Not all foods are created equal. Yes, all raw and natural foods (from the soil, not from a box) play a part in keeping you healthy. However, there are several foods that provide an extra nutritional edge; these are called superfoods.
What are Superfoods?
The Oxford English Dictionary offers a clear and accurate definition of a superfood:
“A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”
Every nutrition blogger and their mother is going to have their own requirements for what qualifies as a superfood, and this fitness nerd is no exception. In my eyes, the best superfoods must do the following:
Above-Average Nutritional Content
Primarily, the focus here is on the micronutrient profile. A superfood will have more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and specialized nutrients than your average piece of produce.
Compare a strawberry to an açaí berry. Both are nutritious and packed with micronutrients, but a strawberry can’t compare to the nutritional value of an açaí berry.
Culturally Significant and Revered
No, a holy shrine doesn’t need to be dedicated to a food in order for it to be considered a superfood; however, a revered superfood is one that has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Often, this happens within a specific culture. More often than not, the culture is inherently bound to the importance of the superfood.
Take the Incans and modern-day Peruvians, for example: Maca has been a vital part of the culture for thousands of years as a means of nutrition, livelihood, trade, and environmental protection. What’s more, maca root is packed with nutrients that your average fruits and vegetables don’t have.
With that said, there are exceptions to the rule, as there are foods within cultures that are important but may not contain high nutrient values. In Peru, corn is just as important as maca, but corn is not nearly as nutritious.
Scientifically Proven to Work
Talk is cheap. We live in a day and age where science shows how smart dietary choices can change your life. The best superfoods (more often than not) will be backed up by science; however, don’t take anyone’s word for it.
Anyone can create a website and act as an authority on topics beyond their training and education. It has become too easy to pay for a biased study and then get it publicized worldwide. The best example of this is the one-chocolate-bar-per-day study, which was intentionally skewed and paid for to prove the point that online science is not always as trustworthy as you think.
Despite my background and training, don’t even take my word as the gospel truth. Conduct your own research using scientifically credible resources. Look for publications that are respected in the scientific fields and academia. Most importantly, look at the credentials of the authors of these studies. Trustworthy authorities should have degrees and practical experience.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, which hosts thousands of peer-reviewed studies, is one example of a credible resource.
Examples of the Best Superfoods
Maca (Incan/Peruvian): A toasty-tasting superfood, maca can boost libido, support natural energy levels, and improve mood.
Garlic (Indian): Garlic is a superfood that has been shown to possess anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties, not to mention an impressive nutrient profile.
Açaí Berries (Amazonian): Packed with protein, healthy fats, and several key minerals, açaí berries are a superfood that you’ll commonly find in a drinkable form.
Ginger (Chinese & Indian): A powerful anti-inflammatory and digestive aid, the benefits of ginger include alleviating symptoms from a variety of ailments such as nausea, headaches, and the common cold.
Raw Cacao (Mayan): Good news! Chocolate is a superfood. Well, sort of. Raw cacao is chocolate in its purest form. Cacao is a superfood that contains insanely high levels of antioxidants, magnesium, and theobromine.
Goji Berries (Chinese): These simple and small dried berries pack an impressive nutrient profile: Goji berries are high in phytochemicals, healthy fats, and amino acids.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) (Global): Arguably one of the most popular superfoods, apple cider vinegar has been reported to help with digestion, alkalizing, immunity boosting, and detoxing.
Coconut Oil (Indian): Boasting anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, coconut oil is a superfood that can be eaten and applied directly to your skin. The healthy fats within coconut oil support digestive health, brain health, and cardiovascular health, to name a few.
Green Tea (Japanese): The benefits of green tea are extensive and include everything from weight loss and brain boosting to disease prevention and anti-aging.
Raw Honey (Global): Raw honey is a superfood that never spoils! Honey contains amino acids, digestive enzymes, and several key minerals.
Do You Use Superfoods?
Which ones do you use? What benefits of superfoods have you noticed? Do you think there are superfoods out there that are all hype? Let me know in the comments below!