What are Superfoods?
So-called “superfoods” are nutrient-rich foods said to be especially good for your health. Advertisers and the media seem to be pushing new superfoods everyday — everything from the high heart-healthy fats found in salmon, flaxseeds, and avocado to foods with potent antioxidants, like acai berries, pomegranate, and dark chocolate.
Each of these foods is high in at least one component that has been associated with good health, but none of them is the secret to a healthy life. Rather than focus on eating a lot of one particular nutrient-rich food, it’s better to take these much-hyped foods as representatives of health-promoting food categories. For example, oats are a whole grain packed with fiber and nutrients, but other whole grains are nutrition powerhouses as well. Kale is a dark leafy green packed with vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting phytochemicals, but so are collard greens, chard, and spinach, to name just a few. Salmon is, indeed, a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but eating any fatty fish two times a week is associated with lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
A lot of research has been done on blueberries, linking them to such benefits as lower risk of dementia, but other berries provide the same family of phytochemicals and should have the same health benefits.
Enjoy the occasional piece of dark chocolate, but not simply for its antioxidants. Following a dietary pattern rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish is the truly super way to reduce disease risk.
To learn more about how eating habits can help your overall fitness and well-being, purchase a copy of Eat Well and Exercise from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.