What Makes a Superfood a Superfood?

Though it’s not exactly a scientific term, the word “superfood” is often used as a marketing tool. So what does it mean exactly?

Something is referred to as a superfood when it is nutrient-rich and provides multiple health benefits to the body. Those nutrients can include phytochemicals (compounds found in plants that have beneficial biological value but aren’t necessarily essential), antioxidants (which prevent cell oxidation and free-radical damage), essential nutrients (nutrients we can’t produce ourselves, like vitamin C), dietary fiber, essential fatty acids and protein.

A superfood is usually low in calories and saturated fats and has no artificial ingredients or contaminants. Here’s a simple way to break down the different types of superfoods:

Green superfoods: These contain the highest concentrations of easily digested nutrients, and vitamins and minerals. They may also contain beneficial substances like proteins, phytochemicals and beneficial bacteria, all of which can protect against disease and illness.
Examples: wheatgrass, barley greens, chlorella, spirulina, blue-green algae, leafy green vegetables

Fruit and nut superfoods: These are high in antioxidants, vitamins and some are even antimicrobial.
Examples: goji berries, açai, raw cacao, maca, coconut and coconut oil, noni, blueberries

Bee superfoods: Propolis, royal jelly and bee pollen contain some of the most power-packed nutrition of all superfoods. Royal jelly contains every nutrient essential to support life. And propolis is a powerful antimicrobial that protects against bacteria and viruses while strengthening the immune system.

Seaweed superfoods: These are the most nutrient-dense plants on Earth, making them excellent blood purifiers that alkalinize the body (helping to free the body of the burden of an acidic toxic environment).
Examples: nori, kelp, dulse, arame, wakami, kombu

Here are some dietary supplements that include some of my favorite superfoods:

HealthForce Nutritionals offers 28 different products that are considered superfoods. I love Vitamineral Green, which supports detoxification, enhances regularity, energizes, and supports the liver, kidneys, pancreas, blood, bones, muscle, brain, colon and immune function.

Genesis Today: Try their liquid superfood supplements like Goji, Sea Buckthorn, Resveratrol, Açai and Noni. They also offer delicious chewable snacks, which are an easy way to get some extra superfoods in your diet. Try Açai, Resveratrol, Vitamin C and Gogi snacks.

Garden of Life Perfect Food is a raw, organic green veggie juice powder rich in chlorophyll, trace minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and probiotics, all of which support healthy digestion and elimination, blood sugar balance and immunity.

Vibrant Health Green Vibrance is a restorative, concentrated superfood containing organic greens and freeze-dried grass juices. This product supports the four foundations of health: nutrition, digestion, circulation and immunity, with additional benefits to support all body systems.

Experts believe that consuming superfoods can protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections, in addition to enhancing the immune system. With a list of benefits like that, we would all be smart to incorporate more superfoods into our diets.

Kate Brainard earned her degree as a naturopathic doctor from Bastyr University. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.

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