We have all heard the word “superfood” tossed around, but what does it really mean? Are there really certain foods that have magical health benefits or is it just a term that food companies use to get you to buy their products? Before you buy into the hype, take the time to learn the basics about what a superfood is and how it may benefit your body and your health.
What are Superfoods?
The term “superfood” is given to certain foods which provide significant health benefits such as anti-aging, anti-cancer or energy-boosting properties. Though there is no scientific definition for the term superfood, it is a term that is commonly used within the health and fitness world. This term may have first appeared in 1998 in the journal Nature Nutrition in an article written by Aaron Moss. In his article, Moss wrote that “the benefits of some [food] options are so nutritious that they might be labeled as superfoods.” Since the coining of this term, however, various medical and nutritional organizations have spoken out against it as merely a marketing term used by food manufacturers. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you call them – some foods are simply more nutritious than others.
Benefits of Superfoods
Because there is no scientific definition for the term, the list of superfoods is very long. There are certain benefits, however, common to many superfoods including the following:
- Anti-aging benefits – nutrients which help to improve or maintain skin clarity and elasticity
- Antioxidants – these nutrients have been shown to reduce inflammation and to protect cells against fee radical damage
- Anti-cancer benefits – many superfoods are thought to help reduce the risk for certain types of cancer
- Energy-boosting – certain nutrient combinations have been shown to provide a healthy energy boost
- Joint health – superfoods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help to relieve arthritis pain and improve joint health
- Heart health – certain superfoods contain nutrients that have been shown to lower the risk for heart disease by reducing blood pressure
- Weight loss – while no food contains the magical ability to make you lose weight, certain nutrients found in some superfoods have been shown to support healthy weight loss and maintenance
5 Surprising Superfoods
Because the term “superfood” is used fairly loosely, you may find that many of the foods you already eat are classified as such. Some common superfoods include broccoli, tomatoes, blueberries, green tea and yogurt. These foods contain essential nutrients that the body needs to maintain good health and they contain them in a higher quantity than other common foods.
Some more surprising or uncommon superfoods include:
Chia Seeds – chia seeds are tiny black seeds that, when soaked in water, produce a thick gel that is great for puddings and smoothies. In terms of nutritional value, chia seeds are rich in fatty acids and fiber as well as antioxidants. Chia seeds also contain about three times as much iron as spinach per serving as well as high levels of calcium.
Goji Berries – sometimes referred to as wolfberries, goji berries are native to China and they are bright orange-red in color. These berries have been used to treat a variety of illnesses including fever, diabetes, eye problems and high blood pressure. In addition to these uses, goji berries contain a variety of nutrients including those which have been shown to improve athletic performance, to improve sleep and to promote mental well-being.
Maca – also called maca root, this superfood is found at high altitudes, primarily in the Andes Mountains. In addition to containing high levels of fatty acids and sterols, maca may also help to regulate hormonal imbalance and to alleviate menstrual cramps. This root is also said to increase libido and stamina.
Acai – also referred to as Acai berry, this fruit is native to South America though it has become popular all over the world. Acai has been shown to provide a number of significant health benefits including detoxification, reduced inflammation, improved circulation, lowered cholesterol, slowed aging and strengthened immunity.
Black Rice – you have probably heard of brown rice, but black rice may be a new concept. This type of rice is incredibly high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to maintain immune system health and also protects your cells against free radical damage. You may be surprised to hear that black rice actually contains more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than blueberries.
If you are serious about maintaining your health, it shouldn’t matter to you whether the term “superfood” is scientifically correct or not. The fact that certain foods are simply healthier than others may be all that you need to know. If you follow a diet filled with healthy foods (like the superfoods listed above), you should have no trouble achieving your goal.