Confused About Superfoods?

Kari Collett, RDN, LDN, CLT with A to Zinc Nutrition, LLC

Who isn’t? With all kinds of different information, it’s hard to make sense of what is accurate.

I’ve heard people say things like, “I eat at least one super food each day.” Or “According to research, these 10 foods are THE superfoods to eat daily.” I usually smile and nod in support because I am glad to hear that people are eating healthy. But I don’t necessarily support that the superfoods they are eating are absolutely the best.

The term superfood is a label put on certain foods to create marketing hype suggesting a food has exceptional health benefits. There really aren’t any specific set of criteria that qualify a food to be classified as a superfood. The term is rarely used or supported by health or medical professionals. Here are a few reasons why:

Individual Immune System

Each unique immune system responds differently to various foods. Foods that are super to one person are different than foods that are super to another. For one person, blueberries may help reduce inflammation and provide essential nutrients; for another, they may cause debilitating headaches or facial acne. These are known as food sensitivities. Foods that cause immune reactions are typically best avoided no matter how super, or nutritious, they are.

Naturally Occurring Anti-Nutrients

An anti-nutrient is a component in food that works against the other beneficial nutrients in a food. Spinach is a great example and it’s often on different superfood lists. Spinach is loaded with vitamins A, K, and C, and minerals manganese, calcium, and iron. But spinach is also high in oxalates. Oxalates interfere with iron and calcium absorption. Spinach may be a superfood, but it can also be super nutrient depleting if you eat too much too often.

Limited Access

We don’t all live in the tropics – which is where many superfoods can be found. It makes sense that so many superfoods are found in tropical regions because they have a year-round growing season. Pomegranates are a great example. It’s on a lot of superfood lists but it only grows in areas that are warm most of the year. This limits access to this fruit especially for those residing in northern regions and/or colder climates – like me! We don’t always have it in our grocery stores, and when we do, it’s relatively expensive. So, pomegranates might be super, but we can’t eat them if we can’t get them.

What’s Better Than Superfoods?

A personalized diet that supports your immune system, your genetic makeup, your accessibility, your budget, and your preferences is the best approach for you. But just as important, your personalized diet should also support your health goals and it doesn’t need to be extreme to do that. Find the foods that are super for you with help from an expert that understands diet personalization.

Focus on Nutrient Density

A nutrient dense food is one that provides high concentrations of health-promoting nutrients without excess calories. Nutrient dense foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that are known to prevent disease and support good health and longevity. The closer these foods are to their whole state, the better. For example, kale is often on superfood lists but it is best eaten fresh in a salad rather than as processed kale chips.

Focus on Food Diversity

Another important aspect to healthy eating is variety. Some people lock themselves into a routine of eating the same superfoods regularly. This can lead to deficiencies of some vitamins and minerals if the superfood is lacking in something. Eating the same food repeatedly can also create food sensitivities. Immune systems see all food as antigens; the more exposure it has to foods on an ongoing basis, the more likely the immune response will be exaggerated and cause inflammation. Eating a wide variety of foods ensures a greater intake of many different types of nutrients and less chance of a negative immune response.

Personalization is Key

For most, following a superfood list isn’t the best approach to good health. Diet personalization is best all around. No two people are exactly alike! Getting professional guidance can help individuals reach their health goals by creating a list of foods that is super for their unique immune system.

To learn more about personalizing your diet plan, schedule a free Discovery Call:

Leave a Reply