Superfoods are considered (by food marketers & fitness influencers) as a category of food, that are packed with nutrient value, in support of our good health & wellbeing. If you’re to search across the internet on this term, you’ll see highlights of fruits & vegetables touted as superfoods.
But when you put thought into it, can you really justify a superfood, as a superfood?
In this article we will delve into:
- The definition of superfood & food.
- Why food is important & what are nutrients?
- The concepts of micronutrients, antioxidants, phytonutrients & macronutrient; and their general benefits to us as humans.
- Conclude whether or not, a superfood has enough justification.
Superfood & Food (Definition)
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA): “Superfood is a term used by many food and beverage companies as a way to promote a food thought to have health benefits; however, there is no official definition of the word by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates the health claims allowed on food labels to ensure there is scientific research to support the claims.”https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/diabetes-superstar-foods; retrieved July 19, 2022.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary:
- Food (noun-UK)-something that people and animals eat, or plants absorb, to keep them alive.
- Food (noun-US)-something that can be taken in by an animal and used to keep it alive and allow it to grow or develop, or such things considered as a whole.
Why Food Is Important & What Are Nutrients
Foods provide nutrients so we can grow & be active and healthy. Nutrients are substances that provide:
- energy for activity, growth, and all functions of the body such as breathing, digesting food, and keeping warm;
- materials for the growth and repair of the body, and for keeping the immune system healthy.
What Are Micronutrients, Antioxidants, Phytonutrients & Macronutrients?
“Micronutrients, often referred to as vitamins and minerals, are vital to healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. With the exception of vitamin D, micronutrients are not produced in the body and must be derived from the diet. Though people only need small amounts of micronutrients, consuming the recommended amount is important.” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Micronutrient Facts; Retrieved-July 23, 2022.
Natural sources of micronutrients include the general food groups of fruits & vegetables.
“Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Diets high in vegetables and fruits, which are good sources of antioxidants, have been found to be healthy; however, research has not shown antioxidant supplements to be beneficial in preventing diseases. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. National Centre for Complimentary and Integrative Health; Antioxidants: In Depth; Retrieved-July 23, 2022.
“Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and legumes. These plant compounds have beneficial effects working with other essential nutrients to promote good health. A number of phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Experts believe that eating plenty of phytonutrient-rich foods promotes healthy aging.” UnlockFood.Ca; Phytonutrients-Nature’s Natural Defense; Retrieved, July 23, 2022.
“Macronutrients are the nutritive components of food that the body needs for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems. No healthy diet should exclude or seriously restrict any macronutrient.” The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; What Are Macronutrients? Retrieved-July 23, 2022.
Micronutrients or Macronutrient Food Sources: Which Is The Real Superfood?
Based on the definitions of micronutrients, antioxidants & phytochemicals, It is fair to say that fruits and vegetables are loaded with these nutrients and properties that support good health. However, to jump into action towards the consumption of fruits & vegetables, without the focus on satisfying our daily macronutrient (energy & tissue growth & repair) needs, is irresponsible. Our life cannot be without macronutrient sources. And our consumption of macronutrient sources are needed in larger quantities relative to micronutrients, antioxidants & phytochemicals.
So, when you think about it:
Should macronutrients, given our larger daily needs (in mass), be considered the real superfoods?
Should both micronutrient sources & macronutrient sources be considered as superfoods, instead of the focus being on fruit/vegetable micronutrient sources?
Should we just cease in the usage of the term ‘superfood’ altogether?
I leave it to you, to objectively reason, and decide.
About The Author
Oshane Bryant: BSc Geology, Geography Minor; ACE CPT since 2012; Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Accelerator Graduate-2018 cohort; KUKIBO Martial Arts & Self Defense, Senior Instructor; OB Fitness Founder & Managing Director.