Blueberries in a child's hand

Is there such a thing as a ‘superfood’?

Separate food fibs from food facts

The internet is full of people discussing superfoods – “nutrient-rich foods which are considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. Avocados, tomatoes and beetroot have all recently been highlighted by the media for having ‘super’ qualities, but how beneficial to our health are they really?

Popular opinion in the scientific community is that pomegranates, blueberries and green tea are all perfectly nice to eat or drink – but that’s the only reason to consume them. Their reputation as superfoods owes more to smart marketing – and magical thinking – than scientific studies.

As omnivores we eat hundreds of foods containing thousands of different substances. It is unlikely that one or two foods contain vital chemicals that we cannot get elsewhere. Many so-called superfoods contain antioxidants, but as explained in our vitamins article, there’s little evidence of their benefits. You would probably do better to aim at your five a day, or just follow the age-old advice to eat your greens.

That being said, ongoing research continues to look into the beneficial components of everything from fruit and vegetables to cocoa and grains, suggesting that the discussion around superfoods is unlikely to end soon.

Lead image:

Carrie Stephens/Flickr CC BY

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About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Food and Diet’ in June 2011 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Topic:
Health, infection and disease
Issue:
Food and Diet
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development