Last week, I was on a nutrition & sports training panel at OLIVERS apparel in SF. One of the standout questions was “are superfoods real or are they just a marketing tactic?” It’s such a fantastic question because everywhere we look there are these new and powerful foods that are supposed to give energize, heal, and help us lose weight. So, are they real?
The answer is yes…and no. There are so many foods that other cultures have been eating for centuries that we haven’t discovered yet. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to try them, especially since we tend to eat the same foods each week and month. The more excited people are about food, the more excited I get.
However, the term “superfood” is not clearly defined or regulated. Any food that is nutrient-dense or has any positive health impact can be labeled as a superfood like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes. Somehow though, only the new or rare ones tend to get that title. The term is undeniably a marketing tool (hello, click bait), and I worry about how it affects our perception of food. If we label food as good or super, then we label food as bad, which is wrong and detrimental. Still, businesses are built around superfoods and people eat that sh*t up. Why? Categorizing food as good, bad, or super is easy. We prefer to singularize our nutritional health to what we eat, not how or why we eat.
While the type of food that we eat is important, positive change comes from addressing behavioral, emotional, and mental issues we have related to eating. Let’s be honest…we have sh*tty relationships with food. We love, hate, avoid, and overindulge on food and the cycle (and guilt) continues. It’s not easy for us to admit this let alone dive head first into addressing the issues. But healthy eating needs to start by changing the binary language we use when it comes to our food and our appearance.
Takeaway: While superfoods are exciting and may be nutrient-dense, they can’t make up for a poor diet and lack of physical activity. You don’t have to go to extremes to be healthy. Instead of calling foods “good, bad, or super”, identify what food provides you nutritionally and you’ll find that almost all foods are “superfoods”.
Thomas Ngo RD