Reader Q&A: What the heck is a SUPER FOOD?

 blueberry bowl

Big Grey QI keep hearing about “superfoods.” What the heck are they and should I care? - Danielle, a reader from Milwaukee

 

ASuperfood. You may have seen this mysterious moniker planted on grocery store packaging, promising to prevent cancer, heart disease or any number of ailments. But what exactly is a superfood, and is this buzzword bona fide or food marketing malarkey? Here’s what we know.

A superfood is a nutrient-packed food that might have health benefits (think antioxidants, carotenes and possible cancer-fighting agents). In a recent CNN blog post, a nutrition specialist said there isn’t really a definition for superfood, adding “This is really just a marketing term.” But some foods are generally considered to fall in that category because they have more healthy nutrients than average foods.  

Salmon fillet with asparagus and yellow sauceBlueberries are touted for their immune boosting antioxidants; nuts and seeds are said to keep you heart healthy; while pumpkins and carrots are celebrated for their carotene content, which promotes eye health. Avocados, salmon, kale, quinoa, acai berry. We’re seeing Chia seeds everywhere now. The list goes on. And on. And on

Superfoods featured prominently in the documentary Food Matters, which advocates a nutrient-rich raw food diet as a way to treat and prevent health issues. The documentary accuses the medical industry of perpetuating illness by ignoring/dismissing the health benefits of a nutrient-rich raw food diet so they can make more money treating sick people.

The rebuttal: Opponents claim the amazing properties of superfoods aren’t all that super by scientific standards.

Carrots on counter

Enter enterprising food marketers who have capitalized on the superfood craze by advertising the foods’ health benefits. Some have faced backlash for it.

In 2012, a judge ruled that POM Wonderful, which makes attractively packaged pomegranate products, had to stop advertising what the Federal Trade Commission deemed misleading health benefits. (See more about pomegranates in the video below, which comes from entire YouTube channel dedicated to superfoods.)

It’s safe to assume we’ll see more regulation on superfood advertising claims in the future.

The bottom line: No matter which side of the line you stand on, we doubt many folks would argue that eating more fruits, veggies and grains is a bad choice. Which is partly why we’re bringing you a heaping helping of healthy recipes during our month-long focus on a plant-strong diet. Super, right? - posted by Marianne Hale

 Superfood Recipes on CookFearless:
Carrot-Rosemary Soup
Carrots Braised in Mustard

 

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