Superfoods: Fact or Fiction?

Olivia Pena, Staff Writer

There is no doubt that living a healthy lifestyle is a rising trend in our society. Even so, it can be difficult to distinguish between what’s really healthy and what’s not. Different diets, such as keto, paleo, and Whole30, can be confusing for someone who is trying to start out eating healthy. Another buzzword that’s been widely circulating is “superfood.” But are some foods really “super” compared to others? Some well-known superfoods include kale, acai, salmon, blueberries, and avocado. However, the American Heart Association says there are no specific criteria to earn the label of superfood. The term was coined for marketing purposes to promote the sale of foods with health benefits. Clearly, it’s been effective as seen through the widely popular avocado toast, kale smoothie, and acai bowl trends that have swept the nation. While there is no one food that will ward off cancer or prevent disease, nutritionists recommend balanced incorporation of the so-called superfoods in your diet in order to reap the health benefits.

Foods that have earned the label of superfood tend to be plant-based, but some fish and dairy such as salmon and eggs are included. Superfoods are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber that have been found to fight diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and types of cancer. Some also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. For example, dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach are dense with excellent nutrients including iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. Interestingly, different types of berries may be effective in fighting disorders of the digestive and immune system. Both of these can be easily incorporated into meals and even smoothies! Lastly, not all superfoods are necessarily foods! Green tea is rich with certain polyphenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects. It is also lightly caffeinated, so it is a great substitute for coffee for those looking to lose weight. Spices such as turmeric, garlic, and ginger are also considered superfoods and have been found to have medicinal effects. Olive oil is also a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is a great source of healthy fat.

Some people might be concerned about how it is even possible to incorporate all of these foods into their diet. Junior at Pennridge High School, Aubrey Piacine told us about how she makes sure superfoods are present in her meals. She said, “I use berries in my everyday smoothies to add nutrition into my diet.” In regards to meal prep, she said, “ I pick a main protein at the beginning of the week and pair it with a healthy veggie and quinoa or rice. I cook a large amount and then split it into multiple serving containers for each day.” Those who consume superfoods regularly tend to feel their benefits pretty quickly. Teacher at Pennridge, Mrs. Moos, is participating in the Whole30 diet which utilizes many superfoods in efforts to cut out all processed foods. She said, “I just feel healthier. I don’t feel awful after eating.” She also said she has stopped craving junk foods.

To summarize, superfoods are a great gateway to healthy eating. Nevertheless, nutritionists advise everything to be consumed in moderation. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and lean protein is ideal in living a healthy lifestyle. Be mindful of additives, especially sugar, that may be included in smoothies or juices that claim to be made with superfoods. Living a healthy lifestyle is more than keeping up with the latest trends, so make sure to explore all the nutritious foods out there!