Superfoods – My Least Favourite Word in the Nutrition World

There’s one term that my eyeballs keep reading a million times a day. It’s all over blogs, TV, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and yes, Pinterest.

Superfood. This term hurts my eyeballs and my brain. I physically cringe every time I read it, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not the foods as such that hurt, but the hype surrounding them.

Top 10 Superfoods to turn you into a supermodel’

‘Superfoods for an overnight 6 pack’

‘Cleanse and detoxify with these new superfoods’

‘Cure your arthritis – buy this superfood’

Nutiva Hemp Protein Shake

Although the term Superfood is relatively new, the foods themselves are not. Foods such as pomegranate, quinoa, chia, honey and beetroot are all of a sudden amazingly wonderful and added to everyone’s diet for weight loss, energy and vitality along with raw cocoa, asian banana and paw paw to name a few.

I love anything which promotes good nutrition and there is no denying that the popularity of superfoods has done just that.

But it is the word SUPER, and the fact that these foods and ingredients are now marketed by supplement and health food companies as the new must-have ingredient for living a fulfilled and healthy life is what gets up my goat. Superfoods are no ‘hidden secret’ or ‘miraculous cure’ as they are often claimed to be. Yes they are super, but they are foods and they are nothing new. They are simple foods that our ancestors ate every single day since the dawn of time, as a way of fuelling our body to keep us alive and protect us from disease and illness.

Nowdays, these foods are constantly referred labelled as the newly discovered ‘Superhero ingredient’. Interestingly, in comics and movies, a Superhero is an ideal that carries extra-ordinary powers, dedicated to ‘protecting’ the public. Admittedly in this way, the Superfoods (ouch, my brain) mentioned above ARE superheros – they contain nutrients of which we literally cannot live without. Without them we set the stage for things going wrong, think weight gain, arthritis, heart disease and some cancers. You could say they save the day and protect us just like a Superhero, from that nasty villain called ‘disease and illness’.

What is saddening is that as a society, we have become so used to eating a diet containing foods of which DON’T contain nutrients (coke, cakes, burger rings, Big Mac, choc chip biscuits) that as soon as something DOES contain nutrients (special powers) it’s deemed a SUPERFOOD! All of a sudden, instead of fruit and vegetables as our source of chlorophyll, we go to the store and buy a quick fix bottle of processed chlorophyll and add it to our smoothies because it’s a Superfood. We add pea protein, a highly processed extraction of the protein from peas, to our breakfast cereal because it’s a Superfood. But I can’t agree with the way that Superfoods have all of a sudden turned from a marvelous treasure of nature, into something you order on line so that you will get a six pack of abs, or will make you look more like a supermodel (talk about pressure!).

Did you know that many of the ‘antioxidant blast’ type supplements which claim to detoxify, brighten skin and renew cells are simply crushed up pomegranates and grapes in a tablet? We’ve lost touch with the idea that these nutrients are found in foods.

Many food companies and especially health food companies are adding ‘superfoods’ to sugar and fat laden packaged foods in an attempt to trick the buyer into thinking it’s a healthy option. Think health bars with the ‘added benefit of goji berries’ for example. They are often packed full of sugar, fillers and nasties that you don’t see or hear about until you flip the box over and delve into the ingredients list.

But Superfoods are only able to protect us as Superhero’s if the whole scene is set. Adding a Superfood to our diet does not all of a sudden negate that weekend alcohol binge by cleansing our liver, or reverse any damage caused by those cigarettes, or weight gain from the whole packet of chocolate biscuits we ate.

And this is where the Superfood term becomes dangerous. These foods aren’t a quick fix nor a band aid over a bad diet or lifestyle.

Unfortunately, eating a bucket of pomegranates a day, will not turn us into a supermodel, nor will adding raw cacao nibs to our breakfast. However eating these foods as a normal every day part of our  healthy diet WILL set us up to be free from the villain (disease and illness) and help us live our best life. If we get a six pack from the process of eating a diet which is full of Superfoods normal foods because they are simply low in kilojoules, then good! If we cure our arthritis because we are eating less villain foods such as McDonalds, and more Superhero foods such as fish and pomegranates, fabulous! A healthy diet with the addition of pea protein and cacao nibs, wonderful!

I am all for anything which helps people become more healthy, and the popularity of the term Superfood may just do that. So call them what you wish, but please start from the bottom up. Fresh, healthy foods to create a balanced, wholesome diet. Superfoods are normal everyday foods that we were DESIGNED to eat and thrive on. They are what our body needs.

Love them for their taste, flavour and their marvelous nutritional properties not for their possible ability to give you abs. Let’s start getting it from natural, normal foods and not supplements and realise that they won’t create a models body overnight.

What do you think of the term Superfood? Do you have a Superfood Superhero? Would love to hear from you!

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14 thoughts on “Superfoods – My Least Favourite Word in the Nutrition World

  1. LOVED THIS!!! I hate the way that normal, unprocessed foods have become the *unusual* portion of diet; the way the concept of eating lean meats, and fresh vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices, is somehow *unnatural* and therefore deemed to be this amazing thing called “healthy”. Worse, eating any of these things raw, or particularly utilising some of the types of foods that have been around for hundreds of years is somehow SUPER!!! Fresh, natural, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods. Yeah, it’s great to eat them. People should do more of it. But the mentality needs to change…

  2. Totally agree NG – diets (and by diet I mean what we eat every day) need to be a balance of nutrient dense food – be is superfoods, or other. I question people that spend a fortune on supplements or creams to make their skin look beautiful, but it needs to come from what we eat and how we treat ourselves.
    Hugs for a brilliant blog post xxx

  3. Pingback: The Truth about Coconut Oil | The Nutrition Guru and the Chef

  4. I agree with what you are saying and yes, it makes sense from the perspective of a person that has a great deal of food knowledge. I see no harm in the term if it draws people out of their “junk food junkie stupor” and pay attention to other options. For many it starts with a few supplements, then some better foods choices to crowd out the bad, and so on. Superfood is a new term for solid, whole, single ingredient foods. Something most people, now in the third generation of never having cooked a meal at home, no longer know a thing about.

    Reading a book like David Wolfe’s “Superfood” is an amazingly good place to get that lost knowledge. There will always be those that want the easy (pill and powder) solutions … no matter what term you use. Not everyone knows about all the foods around the world. Even the well-educated and well-travelled ones like myself. It helps bring into the pantry some foods we had NO idea existed (Goji berried, Kelp, Phytoplankton, chlorella, cacao, maca etc.) depending on where you are in the world … many of these are totally foreign.

  5. I am really embarassed to use the term!! If i am using cacao eg. for cooking in place of cocoa and a friend asks me why, the -*ahem*- ‘superfood’ term is mumbled out, but it is a term that people are recognising. I bet it all started as a joke….

    • Hi,

      I definitely agree that the term S****food is thrown out there quite a lot these days. People do seem to become more aware of their health and what they eat, which is great! I myself make sure to try and get my five a day (if not more!) and eat a lot of lean protein as well as wholegrain foods. I think it’s sad that most of these things are propped into pills and when people take them, they think they will become a lot more healthy, that’s not the case! Eating fresh, and making sure to be at least moderatively active is the key! I do take multivitamins with added iron and also codliver oil capsules, but only because my diet before was a complete disaster. I feel a lot more energised when I eat healthy (and preferably home made) food! :D.

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