a “marketing device-nutritionists like me don’t recognize any one food as especially super.” And according to Connie Diekman, “As a dietician, I never want to say one is better than the other, so I would encourage [marketers] not to sell it that way.”
Given that the term super food is not regulated, it should be used with caution or avoided. Using the term could give consumers a false sense of reality of the kind of benefits they will receive from consuming a food.
If you market foods, be cautious of using the term super food to avoid over-hyping the benefits of a particular food. Instead, choose an approach in which you can compare two foods and demonstrate why one food has a higher nutritional value over another.
Whether or not you believe that a food is really a “super food,” eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will have a positive impact on your health. And the good news is that many of these foods can easily be found in your local grocery. But, it is important to remember portion sizes and to eat a wide variety of these nutritious foods. Eating too much of one type of food can prevent you from getting all the nutrients you need.