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What was the 6th most overused word in 2013?

Superfoods!  Lake Superior State University creates an annual list of useless, overused, or misused words and "Superfoods" made #6 on the list for 2013!  So, what exactly is a Superfood?  The Wikipedia definition of a "Superfood" is:  "a food that is considered to be beneficial to your health and may even help some medical conditions."  So, this would explain why blueberries, salmon, kale, and Chia seeds are all considered to be Superfoods.  But wait... last time I checked, these are all also REAL foods!  If a Superfood is a food beneficial to your health, shouldn’t that include ALL fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats...all REAL foods?!

So why do only some REAL foods make the Superfood list?  There is no legal, scientific or medical definition of Superfoods, so it is a little bit of a free-for-all.  Often, it has to do with marketing…someone developing a list of Superfoods in order to help sell something…maybe a book, a diet program, a health class or something else.  If calling something a Superfood catches the eye of consumers or can create the “Superman – leap tall buildings in a single bound” perception in the back of our minds, then perhaps this will help sell whatever they have to offer.

A positive is this can be a way to help people enjoy more REAL food!  If Dr. Oz tells us avocados, salmon and walnuts are great Superfoods and that's what it takes to get people motivated to include those in their diet, that is fantastic!  Including these foods in our diets hopefully means fewer foods that don't taste near as good and aren't good for you!

While there can be positives to marketing something as a Superfood, there are also some downsides.  First, the reality is…despite what some might want us to believe, there are no miracle foods!  Also, classifying something as a Superfood leads to more confusion!  It may not be clear why a food has achieved the elite status of a Superfood and this can create a perception that something not classified as a Superfood doesn’t have the same nutritional punch.  A fresh-grown tomato, for example, is loaded with nutritional value, but often doesn’t make the list as a Superfood…however, tomatoes deserve as much fame as the often-mentioned acai berries.

Here are a few other considerations:

  • Don't let the magic lead to bad habits!  Try not to let the magic powers of Superfoods give a false sense of security (or, should I say, false sense of health).  If we are not careful, consuming a few Superfoods during the day can lead to other unhealthy behavior.  Just because someone had yogurt with Chia seeds and almonds for breakfast and a sweet potato for lunch doesn't mean he or she should devour an entire bag of potato chips as an afternoon snack!  Have a few potato chips in moderation (or, a handful of pistachios would be much better), and then focus on REAL food (or Superfood) meals!
  • Sky-high price?  Unfortunately, the marketing buzz can drive demand up in the short-run, resulting in price increases of certain foods just because they are the most recent Superfood!  Recognize when this is happening and opt for other in-season REAL foods that provide the same great taste and health benefits without the artificially inflated price!
  • Don’t believe the hype!  Be careful -- the marketing of Superfoods can sometimes enter the processed food world.  For example, you may see packages telling you processed granola bars include a Superfood like pomegranates!  Or a breakfast cereal includes a Superfood like blueberries.  At the end of the day, read the ingredients, opt for REAL foods, and avoid the highly processed foods…even if they contain a small amount of a Superfood (or something resembling a Superfood).
  • Wide variety is better!  Rather than loading up on a small number of Superfoods, it is much better to enjoy a wide variety of REAL foods -- your nutrition balance can be so much richer and you will get to enjoy so many more great-tasting foods!
  • Farm-fresh is best!  The best Superfoods are those that are local, in season, and freshly-harvested by the farmers!  While many Superfoods are marketed as part of a pill or supplement, the REAL foods in their unprocessed state are much better.  The REAL foods contain the best vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are also absorbed much better in your body than pills or supplements.

There are so many fruits, vegetables, and other REAL foods that pack a ton of nutrition and are good for us in different ways…these are all Superfoods!  If you focus on natural, REAL foods, then the reality is your entire diet is Superfoods!  So, avoid the hype and fads and take the opportunity to educate those who may always be looking out for the next “Superfood!”

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