The term “superfood” grew increasingly popular in recent years, appearing in both health articles and advertisements. The word isn’t a medical or scientific term, however, so no regulating body determines which foods qualify as a superfood. Companies primarily use the term for marketing purposes, and anyone may proclaim superfood status for a certain food.
The Oxford dictionary describes a superfood as a nutrient-rich food considered especially good for your health. This article highlights five foods often labeled as superfoods and explores why each received that label.
Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are red berries commonly used in ancient Chinese medicine. You’ll usually find them as a dried fruit or as an added ingredient to other food products like juice.
Many people consider goji berries a superfood because they contain an unusually high amount of protein for a fruit as well as all of the essential amino acids. A one-ounce serving of goji berries provides nearly 10 percent of your daily protein needs. These nutrient-rich berries also offer high levels of vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, and zinc.
Goji berries have a reputation for lowering blood sugar and preventing heart problems. While these effects may benefit most people, those with low blood sugar or low blood pressure should talk to a doctor before consuming goji berries or avoid them altogether.
This green, leafy vegetable is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables available. One cup of raw kale contains more than 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K along with smaller amounts of manganese, copper, calcium, and more.
Kale is a low-calorie, low-fat food that does contain some fat in the form of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in antioxidants. With such a dense nutrient content, kale has the ability to lower cholesterol, help prevent heart disease, help fight cancer, and reduce the risk of common eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, looks and acts like a grain. While technically a seed, this pseudograin or pseudocereal is a favorite with vegans and vegetarians because of its high protein and fiber content.
Those high levels of protein and fiber mean quinoa may help individuals trying to lose weight or maintain their current weight. In fact, people often use it in place of rice or pasta in meals.
Quinoa also may provide other health benefits. A study comparing quinoa to gluten-free bread, for example, found quinoa consumption resulted in lower blood sugar, free fatty acids, and triglyceride levels among participants.
Green tea is a drink made from steeping the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant in water. Because it offers so many reported benefits, some experts recommend drinking multiple cups of green tea on a daily basis.
Drinking green tea regularly, for example, may help protect individuals against the development of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. It also might help people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. In addition, components of green might help stave off obesity. This beverage can even benefit the mouth by improving tooth and gum health as well as reducing bad breath.
Most people treat this vegetable from the onion family like a spice. For centuries, many people also used it for medicinal purposes. In fact, both raw and cooked garlic delivers proven health benefits — a key reason why you can find it in supplement form.
Regular garlic intake can help prevent the common cold, for example, so you might want to consider adding it to your dishes throughout the winter. Studies also found garlic supplements effective in lowering “bad” cholesterol levels while increasing “good” cholesterol levels. Because these supplements contain pure garlic, eating garlic itself likely would deliver similar benefits.
Moreover, research shows that garlic can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Because most people experience no negative side effects after ingesting garlic (except those with an allergy), eating garlic or taking garlic supplements regularly is a good idea.
While no scientific definition of a superfood exists, you may still want to try and eat these five foods regularly for the sake of your health. However, frequent consumption of just one food billed as a superfood can’t compensate for a generally unhealthy diet. Following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend consuming a variety of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, remains the best way to benefit from what you eat.