Superfoods are a tricky thing.
These days it seems like a new miracle seed or grain emerges from the depths of the Amazon rainforest or highest Himalayan peak every other week. Each promises to revolutionize your health, but they can’t all be winners.
A “healthy diet” is an extremely complex and deeply personal thing that can’t be solved with a one-size fits all superfood mentality. Just calling something a “superfood” doesn’t magically make it good for you. Yet it’s tough to ignore the newest health trends, and many superfoods are nutritious alternatives to processed foods.
Round and round you go.
So to help you get a little perspective on the next superfood trend (don’t worry there’ll be another one before you’re finished reading this article), here’s a quick look at recent superfood trends and 3 Simple Questions You Should Ask About Superfoods before lining up for that ancient grain latte:
What is My Diet Missing?
Today’s superfoods promise sweeping health benefits across the board, which is enticing but ultimately unrealistic. No single superfood is going to fix your heart condition, lower your cholesterol, clean your colon, give you night vision, and make you taller all while being gluten free and low in calories. Nutrition just doesn’t work that way.
The best superfoods provide one or two tangible health benefits and maybe, if you’re lucky, solve a few dietary concerns that other food doesn’t fix.
Quinoa for example, (the reigning superfood darling) delivers a few important (and specific!) health benefits:
- It’s a source of Omega-3 fatty acids
- It delivers significant protein per serving (1 cup = 8g protein)
- It has significant amounts of 9 essential amino acids (“essential” amino acids are the ones you need but don’t naturally produce)
You can see the health benefits of quinoa in a 30-second glance and choose to incorporate this superfood into your daily diet if you need what quinoa has. Vegans might use quinoa as a great protein source or a healthy reservoir of Omega-3 fatty acids for anyone looking to eliminate fish from their diet.
The best superfoods provide what your diet is missing.
How is it Prepared?
When it comes to the health benefits of a superfood, preparation is everything. Sure, kale is a great source of magnesium and aids in digestion, but none of that matters if you drown a kale salad in ranch dressing, bacon bits, and half a pound of ham. The preparation is what makes a superfood super. Matcha green tea is a great example.
Matcha stormed the superfood scene a few years ago, and while it packs a potent antioxidant punch without the harsh caffeine crash of coffee, the health benefits of matcha tea all depend on how you drink it.
Traditional matcha preparation—mixing certified pure matcha leaf powder with clean boiled water—is an excellent beverage and far superior in almost every metric to coffee. However, the second you add sugar, milk, sweeteners, flavors, and even chocolate to the mix, the health benefits of matcha vanish. A matcha frappuccino with caramel and whipped cream isn’t a healthy smoothie. It’s an expensive slurpee.
A superfood that has to be dressed up in sweeteners, added ingredients or unhealthy sauces isn’t a superfood. It’s a fad. That’s what makes the Mediterranean diet such a reliable source of superfood goodness—traditional recipes that rely on fresh daily preparation using quality organic ingredients. Superfoods health benefits are all about how you use them.
Am I Actually Going to Eat This?
This last question relates directly to the second question, but asks you to be a little more honest with yourself. It’s not, “Should I eat this superfood?” but rather, “Will I eat this superfood?”
- Will you really have a spinach shake for breakfast?
- Will you happily eat raw lentils for dinner?
Healthy eating is all about the long term; the aggregate results. If you need to “take a break” from a superfood every week or “treat yourself” to a cupcake every other day, your diet isn’t very super. And the problem isn’t nutrition, it’s taste.
Taste and health are directly related. Of course they’re related. If you don’t want to eat a superfood, it’s practically worthless. Too often superfoods are healthy, but taste awful unless they’re drenched in unhealthy ingredients and sauces. The health benefits of broccoli rabe don’t matter if it rots in your crisper drawer. What’s crazy is that superfoods don’t have to taste like tree bark to be healthy.
The Mediterranean diet is packed with heart health benefits, vitamins, and minerals, and year after year peer-reviewed studies link the Mediterranean diet to longevity and long-lasting health. The reason? People actually want to eat Mediterranean food because it’s delicious.
A healthy diet starts with building good habits, and nothing is easier than eating food you love.
Superfood is a Brand Name
Acai berries, quinoa, kale, pomegranates—the list of superfoods grows every year, but the term “superfood” doesn’t really mean anything. A healthy diet means something different to everyone, and that’s ok.
Come by Nanoosh to try our take on the healthy Mediterranean diet and find out if our unique blend of organic ingredients, traditional recipes, and yes, modern superfoods is right for you.