Blueberries, tomatoes, spinach, salmon, almonds, and wheat germ. These products are all great, natural additions to a healthy diet, but are they super? On one hand, they are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and more. Their sales have also increased significantly since being named as ‘superfoods’ in marketing campaigns.
However, these successful advertising campaigns have led to the ban of the term ‘superfood’ in product labeling and marketing materials in Europe. Superfoods are also often advertised in combination with extreme specialty diets such as juice cleanses, which promote restricting your diet to a limited subset of superfoods.
Are superfoods healthy? Should we consider them miracle cures or marketing hype? LabDoor scientists have curated research from clinical studies and published news sources to find these key superfood facts:
Health Benefits of Superfoods
Generally, items that fall into the superfood category are low in fat and sugar but high in antioxidants or other nutrients. Superfoods can come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.
- Healthy snacks like almonds, which are high in minerals, fiber, and natural protein and can help promote good heart health.
- ‘Super’ fruits include blueberries and apples, which fight against infection, lower cholesterol levels, and help promote healthy aging.
- In the meat department, salmon is considered a superfood because it includes a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight blood clots and can lower stroke and blood pressure risk.
- Common lists of superfoods also include products like sweet potatoes, red beans, broccoli, spinach, and wheat germ.
The Superfoods “Miracle Cure”?
Superfoods are definitely proven to be healthy sources of key nutrients. So what’s the problem with these superfoods’ marketing claims?
First, the body needs a wide, balanced distribution of nutrients, along with proper diet and exercise to truly be healthy. No one section of the grocery aisle is enough. Consumers of extreme superfoods diets, including juice cleanses, often experience side effects like spikes in blood sugar, lowered metabolism, and decreased energy.
Also, even superfoods should be consumed in moderation. Fruits like apples and blueberries have high sugar content. Almonds, salmon, and olive oil all contain relatively high levels of fat and calories. And many products labeled as superfoods can be subject to high price markups and/or mislabeling. For example, olive oil products can vary significantly in omega-3 content, and many of the worst offenders offer none of the expected ‘superfoods’ benefits.
Finally, international consensus is against the broad, unproven use of the word ‘superfoods’. The US’ Food and Drug Administration, Britain’s Food Standards Agency, and European Union’s legislators have all worked to fight unscientific marketing terms in favor of true clinical efficacy data at the product level.
Superfoods are good, not evil. But even they should be consumed in moderation as part of a well-balanced, healthy diet.