Are Super Foods Real?

Advertisements for superfoods and their false health claims are everywhere, for example; ‘burn fat,’ ‘get clearer skin,’ etc…, but what are super foods?  By definition, super foods are foods that provide a benefit over and beyond their nutritional quality. This should be determined through extensive research before it is presented to the public.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of false nutrition claims circulating on the internet, in magazines and on social media.

Any food can technically be ‘super’ in its own way.  If a food provides carbohydrate for energy, protein to maintain muscle mass, vitamins and minerals to maintain bodily functions then there is a place for it in the diet. Super foods may provide the body with benefits, but healthy eating means balance. Including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy is the key to a balanced diet. Below are some health claims made by various sources on the internet, let’s see how these claims stand up to the actual research done.

Coffee, source claims: ‘Drinking coffee can help you lose weight’

There are no significant studies that indicate that drinking coffee leads to weight loss. ‘Significant’ meaning, a large population was tested and no other factors may have caused the weight loss in the participants. Actual research: There are studies that show that coffee may have some benefits. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicates that coffee contains small amounts of some nutrients like potassium, niacin, vitamin E and magnesium. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, studies have shown positive effects of regular coffee drinking on alertness, mood, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, and metabolic disorders like diabetes and gallstones.

Red wine, source claims ‘Red wine strengthens teeth’

Again, no kind of research studying how red wine strengthens teeth. Actual research: It has been found that Red wine contains polyphenols (antioxidant) which has anti- inflammatory properties.  A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that polyphenols found in red wine showed anti-inflammatory properties and properties which counteract inflammatory diseases like heart disease. Luckily, these polyphenols can also be found in cranberries, blueberries, grapes, peanuts and various other foods.

Chocolate, source claims ‘Chocolate makes you eat less’

I researched this claim and did find one study published which indicates chocolate did decrease appetite in the 16 subjects in which the study was done on. Are 16 subjects enough to assume chocolate actually does decrease appetite on a larger scale population? Absolutely not! This is considered a small sample size in which results cannot be generalized to the whole population. This study would need to be done on a larger scale before concluding anything. Actual research: Dark chocolate was found to be a great source of flavonoids which is an antioxidant to help defend the body from toxins. According to BMC medicine, there have been studies that showed that flavonoids in dark chocolate improve blood flow and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Luckily, these flavonoids can be found in many fruits and vegetables.

These are just a few foods and the claims associated with them. Super foods do exist, but research needs to be done to see how exactly foods will benefit you. Super foods should be included alongside a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy.  All in all, be critical of what you read on the internet. Happy researching!

Jennifer Seleem is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Institute for Weight Loss at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. The Institute provides weight loss surgery and support for individuals seeking weight loss and have been unable to lose weight through conventional dieting, exercise or weight loss medication. To attend a free seminar, which occurs three times a month, or to make an appointment with Jennifer for nutrition counseling, call 855-TIME-4-ME.

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