Our culture has grown obsessed with the idea of elevating certain foods up onto a pedestal and regarding them as the superheroes (or superfoods) of food. However, in order for something to be super, it has to far exceed the other options available. While the foods that many of us consider to be “super” are certainly nutrient dense and provide numerous benefits for the human body, we have lost sight of the fact that many, many, MANY foods can fit into this category.
Companies want us to believe that superfoods are exotic and rare so that we believe they are difficult to get ahold of in order to consider them worthy of higher pricing. While it is true that some foods labeled as superfoods, like maca powder and acai, are often imported from other countries, like Peru and Brazil, that is not always the case. In fact, most foods that could tout the “super” label can be found at the majority of grocery stores across the United States! But nobody acknowledges the existence of everyday superfoods scattered throughout grocery stores’ produce aisles because that would dampen the allure of the superfood fantasy.
One of the main issues with the superfood trend is that a single nutritious food or a combination of a few of them will not outdo the damaging effects of a poor diet. It really is as simple as that. If the majority of your diet consists of animal protein, processed foods, added sugar and simple carbohydrates, adding a few goji berries to your morning smoothie is not going to have a major impact. Even if you eat those goji berries daily, your overall health is not going to flourish if the majority of your food is not nutritious.
If you were to flip the idea in your head, you will better understand what I mean. If your diet is primarily healthy with an emphasis on plant foods like veggies, fruits, and whole grains, then having a single soda will not immediately cause you to become ill (though I do advise against it whenever possible, of course). The pattern of what you consume on a daily basis is much more impactful to overall health than an occasional addition of either a cheat treat or a superfood.
If you have the means, adding new “superfoods” to your routine can be fun and, do not get me wrong, they can certainly provide health benefits. But instead of relying on expensive and over-hyped powders and produce to heal you of various ailments, I highly recommend changing up your diet. Some simple steps that you can take that will far outweigh the benefits of a few trendy “superfoods” include increasing your daily water intake, aim to up your servings of veggies to nine cups per day, cut out added sugar, limit animal protein (and when you do eat it, make sure it is free from hormones and antibiotics), reduce your intake of gluten and experiment with some of the more common super foods that no one thinks of as superfoods. Some of my favorites include:
- Blueberries: contain a significant number of phytochemicals, immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C.
- Cinnamon: has been linked to lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
- Organic green tea: has lots of polyphenols and antioxidants.
- Sweet potatoes: are packed with vitamin A.
- Ginger: contains the compound gingerol, which is thought to provide multiple health benefits like relieving nausea, reducing muscle pain and more.
- Almonds: are one of the most nutrient-rich nuts and are extremely high in calcium.
- Avocado: are rich in monosaturated fats and contains lots of folate, vitamin C and vitamin K. Avocados are one of my absolute favorite sources of healthy fat!
- Dark chocolate: contains many antioxidants and may lead to lower risk of heart disease.
- Mushrooms: Reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps contain powerful healing properties and help to maintain a healthy hormone balance. Most mushrooms are also anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. The term ‘medicinal mushrooms’ is no joke!
- Tomatoes: contain the carotenoid called lycopene, which helps reduce damage to our genes.
So, while there is definitely a significant amount of foods out there that can be called super, it really is not accurate to designate just a few of them to the category of superfoods. You can find almost all of the aforementioned nutritious foods at most boutique grocers as well as larger grocery stores. Pack your diet with leafy greens and other veggies and you will be doing far more for your health than you could ever imagine.