New diets appear on magazine covers or the nightly news at least every month. From Atkins to Paleo, blood types to gluten-free, it can be difficult to determine which are based on sound science. Some prominent figures advocate superfoods—a vague category that usually includes blueberries, kale and a changing list of other foods. Celebrity physicians like Dr. Oz passionately encourage followers to eat them. But are superfoods really super?
What Constitutes a Superfood?
Without an FDA label, there are no strict criteria for “superfood” status. Searching the internet reveals a dozen lists, each one slightly different. Generally they’re described as any food that’s unprocessed and nutrient dense. The fact that they’re raw and have little to no saturated fats or artificial ingredients usually makes them nutritionally sound choices, and many do contain an abundance of a certain nutrient.
The Value of Superfoods
Opting for anti-oxidant rich acai berries is certainly better for you than a bag of potato chips and darker greens have more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce. When cookbooks and talk show hosts deem nuts, fruits and greens to be superfoods, there’s usually a reason. Most, if not all, superfoods are a valuable addition to a balanced diet.
The true value of superfoods, however, is often exaggerated. With all of the hype and more than a little misinformation, superfoods are sometimes presented as a magical elixir, capable of healing chronic disease and single-handedly helping you reach your weight and other health goals. While superfoods are rich in nutrients, they should be part your overall approach to health that includes exercise and a balanced diet with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eating goji berries won’t hurt, but it won’t supply all of your nutritional needs.
Talk to Your Doctor
Many nutritional trends are grounded in some truth, but most need to be considered with a healthy amount of skepticism. Especially if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, speak with your healthcare provider before you make radical changes to your diet.
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