Dietitians Hate the Term “Superfoods” and Wish You Used It Instead
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“Superfood“is the buzzword we use to describe nutrient-dense foods with many benefits that experts say are essential to a healthy diet. Think: kale, blueberries, chia seeds, and avocados.
But many dietitians want the term to go away.
“I don’t really agree with the idea of ’superfoods,'” says Felicia Porrazza, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
“A single food is not going to be a panacea. It’s really about someone’s eating habits (and) their other lifestyle factors.”
The concept of superfoods also overshadows other healthy alternatives, adds Porrazza.
Diana Ushay, registered dietitian at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Erica Leon Nutrition, agrees. “There are so many foods that are good for you that if we isolate some of them, it’s going to increase the demand for those products,” Ushay says.
“Also, I don’t think you can really call something a superfood if it’s not accessible to everyone, regardless of budget.”
“The funny thing about superfoods is that there really isn’t a regulated, accepted definition,” says Porrazza.
Most people use the term to define foods that have high nutritional value and offer benefits beyond what other typical foods offer, she adds.
“I like to think of a superfood as being in the category of nutrient-dense foods,” says Porrazza.
“One that would be nutrient dense and low in calories. It would contain vitamins, minerals (and) possibly complex carbohydrates.”
That doesn’t mean popular “superfoods” aren’t healthy, Ushay says, because they’re great choices. But, kale, quinoa and chia seeds aren’t the only healthy foods to choose from, says Porrazza.
Here are some nutrient-dense foods that Porrazza and Ushay say deserve just as much attention:
“Lentils (and) all kinds of legumes are really fantastic sources of nutrients (like) fiber and protein,” Ushay says. Pulses are “such an affordable and healthy food that people could really focus on.”
Some legumes you can try in your next meal include:
They’re also very high in potassium, “which is really good for the heart,” notes Porrazza.
2. Dark leafy greens (beyond kale)
Dark leafy greens are packed with nutrients like iron and vitamins A and K, says Porrazza. They are also extremely versatile, giving you plenty of options for preparing them.
“You can definitely make things like salads, but you can also throw them in a smoothie or make a stir-fry,” says Porrazza.
Consider opting for one or two of these options on your next grocery run:
- Green cabbage
- bok choy
- Mustard leaves
- Or, of course, kale
3. Frozen berries and fruits
“No fruit is off limits,” says Porrazza, but berries contain less natural sugar, so they’re a good choice.
Blueberries are already a fairly well-known “superfood,” but other berries like blackberries and raspberries are also nutrient-dense, she adds.
“They are excellent in terms of antioxidant capacity, rich in vitamin C and excellent in terms of fiber content,” says Porrazza.
Even frozen options for fruits, like berries, can provide many health benefits, Ushay says. “They’re frozen at their peak of freshness,” she says, “and they really don’t have less of a nutrient profile than fresh foods.”
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