What You Need to Know About Superfoods to Get All Their Health Benefits

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Superfoods and a Healthy DietSuperfoods are good for you; there’s no question about that. They all feature nutrients that can offer big health benefits and do things like lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, contribute to your weight loss, and help protect you from chronic illness.

But these foods are not magical. In fact, I’m sometimes weary of using the term “superfoods” because it can mislead some people. However, labeling good-for-you food as “super” likely tends to grab your attention and possibly get you to eat a little better, so that’s a definite benefit.

But it’s a common misconception that including a couple of servings of a superfood like blueberries every day in an otherwise unhealthy diet will yield benefits. Superfoods need reinforcements.

Should You Be Weary of “Superfoods?”

Those selling fad diets and marketing professionals love to tell you how great these foods are, that practically any food categorized as a superfood will save you from aging, help you lose weight, and protect you from disease. But this information is false.

These foods are effective as part of a healthy diet, but are not magical cures for disease all on their own. In fact, you’ll rarely hear the term “superfood” come from the mouth of a nutrition expert—only when they truly mean it and they’ll offer you more information than just telling you to add a little to your diet and you’re done.

Another reason I’m sometimes weary of the term “superfood” is because there is no standard criteria classifying what a superfood is. However, one thing is for certain: they should be healthy, nutritious foods.

Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids; avocados for healthy fats; nuts, legumes, and seeds for vitamins, protein, and healthy fats; berries for antioxidants; and other nutritious foods are all great additions to a healthy diet. In fact, these foods should be included in your healthy diet and can possibly further increase the overall health benefits of eating right. But again, if they’re just sprinkled over an unhealthy diet, they offer little benefit. So the best way to understand and know what true superfoods are is to think of them as nutritious foods.

You also have to understand that the best way to see all their health benefits is to eat more than one.

Don’t Eat Just One Superfood

Adding good, quality nutrition to your diet is never a bad thing, but you have to have realistic expectations. Adding strawberries and blueberries as a topping to two heaping scoops of ice cream and chocolate sauce isn’t going to do your body any favors. Sprinkling some blueberries on your whole grain oats in the morning, well, that’s a much better choice!

Nutrients work together to offer health benefits, and that’s why eating a balanced diet with lots of nutrition is the best way to stay healthy and fight off disease. It’s important to look at nutrition holistically, as opposed to thinking, “if I eat some of these, I’ll be fine.”

Paying attention to variety is also important. If you’re always adding the same foods or eating the same thing, even if they are superfoods, you could be ignoring some other areas of nutrition.

Not all foods are created equal; each offers different nutritional benefits. Sticking to berries, for example, might give you plenty of flavonoids, but they don’t offer healthy fats or other important nutrients your body needs, like protein. This is a common problem in the American diet, as most people don’t get enough potassium, fiber, calcium, or vitamin D—all nutrients that are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk products.

Build a Solid Nutritional Foundation

Instead of focusing on the latest superfood or thinking that it will improve your health on its own, take a look at the bigger picture. Look at your current diet and see where you can make improvements to the foundation of your nutrition. Focus on including more fruits and vegetables, dairy products, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and legumes, and see how that goes.

Once you’ve tried swapping out some of the unhealthier options for a better foundation, you can start paying more attention to details. What you’ll likely find, though, is that many of those foods dubbed as superfoods will have found their way into your healthy diet already.

In sum, don’t focus on superfoods alone; focus on a nutritional diet that incorporates a variety of healthy superfoods.

Source for Today’s Article:
“Young heart health linked to better overall health in later years,” American Heart Association web site, November 16, 2014; http://blog.heart.org/young-heart-health-linked-better-overall-health-later-years/.

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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »