A couple of the latest buzzwords in nutrition are “superfood & superfoods.” As with most newly popular terms, there is no strong consensus as to the true definition of what they are. Granted, most of those using the term are trying to hype and hawk some product, BUT, the fact is that there are certain foods with superior nutritional properties that can and should be described as superfoods.
Definition of a Superfood
As a consumer who is concerned about your health, it is definitely worth your time to get a clearer understanding of what qualifies a food to be called a superfood. The generally accepted definition of superfood is: a food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that my confer health benefits with minimal negative traits. A negative trait could be anything from significant amounts of undesirable substances (toxins, food additives, contaminants, bad fats, etc.) accompanying the beneficial substances.
The terms are not in common use by dietitians or doctors (no big surprise there). The term is first believed to appear circa 1915. The Oxford English Dictionary includes a citation for superfood in the general sense of “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.”
Superfoods and History
Throughout human history, every culture that we have records of has observed and noted that certain foods have superior health-supporting properties. This phenomenon is universal, and we therefore should acknowledge that there is likely something to it. Nutritional science over the past 100 or so years had confirmed that certain foods do in fact have superior nutritional properties to others. As our technology and understanding continues to advance, we keep discovering more beneficial substances that occur in certain foods. The entire category of phytonutrients is a great example, 25 years ago they were largely unknown while today we are beginning to understand how important & beneficial they really are.
As civilizations and cultures evolved, those in power have consistently sought out special substances that could confer re-vitalizing, rejuvenative, and anti-aging properties to help restore and preserve them. In many cases, various herbs & other concentrated superfoods were identified. Modern science has confirmed the special nutritional properties inherent in many of these foods. Examples include: ginseng, garlic, ginger, ant extract, flower pollen, spirulina, wheat grass, certain organ meats, etc.
Did ancient civilizations have it right in their identification of various superfoods? Has modern science caught up with those early observations? Do certain foods have special nutritional properties? Let’s explore these and other superfood related questions further…
Definition of a Superfood
In my opinion a “superfood” is any food that contains “exceptional or significant” amounts of one or more substances known or believed to have important health benefits. Those substances must be bio-available and useable by the body in the form that the food is typically ingested (this may entail some reasonable degree of processing). It is generally expected that such foods occur naturally and have withstood the test of time which helps to insure that they are free from, or relatively low in negative traits.
Among superfoods, there is also an additional consideration. Is it an “everyday superfood” that can be consumed in relatively larger amounts to help meet one’s daily macronutrient needs or is it more of a “concentrated superfood” that is normally consumed in very small, supplemental amounts?
In my opinion, it is important and useful to distinguish between these two types of superfoods when considering incorporating superfoods into a superfood diet. A superfood diet is simply a healthy diet that emphasizes and incorporates as many superfoods as possible. That’s not very precise or quantified but that’s all there is to it. As with any diet or eating system, there is a wide range of application and adherence.
Value of a Superfoods Diet
Given the current state of the general populations’ health (ABYSMAL) I believe that we should all do our best to incorporate as many everyday superfoods as possible into our regular diet. Since superfoods contain significant or exceptional amounts of one or more beneficial nutrients, their use can only benefit our health.
What about cost? Will following a superfood diet break the bank? That all depends on which superfoods we’re talking about. Although many superfoods are extremely expensive, there are many that are very cost-effective and a great value. As a general rule, everyday superfoods are very cost-effective and give a great “bang for the buck” whereas the concentrated superfoods can be quite pricey and may do little to satisfy your daily food requirements.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that concentrated superfoods are awesome. Just don’t rely on them as food, they are more appropriately categorized as food-based supplements to a healthy diet rather than being able to make up a healthy diet. Believe me, many years ago, early in my nutritional studies, I tried living on a blend of concentrated superfoods. I felt good BUT my appetite (and palate) were never really satisfied… plus I smelled like garlic! Of course when you eat a lot of garlic you have no idea how bad you smell to others since you can’t smell yourself. Not a great thing for one’s social life!
So, the concentrated superfoods, in my opinion, should be limited to a relatively small percentage of your total food intake while the everyday superfood should make up a much larger percentage. My current superfood diet includes approximately 80+% everyday superfoods.
In the next installment, pending feedback, questions, comments, etc., I’ll go into greater detail about my superfood diet as well as beginning to explore specific superfoods.
Yours In Super Health! |