What is a superfood?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, A superfood is “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”
It is however a marketing term and not a word that is commonly used by nutrition experts and dieticians. It has in fact no official definition in key consumer markets, such as the European Food Safety Authority and the US Department of Agriculture and the marketing of products as ‘superfoods’ was actually prohibited in the EU in 2007 unless accompanied by a specific authorised health claim supported by credible research.
However, it has, over the past two decades in particular, become a term synonymous with wellbeing and healthy eating and looks like it’s going to be part of our daily vocabulary for quite a while longer.
So lets look at some foods that are nutrient-rich and worthy of being called ‘super’.
One fruit that is well known as being termed ‘super’ and is now to be found just about everywhere. For those of us who are familiar with the now much rarer bilberry, of European origin, this is the American equivalent.
Rich in vitamins, soluble fibre and phytochemicals this is a very versatile fruit, great at breakfast, in a smoothie, or as a dessert.
The same nutrients are found in a number of berries, i.e. cranberry, strawberry, raspberry.
This dark, leafy veg is a great source of nutrients, high in vitamins A, C and K as well as many minerals. Others leafy greens that are also good for you include Swiss Chard, broccoli and spinach.
Kale can be eaten raw mixed in a salad or cooked. Kale Chips are a popular on-trend snack.
Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fat, (the heart-healthy kind), and contain protein, fibre and vitamin E, amongst other things.
Currently popular are Chia seeds – tiny, black seeds from the Salvia Hispanica plant, a member of the mint family. Seemingly used by the Aztecs and Mayans as a source of energy. They are rich in fibre and Omega-3 and great added to breakfast cereals. Toast them lightly for an enhanced flavour and sprinkle on salad.
The Edamame bean (the Japanese word for edible soy bean)
This bean is packed with protein, minerals and vitamins and is a young soy bean that is harvested early.
They can be bought fresh or frozen, in their pods or as beans. Steam or boil and eat on their own or in salads.
Beans in general are a source of low-fat protein and insoluble fibre, which lowers cholesterol, as well as soluble fibre.
And finally, that all time favourite – garlic.
Closely related to the onion and part of the lily family, it’s a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and fibre. Modern research has focused on its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, cholesterol levels and cancer.
Not only is it an indispensable ingredient but in its raw form can be used on the skin for its antiseptic and antibacterial qualities.
Its hard to keep up with food trends and easy to be drawn into the marketing of so-called ‘superfoods’. But incorporating some of these in our daily diets can only benefit overall health.
A well-balanced diet and a variety of nutritious foods is the most important thing and even the good old potato has its role to play in keeping us healthy.