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An essay tackling the superfood misnomer

Those wonderous berries, Acai or Goji.

And esoteric juices, Aronia or Beet.

Or ancestral grains, Kamut, Amaranth.
Quinoa, especially if red.

And dark vegetables, cabbage and kale, all the better if purple.
Where Savoy is good, Calvolo Nero is great.

Non-native names impress. Pale green leaf blades of Pak-Choy sound more exotic than plain Chinese-Chard.

Obscure oils in small, expensive bottles.
Or some special property of red wine.

Superfoods are memetic. They come in cycles.
Then a prized fruit, now a desirable vegetable.

Every few weeks a ‘newly’ discovered superfood becomes emblematic of good eating and a healthy diet in general.

This is the problem.

It is true that all of the above mentioned foods are delicious and highly nutritional choices — I include almost all of them in my day-by-day diet.

Yet the tone of the discussion on superfoods infers that the single instance of a eating a particular food will somehow have more effect than the sum choices that form the bulk of our overall diet. This is hugely unhelpful.

Sprinkling flaxseed over your Honey Nut Cornflakes will not reduce the amount of sugar in them. A daily glass of Aronia berry juice cannot negate the calorific surplus that comes from eating too many pizzas over the week.

We need to view all components of our diet as parts of the whole — and always with respect to our nutritional priorities [1]

No matter how individually nutritious, all so-called ‘superfoods’ only make sense when considered in the context of our overall nutritional choices.

Yes, so-called superfoods are individually healthy. No, they don’t magically alter a day or entire weeks worth of eating.

A useful rule of nutrition is :

So whilst single ingredients can be healthy, any one instance of these is less important than the overall macronutrient properties of a whole meal. And the calorific balance of a days worth of eating trumps any one meal. And a week’s worth of eating trumps any one particular day. A month trumping a week, and a year trumping a month, and so on and so on.This is common sense but easily forgotten.

The principle being that good nutrition gains increasing meaning over a process of time. The longer the general baseline of nutrition has been of high quality, the less important any one instance of food choices become.

Here are the ‘superfoods’ that I have specifically sought out to add to my own diet;

  • Whey Protein [2]
  • Nutri-greens powdered vegetable supplements [3]
  • Coconut oil
  • Red Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Buckwheat and Rye flours
  • Brazil and Walnuts
  • Any variety of fruit and berries4

Overall these are welcome additions, but form a small proportion of my overall calorific intake over a typical day or week. It is worth noting that price is also a key consideration for me.

The normal, unimpressive staple meals such as beef chilli, ham and cheese rolls, baked fish, or chicken and vegetable stir-frys are the real super foods driving the bulk of the nutritional quality to my diet.

It is a cliche now but true;
A good grasp of the basics is what makes or breaks your nutrition.

My personal philosophy is banal.

Mostly whole foods. Lots of protein. Abundant vegetables and fruit. Minimal confectionary or refined wheat.

Less super foods, more super eating.


  1. Dr Isratel is excellent, specifically his five part mini-series on Nutritional Priorities.
  2. Whey is not traditionally considered as a ‘superfood’, but excellent nonetheless. I think of this as less a supplement and more and everyday foodstuff. I use Vanilla Total Whey from MyProtein.
  3. I use the Total Nutrigreens Plus and Nutri- Purples Veg blends from MyProtein.
  4. I buy whatever happens to be available from my local supermarket and market stalls.
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