As more and more research is done on foods and the nutrients that they contain, certain foods are emerging as extraordinary sources of nutrients. These foods– some traditional, others exotic– are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and specialized nutrients with exciting health benefits. It’s becoming popular to call these – superfoods. They can potentially help fight aging and illness and are some of the best possible food choices you can make.

Superfoods have a very high nutritional density providing a substantial amount of nutrients and very few calories.  As well as containing a high volume of minerals and vitamins they also contain antioxidants which are natural molecules that occur in certain foods.  They help to neutralise free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are natural byproducts of energy production that can literally wreak havoc on the body if their levels become too high.

They are linked to multiple illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. 

Where did the term superfood originate?

Interestingly, not from those who formally study food, such as nutritionists, scientists and dietitians. The earliest recorded example may have taken place in the early 20th century around World War I, used as part of a food marketing strategy.

In America, The United Fruit Company started an enthusiastic advertising campaign to promote its major import of  bananas.  Initially the company had advertised the practicality of  bananas in a daily diet, being cheap, nutritious, easily digested, available everywhere, good when cooked and not cooked, and sealed by nature in a germ-proof package. To get people to eat more, they suggested adding bananas in cereal for breakfast, in salads for lunch, and fried with meat for dinner.

The popularity of the term soared after being endorsed in medical journals, due to physicians publishing their findings of a banana diet to treat conditions like celiac disease and diabetes – gluten had not yet been discovered as the the true culprit!

But what makes a superfood?

  • A key factor that makes a food super is nutrient density. Nutrient density refers to the number of nutrients for the given volume or caloric value of food. Superfoods are good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants, phytonutrients, Omega 3 fatty acids, or other beneficial chemicals.
  • Superfoods are nearly always natural foods, most often fruits and vegetables, in their unrefined or minimally processed state. If a superfood is over processed, it will likely lose much of its beneficial nutrients and potential health benefits. Be wary of packaged and processed foods that jump onto the bandwagon. Often, they capitalize on the consumer’s increased awareness of the latest trend by adding minimal or inferior ingredients just to claim them on the packaging.
  • While there is no official definition of a superfood, and no regulations concerning how the term can be used in marketing products, most foods that receive the label have solid research behind them. Still, when new food is being proclaimed a superfood, it’s always wise to research its health claims to make sure that studies have been done regarding its nutritional content and safety..
  • Superfoods are essentially the healthiest foods you can eat, and they should be seriously considered for almost anyone’s diet. Of course, it’s still necessary to pay attention to portion sizes, natural sugar content, and overall calorie intake.

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