Superfood: superheroes from food or mainstream?

superhero-304713_960_720All of us dreamed, once at least, about some magic in everyday life. To eat cakes and not gain weight, to be healthy without exercises or diets, to take a magic pill from all possible diseases… And, according to 10 million results in Internet search, our dreams come true: the media is full of reports about superfood – an ultra-healthy food, which can provide us with full list of vitamins, slow down the ageing process, lift depression, boost our physical ability, and even our intelligence. Foods vary in their nutritional value. Is it possible that some deserve the title of superfood?

It should be noted: there is no official or legal definition of a superfood. The Oxford English dictionary, for example, describes a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”, while the Merriam-Webster dictionary omits any reference to health and defines it as “a super nutrient-dense food, loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and/or phytonutrients”. It can be found more than 30 variants of superfood. [1] For example:

  • cabbage: good sources of calcium, iron, fiber, folate, and vitamins, low in calories — 22 for a cup of the variety served raw;
  • cauliflower: rich in fiber and folate, vitamins B6, C, K, and potassium. A cup of chopped, raw cauliflower has just 27 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein;
  • broccoli: high in vitamin C and folate;
  • red pepper: great source of vitamins A (a cup of them raw and chopped gives you nearly 100% of your daily allowance), C (300% of daily allowance), and B6;
  • kale: gives you more than 200% of your daily allowance of vitamin A plus 684% of your allowance of vitamin K. It’s also high in vitamins C, B6, calcium, and potassium;
  • brussels sprouts: are high in fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, K, and B6, iron, and potassium [2]

Certainly, the nutrients in these foods have been shown to have several health-promoting properties. Food elevated to “super” status because of those rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules which protect the cells in the body from harmful free radicals. These free radicals come from sources such as cigarette smoke and alcohol, and are also produced naturally in the body during metabolism. Too many free radicals in the body can lead to age-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But the problem is that conditions of most research are very different to the way these foods are normally consumed by people in their everyday lives. These are usually not realistically applicable for a normal diet (for example to obtain benefit from garlic, including in the superfood list, you would have to be eat up to 28 cloves a day).


More than that, most of these foods have alternatives, which are more common to our diets: carrots, apples and onions, for example, are packed with health-promoting nutrients such as beta-carotene, fibre, and the flavonoid quercetin.  

It is a mistake to think that we can improve our health just with one type of food. It is harmfully indeed to concentrate to the one or several products. So, if you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and do regular exercise, nothing is a superfood.


In conclusion, there is a tip from dietitians: when it comes to keeping healthy, it’s best not to concentrate on only one food in the hope it will work miracles. All unprocessed food from the major food groups could be considered ‘super’. All these foods are useful as part of a balanced diet. You should eat a variety of foods, to ensure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs. Focusing on getting your five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is a perfect way to start.

By Diana Podgurskaia



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