Are ‘Superfoods’ Really Super? Science Says ‘Yes’ for These 5
Are superfoods really super? No one could blame you for wondering. So many foods have been called superfoods — avocados, sweet potatoes, kale, baobab fruit, dark chocolate, quinoa, just about any kind of berry — that it’s easy to assume the term has become meaningless.
In the US, at least, it’s hard to argue the value of a “superfood” because it’s nothing more than an unregulated marketing term, but it’s one that works—when marketers started calling chia seeds a superfood, the American Marketing Association says it created a superfood boost, meaning that awareness of the seeds as a nutritious food increased from 27 percent to 37 percent in just 4 years.
In the UK, 61 percent of consumers said they buy food because it’s marketed as a superfood, according to a report from the EU’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To be marketed as a superfood in the EU, though, foods must have a verifiable scientific claim that explains why it’s good for their health.
But, if you’re going to call a food “super,” it should be the absolute best at delivering the nutrient.
It [a superfood] would be a food that is the world’s highest in magnesium, or the world’s highest source of B vitamins. After all, a superhero isn’t just powerful—it should be SUPER powerful. And the same goes for food: So while blueberries and kale might be nutrient-rich, they aren’t the tops—which is why I wouldn’t consider them superfoods.
And it shouldn’t just deliver nutrients: You’ve got to feel the effects, too. Eating the food should give you a boost in your performance or your life. If it doesn’t, it’s not so super. It’s why adaptogenic mushrooms check all of the boxes.
One more thing: If you’re going to call something a superfood, it should be a food—something you eat or drink that can fit into your regular day, making the ordinary into something super-powered. That’s why adaptogenic mushrooms -- which can be found in Four Sigmatic products -- help you experience the wellbeing benefits of mushrooms while getting the support you’d enjoy from any cup of coffee. Here are some other superfoods that also provide scientifically-backed benefits, instant improvements, and fit into your real life.
Science-Backed Superfood #1: Moringa
Science-backed benefits: Moringa, a tree found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tropics, has been used traditionally to improve sex drive, deal with arthritis and anemia, treat diarrhea and stomach pain—the uses are almost endless, including as a topical remedy for dandruff, athlete’s foot, gum disease, and other problems. Research also suggests promise in the fight against cancer, inflammation, and other chronic diseases. But what makes it a super-powerful food is its variety and concentration of so many different nutrients: Just 100 grams of dried moringa leaf contains 10 times the Vitamin A of carrots, 12 times the Vitamin C of oranges, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 25 times the iron of spinach, and 9 times the protein of yogurt.
Benefits you can feel: Some moringa users have found that the leaf gives them a serious energy boost—even though it has no caffeine. This could be because of the high iron content; if you’re low in iron, it can be associated with feeling lethargic.
How you can enjoy it now: Raw moringa leaves can be sourced from Asian groceries or health food stores, and can be used in salad—they’ve got a bite that’s almost like a radish. You can also get moringa leaf powder, which can be added to tea or water.
Science-Backed Superfood #2: Goji
Science-backed benefits: Goji berries are considered the most nutrient-dense fruit in the world. They’ve got 2.4 times more immune-boosting antioxidants than blueberries. Unlike most plant-based protein sources, they’ve got all the amino acids your body needs—and 10 to 14 percent of the weight of the berry is protein. And they’re great for your eyes: In one study, participants who ate goji for 90 days increased levels of zeaxanthin, which is known to fight macular degeneration.
Benefits you can feel: Fullness! If you have some goji with breakfast or as a snack, the combination of protein and fiber can help make you feel full—and stay feeling full. Fifty grams of goji has 7 grams of protein (about as much as an egg) and 6.5 grams of fiber—and that fiber can help keep you from getting a spare tire. There’s a clear correlation between eating fiber and fat around the middle: For every 10 grams of the filling nutrient you eat, you’ll have as much as 4 percent less fat around your belly.
How you can enjoy it now: Dried goji berries are great on their own as a snack, and are perfect mixed into trail mix or your morning oatmeal.
Science-Backed Superfood #3: Eggs
Science-backed benefits: Wait, I thought eggs were bad for your cholesterol? Turns out the opposite may be true: Eggs have actually been shown to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, as well as decrease markers of inflammation. They may also help maintain your vision over the long haul: When older adults had one egg per day, they significantly increased their amounts of lutein, which has been associated with a reduction of age-related macular degeneration.
Benefit you can feel: Energy without lagging: A 2008 study found that eating two eggs for breakfast helped dieters feel more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast with the same calories—and the egg eaters lost more weight.
How you can enjoy it now: Pick your preference. Add a hard boiled or scrambled egg to your morning. And don’t skip the yolk: that’s where most of the nutrients live.
Science-Backed Superfood #4: Chia Seeds
Science-backed benefits: The seeds help reduce triglycerides and provide patients with metabolic syndrome better control their insulin levels. They’re also a source of filling fiber and have 8 times more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon.
Benefit you can feel: Endurance. Part of the reasons chia seeds went from “thing you put on a terra cotta sheep” to a food we eat is the book Born to Run, which describes raw chia’s use as an easy-to-carry endurance snack for Aztecs and Mayans running long distances centuries ago. You can get the same benefits from these protein-rich seeds now—though a bar may be more convenient than carrying a satchel of loose seeds.
How you can enjoy it now: Sprinkle them on salad, stir them into a smoothie or oatmeal, or let them soak overnight for a pudding-like chia bowl.
Science-Backed Superfood #5: Beets
Science-backed benefits: A 2008 study from the UK found that drinking 500 mL of beet juice per day can significantly reduce your blood pressure. And drinking beet juice can help your brain “look” younger and fight off aging, according to research from Wake Forest University.
Benefit you can feel: About 2 to 3 hours after you drink that same beet juice, you’ll need less oxygen to do the same amount of exercise. When study subjects in a 2013 study drank 280 mL of beet juice, they could cycle almost twice as long without becoming exhausted when compared to cyclists given a placebo.
How you can enjoy it now: In both studies discussed here, it was beet juice that provided the benefits. Follow the science and drink your roots.
Science-Backed Superfood #6: Adaptogenic Mushrooms
Science-backed benefits: Where to begin? Lion’s Mane mushrooms, for example, have been shown to help support concentration and memory. Mushrooms have also been shown to support the fight against aging, and have nutritional benefits that can support your immune system.
Benefit you can feel: Cordyceps benefits is associated with supported performance during cardiovascular exercise by helping provide sustained energy.
How you can enjoy it now: In your coffee. More than 60 percent of American adults drink a cup every day already, and having Four Sigmatic coffee with adaptogenic mushrooms can help reduce some of the drawbacks of your morning mug—reducing the incidences of sleep disturbance, making your stomach less acidic from the coffee, and promoting digestion.