But what exactly is a superfood? Is it correct to talk about superfoods or does it make more sense to define these novel foods as marketing operations? What are the main benefits they bring to the body?
What is a superfood?
A food is promoted to the superfood state when it offers high levels of desirable nutrients
Banana: the first superfood
Wellness Lifestyle conscious Nutrition
Superfood = super sales
Antioxidants in superfoods
Some of the foods considered to be superfoods are also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical substances that are believed to protect against the harmful effects of certain elements, called free radicals, that are found in all living cells, causing their progressive degeneration.
- Beta carotene: The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A. Beta carotene is not an essential nutrient per se, but it does act as a precursor to vitamin A (see next section).
- Vitamin A: also known as retinol, plays a key role in strengthening our immune system: it increases your ability to see objects in the dark and preserves the health of your skin.
- Vitamin C: or ascorbic acid as it is sometimes called, protects cells and preserves their health; it is also necessary to preserve the health of your connective tissue and also facilitates wound healing.
- Vitamin E: One of the many important functions of vitamin E is to protect cell membranes. This characteristic is to preserve the health of the skin and eyes, but the main benefit it brings is to strengthen the immune system.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are part of plant metabolites and are mainly known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function, as well as strengthening the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Selenium: Selenium is a mineral found in soil and in nature it is also found in water and some foods. Although humans only need selenium in very small amounts, it plays a key role in their metabolism.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are considered to be of fundamental importance and are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega 3s play an essential role in the functioning of the brain, as well as in the natural process of development and growth.
The marketing component of superfoods
As proof of the marketing effect of this kind of communication, a survey conducted by YouGov in 2011 shows that 61% of British people reported that they had bought food because it was considered super.