What are superfoods?
Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods which are especially beneficial for health and well-being. In some cases, superfoods help heal or prevent certain medical conditions, such as cancer, disease, eczema and digestive problems.
On the other hand, “as healthful as superfoods might be, the use of the term is largely a marketing tool,” writes Live Science in their “What are Superfoods?” article. The term itself isn’t regulated in Canada or the USA, leading to inconsistent use, overuse, and unreliable information surrounding the word. The lack of regulations in North America is a contrast to that of the European Union, who implemented a ban of the term in 2007. The EU’s regulations state that the word “superfood” can not be used to describe a food or product, “unless it is accompanied by a specific authorized health claim that explains to consumers why the product is good for their health,” notes a BBC News article from 2007.
We choose to use the term “superfood” for foods that have been identified as having specific health benefits, such as extraordinarily high levels of vitamins, anti-oxidants, or essential fats. We also recognize superfoods that have a cultural tradition of being used for healing.
What makes a food “super”?
Along with being full of health-supporting vitamins and minerals, many superfoods are a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
A notable example and a food worthy of “superfood” bragging rights is matcha. This green tea is well known for its unique combination of antioxidants, including; catechins, polyphenols, and chlorophyll. This superfood can help inhibit tumor growth and DNA damage, as well as prevent and fight cancer. It’s also anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol. To top it off, matcha also contains a large amount the of stress-busting amino acid L-Theanine. For more information on the health benefits of matcha tea, check out this article from Medical News Today.
While green tea is just one example, there’s an array of superfoods all offering their own combination of nutrients and health benefits. Some are high in fibre and aid digestion like flax seed, others are high in protein like chia seed, or are a source of complete plant-based protein like hemp seeds. Some even aid in heavy metal detoxification like blue green algae, or help boost immunity like turmeric. For some ideas of superfoods that work well together, check out this infographic from Positive Health Wellness.
Superfoods and diet
While superfoods themselves may be healthful, the quality of these foods is just as important as their nutritional makeup. Many so-called “superfoods” are highly processed and contain copious amounts of added sugar, salt, and preservatives. For example, North American matcha tea is often cut with lower grade teas and processed with sugar. The same is true for many juices, like pomegranate and cranberry. When choosing superfoods, stick to organic whole foods, high-quality supplements, and fair-trade certified products, whenever possible.
Below is a list of superfoods that are conducive to most diets and are readily available in Canada:
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries)
- Cold water fish
- Cruciferous vegetables (brussel sprouts, cabbage, onion, cauliflower etc.)
- Flax seed
- Hemp seeds
- Nuts and seeds
- Sprouts (sunflower, alfalfa etc.)
Not sure how to prepare your Superfoods? Don’t worry! Here are are two of our lovely recipes: