Who sets the criteria?
Chia seeds, acai, kale, maqui berry, chlorella, walnuts—at one point or another, all these foods and more have been dubbed superfoods. But what does this even mean, and who sets the criteria for superfoods, anyway?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines superfood as “a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person's health.”
But the truth is, there’s no scientific definition, criteria, or established list for what constitutes a superfood. Often, the term is used by companies to hype a product, but it’s not actually held to any official standards. That said, certain foods do stand out in terms of their nutrient-density and proven benefits compared to others—and calling them superfoods can provide a helpful distinction for consumers (as long as it’s made clear why these foods are so “super”).
Our interpretation of “superfood.”
Generally, we believe the term superfood should be used for whole or minimally processed foods that have a naturally high concentration of health-promoting nutrients such as polyphenol antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. They might also contain nutrients that are typically hard to find from other dietary sources. For example, chia seeds are a great source of elusive omega-3 fats. If a food has quality scientific research to support its health benefits, that only adds to its superfood status.
Many people wrongly assume that a superfood must be trendy or exotic to be worth their time and money, but that’s simply not the case—while there are certainly ultra-healthy foods from far-flung locales, you can also find loads of superfoods right at your local farmer’s market!
Even relatively basic kitchen staples like broccoli, oranges, and whole grains can be considered superfoods. Consider broccoli: In addition to containing fiber, loads of vitamins C and K, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that help combat oxidative stress, it’s also one of the best sources of sulforaphane—a bioactive compound with anti-cancer properties.
Because diversity of diet is so important for health, we include a range of delicious superfoods in Ka’Chava—many of which you’ve heard of, but some of which may be totally new. Here are some of our favorite stand-out superfoods. Click here to learn more about their nutritional profile and potential health benefits:
The Bottom Line…
You need more than just superfoods for optimal health.
A superfood is essentially any food that goes above and beyond to support good health. But keep in mind, no food is a magic bullet on its own. According to the American Heart Association, superfoods alone won’t make you healthier, but rather, layering these nutritious foods onto an already balanced diet may contribute to real health benefits.
After all, eating for optimal health is about establishing consistent, healthy eating patterns and combining healthy choices from a variety of food groups that—together—provide you with all the essential macronutrients and micronutrients you need to physically and mentally thrive.