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The moniker “superfood” gets thrown around a lot these days, touting the magical powers of everything from coffee, to kale, to coconut oil. But is all that hype really worth it? Are these foods really so miraculous they deserve the title of Super?

The term dates back to 1915 when it was first used to describe wine (many still agree with this distinction for wine’s resversatrol content), but didn’t gain popularity until the 1990s the concept of food-as-medicine went mainstream. Nutraceuticals, or food-based products that claim to improve your health, hit the market and people sought out these products to help get them on the fast track toward better health.

Today, the term Superfood typically refers to a nutrient-dense food that contains antioxidants. Since there is no formal definition, however, it has become an overused marketing term that has been slapped on almost every food label. We all should eat nutrient-dense foods, it’s how we ensure we’re getting a variety of the vitamins and minerals necessary for our health and well-being, but calling everything a superfood can lead us to think we can eat unlimited quantities of these foods and may lead us to negate all the good we think we’re doing. It also keeps us from eating all the other wonderful foods out there that are just labeled as “regular” food but provide a lot of good nutrients. This not only prevents us from eating a balanced diet; it also makes for some pretty boring meals!

Here are two foods that are actually worth the hype, and two that aren’t…

Kale is a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to looking for true superfoods. It contains Vitamins A, C, K, B6, and E, essential minerals like iron, folate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as fiber and protein. Kale is packed with nutrients and is versatile enough to be used in salads, sautees, and smoothies, and can even be baked to make chips.

Pomegranates have long been touted for their anti-aging benefits, and have been included in everything from juices and tonics to skincare products. But are these little red seeds really that powerful? According to a research, scientists have discovered a molecule in pomegranates, which is transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging. Additionally, pomegranate seeds are high in Vitamins C and K, is a good source of fiber and folate, and has a low glycemic index. You can add the seeds to salads, oatmeal, smoothies, bake it in healthy desserts, or make your own juice.

Agave was once lauded for its low glycemic index rating and was recommended as a sweetener that wouldn’t cause blood sugar to spike while providing antioxidants that were absent in refined sugar. While it does contain some antioxidants, there aren’t really enough to give you any benefits. Raw, local honey would be a much better choice as it contains Vitamin B6, magnesium, selenium, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium and tons of antioxidants. But remember: it’s still sugar, so be sure to use sparingly, and if you have insulin resistance or sensitivity, you may need to avoid it completely.

Goji Berries have become the poster child for health foods, showing up in everything from trail mix to granola bars to chocolate. But because they are dried, calories and sugar can add up quickly. Despite claims that these berries can help with weight loss, diabetes and high blood pressure, evidence supporting these claims is insufficient. While they are high in Vitamin A, you can get that, and a host of other nutrients, from foods like sweet potatoes and carrots.

Written by Ashleigh Whittington, Nutrition Coach

For more information on “superfoods” or help with your nutrition program contact Ashleigh at [email protected]