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The Truth about Superfoods

You have probably heard the term superfood used to describe a food that you should eat often, whether it’s to boost your immune system, prevent the development of a disease or illness, or some other desirable health outcome. The truth is that there is no such thing as a superfood. Despite the term’s popularity, it does not have any scientific merit.*

Foods that earn the superfood designation are usually nutrient dense, meaning they have high amounts of important nutrients per bite. Nutrient dense foods should make up a large portion of our dietary pattern; however, rather than loading up on a few of these foods (like superfood marketing suggests), it’s best to eat a variety of nutrient dense foods. By focusing on variety, you ensure you obtain adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals that are important for health. Choose foods from key food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods (beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and seafood), and low-fat or fat-free dairy. For example, if you are making a salad, add garbanzo beans, walnuts and pepitas to increase the variety and nutrients in the salad.

One strategy to identify nutrient dense foods is to choose foods that are minimally processed. Processing tends to lower nutrient density and may also result in the addition of less healthful
ingredients, such as added sugar and sodium. For example, choose whole fruits and vegetables rather than fruit and vegetable juices.

By choosing a variety of nutrient dense foods, you’ll not only obtain high amounts of nutrients per bite, but you’ll also minimize saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium, which is important for optimizing health and preventing disease. Avoid falling for superfood marketing that seems too good to be true (because it probably is), and instead, focus on eating a variety of minimally processed, nutrient dense foods.

*Harvard – The Nutrition Source article; Tufts Nutrition Letter article


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