The superfood trend exploits the fact that healthy lifestyle choices, including diet, can reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The food industry wants to persuade us that eating some foods can slow down the ageing process, lift depression, boost our physical ability and even our intelligence.
Many of us want to believe that eating a single fruit or vegetable containing a certain antioxidant will zap a diseased cell.
Foods that have been elevated to superfood status in recent years include those rich in antioxidants (such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, flavanoids and selenium) and omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants are chemicals thought to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals, which are chemicals naturally produced in every living cell and known to cause cell damage.
“No food, including those labelled ‘superfoods’, can compensate for unhealthy eating,” explains Alison Hornby, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
Dietitians avoid the term superfood and prefer to talk of “super diets”, where the emphasis is on a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods.
Hornby says: “When it comes to keeping healthy, it’s best not to concentrate on any one food in the hope it will work miracles.”
“All unprocessed food from the major food groups could be considered ‘super’. All these foods are useful as part of a balanced diet.”
The evidence and studies are specified more in detail in the original article.
All opinions and verdict were made by Alison Hornby, dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
“Superfoods: the evidence” by NHS
• Review of the scientific evidence in 2011 (PDF, 188kb)
• Some research suggests that certain antioxidant supplements may be harmful
• Mediterranean diet
• Eatwell plate