It’s not hard to get on board with adding more “superfoods” to your diet. Who doesn’t want their food to be super? But, here’s a followup question: What are superfoods, really? And what does it take for a food to be deemed super?
Nothing unusual, it turns out. Superfoods aren’t all that different from plain ol’ healthy foods, Dianna Sinni, R.D., L.D., wellness dietitian and blogger at Chard in Charge, tells SELF. There are no requirements or specifications for something to be considered a superfood, Sinni says. And unlike label claims such as “healthy,” “excellent source of,” and “organic,” the term “superfood” is not regulated by the FDA or USDA.
Without a legit, universal definition of “superfood” rooted in nutrition science, the best we’ve got is Merriam Webster: “a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.” Basically, if you squint hard enough, any generally nutritious food can fit this description.
Often what happens is that a fruit or vegetable that’s been notoriously unpopular or otherwise forgotten (think, Brussels sprouts or kale), will be remarketed as a superfood to pique the interest of consumers. Sinni explains that one negative side effect of this trend is that it may cause consumers to think of commonplace healthy foods—like spinach, oats, and apples—as nutritionally inferior, despite that not being the case. On the other hand, she says, “the term has done wonders to highlight lesser known nutritious foods, like ancient grains or matcha,” which may otherwise not have had their moment in the sun.
Simply put, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the superfood du jour. Just remember that there are plenty of foods out there that are pretty damn super, even if they’re not thought of as “super” per se. Here are 34 foods you could totally call super.