You’ve heard it. You’ve said it. You’ve probably eaten it.
“It” is a superfood.
First the good news: In this day and age, most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of “superfoods.” But with the term being used to describe everything from some of the most medicinal foods on the planet to egregious fast-food meals, let’s just say things can get nebulous with superfoods … fast.
As you've likely noticed, here at Luminberry, superfoods and all the delicious ways to use them is kinda our thing. So as Luminberry's head superfood chef, once and for all, I’d like to help set the record straight on exactly what a superfood is.
WATCH CHEF JULIE EXPLAIN ALL ABOUT SUPERFOODS:
Want more superfood videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel HERE.
SO...WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD, ANYWAY?
According the Merriam Webster dictionary, a superfood is “a food that is rich in compounds that are considered to be beneficial to a person’s health.” Succinct it may sound, but the problem with this vague definition is that it still sounds like it describes an awful lot of foods! In fact, it fails to answer the million dollar question: What, exactly, makes a superfood so, well, super?
This is why I like to talk about superfoods a little bit differently. Having worked intimately with these special foods for almost two decades, my definition for superfoods is as follows: superfoods are the most nutrient-dense, benefit-rich foods found in nature. Upon first glance, you may be thinking this description sounds pretty similar to our initial dictionary answer! But look closely and you’ll notice a key phrase in my explanation, which makes all the difference: nutrient-density.
THE VALUE OF NUTRIENT DENSITY
Nutrient density is the ratio of micronutrients per calorie of food. Don’t confuse micronutrients with macronutrients. Macronutrients are fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Macronutrients compose calories, and you need to consume fairly large quantities of them. (Luckily, it's fairly easy to meet your daily macronutrient needs, so long as you’re eating enough food overall.)
But micronutrients are different. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals—the things we need in very small quantities, but are absolutely essential for our everyday health and optimum wellness alike. Thought we only need a little of these micronutrients, they're also harder to get. Micronutrients are only found in certain foods, and we need quite a vast collection of micronutrients to enjoy a truly balanced body. But fear not: meeting your micronutrient needs is exactly where superfoods really come in and shine. That's because what sets superfoods apart from other foods is their high nutrient density—or in other words, their impressively large level of naturally-occurring micronutrients packed in every calorie. It's these micronutrients that also make superfoods so exceptionally beneficial for your body, in just about every way you can imagine.
SUPERFOODS COME IN MANY FORMS
There are an excitingly diverse range of superfoods types, each providing unique benefits. A few examples include:
Blueberries—rich in brain-protective antioxidants
Kale—abundant in nutrients like vitamin K, which is critical for bone health
Cacao—the highest food source of magnesium, a mineral so important, it’s involved in more than 300 of your body’s reactions and functions
Chia Seeds—an exceptional source of inflammation-fighting Omega-3 fats
Medicinal Mushrooms—full of beneficial compounds which deeply support the body’s immune system
... and so, so much more! (Spices! Herbs! Nuts! Etc!)
From roots to shoots, pulses to seeds, berries to beans, consider superfoods the best of the best when it comes to healthy foods. They can be fresh, dried, powdered, juiced, fermented ... as long as their nutrients are preserved, you can cook with and consume superfoods of all varieties any way you like!
Sure, there’s still no "official" set parameters as to where the line of superfood versus non-superfood is drawn. But that's really not the point. Rather, prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet overall is a smart, opportunistic way to think about the food you put on your plate, ultimately helping you make the very best choices to maximize your unique wellness journey.
Craving more exciting information on superfoods? Sign up for our on-demand superfood cooking courses, led by Chef Julie, to learn more about how to cook with these incredible ingredients. Or bring some healthy inspiration into your home with her vast series of bestselling superfood cookbooks.