The term “Superfood” was first used in the
1990s when a cookbook that was co-written
by Dr. Michael Van Straten, a practitioner
of alternative medicine, appeared in the
bookshops. It was titled Superfoods and it
claimed to provide the reader with information
regarding various nutrients to help the body
improve resistance against diseases and stress. Since that time,
“superfoods” is primarily associated with fruits, vegetables and
any other food products that are considered to be healthy for the body.
As time progressed, however, nutritious Mother Nature
made foods that once held the superfood distinction, were
overthrown by exotic foods, as if they were the only ones now
worthy of the superfoods monarchy. In fact, the superfoods term
has been used so frequently by food and product promoters
over the past decade, the public now believes that these exotic
foods have near-magical qualities to compensate for their high
Whenever a scientific study provides evidence regarding a
positive effect of some chemical property or properties found in
a so-called superfood, that superfoods promotional influence
is instantly boosted and more companies can jump on the
This is yet another reason why food promoters are constantly
searching for yet undiscovered sources of remarkable nutrients.
The public is continuously bombarded with new food products
that allegedly can provide all sorts of healthy benefits to the
body single-handedly. Over the years, the term “superfood”
has retained its appeal to the public but it is now used mainly
to create hype about a product to make it more marketable.
With all the marketing gimmicks aside, what really constitutes
Up until now, there is no scientifically accepted definition
of “superfood.” As mentioned, the term is generally used
to refer to foods that are jam-packed with nutrients and can
provide health benefits to your body1 Contrary to the marketing
claims, there is no food product—no matter how exotic—that
can single-handedly provide all of your health needs. Limiting
yourself to eating these so-called superfoods can actually result
in an impaired, one-sided diet that can do you more harm than
Vitamins and minerals usually work in synergy and thereby
need to work with one another in order to be able to provide
what the body needs. This is a fact that is usually overlooked
by people in their desire to get a one-way ticket to good health.
Superfoods also work in synergy, and therefore—in more cases
than not—it is wise to consume them as a package, or the
Food scientists can easily isolate one or two components
of a superfood, and even though those components might
look good based on a study or two, nature doesn’t work in
isolation. This is why you don’t find a single isolated tocopherol
(an isomer of vitamin E) in a food like almonds, but instead
an array of mixed tocopherols, all of which work in synergy.
Research has even shown that when we consume only one form
of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), it is at the detriment of the
other forms, which potentially harms the body.2
Berry, Berry Good
The members of the berry kingdom are great examples of
superfoods. These edible, fleshy and colorful fruits are full of
antioxidants that can actually help in reversing and preventing
diseases that are associated with free radicals.3 Free radicals
are unstable molecules that react with various body chemicals,
causing irreversible damage to our cells.4 As a person grows
older, the damage caused by free radicals often worsens,
which may speed up the process of aging and contribute to
age-related health concerns. Antioxidants can help prevent
premature aging by quenching the destructive action of free
radicals.5 Berries, especially those with dark color, have one
of the highest concentrations of antioxidants—flavonoids and
anthocyanidins—found in nature.6
Anthocyanidins play an important role in memory function
and can help decrease the rate of a person’s mental decline.
Actually, a study was able to show that age-related cognitive
decline reduced by about 1.5 to 2.5 years just by eating berries
at least once a week.7 In addition, the same antioxidant can also
fight the development of macular degeneration, an eye disorder
usually brought about by old age.8
The risk of cancer and heart diseases, on the other hand,
can be reduced by various flavonoids, especially quercetin.9 The
immune system already has its own troop of cancer-fighting
cells, but a study has shown that quercetin can greatly increase
the number of anti-cancer cells in the body.10 It also can regulate
cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which are two primary
factors for heart disease.11
However, berries are not the only sources of nutrients that can
fight heart disease. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of
Vitamin K, which can also decrease the risk of cardiovascular
diseases. Unbeknownst to many, vitamin K works hand in hand
with Vitamin D. Osteocalcin, a protein hormone present in
Vitamin K, binds Vitamin D into your bones thus promoting
bone health and prevents it from being deposited in your
blood vessels.12 Thus, protecting your blood vessels from being
clogged and decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Nature is full of colors. More than just aesthetics, the
different colors of natural products can actually give you a
clue to the nutrient levels in them. Although some fruits or
vegetables may have more nutrients than others, this does not
mean that they are the only ones that provide the nutrients that
you need. The next time that you eat, make sure that you have a
colorful plate in front of you. This is your true and surefire ticket
to good health.
- MedicineNet. (n.d.). Definition of Superfoods. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=125459.
- Chen H, et al. Mixed tocopherol preparation is superior to alpha-tocopherol alone against hypoxia-reoxygenation injury. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Feb 22;291(2):349-53.
- Paredes-López O, et al. Berries: improving human health and healthy aging, and promoting quality life. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Sep;65(3):299–308. doi: 10.1007/s11130-010-0177-1.
- WebMD. (n.d.). Free Radicals. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/free-radicals.
- WebMD. (n.d.) Antioxidants – Topic Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-topic-overview.
- Stibich, Mark. (2014, May 1). Anti-Aging Properties of Berries. Retrieved from http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/qt/berries_aging.htm.
- Park, Alice. (2012, April 26). Brain Food: Berries Can Slow Cognitive Decline. Time
- Wang JJ, et al. Genetic susceptibility, dietary antioxidants, and long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration in two populations. Ophthalmology. 2014 Mar;121(3):667–75.
- Knekt P, et al. Flavonoid intake and risk of chronic disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Sep;76(3):560–8.
- Brito AF, et al. Quercetin in cancer treatment, alone or in combination with conventional therapeutics? Curr Med Chem. 2015 Aug 12.
- Dower JI, et al. Effects of the pure flavonoids epicatechin and quercetin on vascular function and cardiometabolic health: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):914-21. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.098590. Epub 2015 Feb 25.
- Mercola. Without Vitamin K2, Vitamin D May Actually Encourage Heart Disease. (2011, July 16) Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/16/fatsoluble-vitamin-shown-to-reduce-coronary-calcification.aspx.