Are Superfoods Really Super? Science Says ‘Yes’ for These 5 Best Superfoods
Are superfoods really super? No one could blame you for wondering. So many healthy foods have been called superfoods — avocados, acai berries, sweet potatoes, kale, baobab fruit, dark chocolate, quinoa, just about any kind of berry, and even Greek yogurt. It’s easy to assume that the term “superfood” has become meaningless.
In the U.S., it’s hard to argue the value of a superfood because it’s nothing more than an unregulated marketing term, but it’s one that works — when marketers started calling chia seeds a superfood, the American Marketing Association says it created a superfood boost, meaning that awareness of the seeds as a nutritious food increased from 27 percent to 37 percent in just four years.
In the U.K., 61 percent of consumers said they buy food because it’s marketed as a superfood, according to a report from the EU’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To be marketed as a superfood in the EU, though, foods must have a verifiable scientific claim that explains its health benefits.
But I believe if you’re going to call a food “super,” it should be the absolute best nutritional value.
In my definition, a superfood would be a food that is the world’s highest in magnesium, or the world’s highest source of B vitamins. After all, a superhero isn’t just powerful — it should be super powerful. And the same goes for food. So while blueberries and kale might be nutrient-rich, they aren’t the tops — which is why I wouldn’t consider them superfoods.
This definition is what prompted me to start Four Sigmatic. You see, we named ourselves Four Sigmatic because when you compare how nutritious all foods are in the world, most foods are okay, a few are horrible, and a few are amazing.
If you put these foods on a scale from average to good to bad, the further you get from your average food, the more rare it is, and more sigmas (σ) you have. Only 50 superfoods in the world qualify as “four sigmatic.” The best of the best. The real superfoods. Those are the foods we use in our products for you.
One more thing: If you’re going to call something a superfood, it should be a food — something you eat or drink that can fit into your regular day, making the ordinary into something super-powered.
Here are some Four Sigmatic superfoods that also provide scientifically backed benefits, instant improvements, and fit into your real life.
Science-Backed Superfood #1: Moringa
Science-backed benefits: Moringa, a tree found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tropics, has been used traditionally for sex drive and to support digestion. The uses are almost endless, including as a topical remedy for dandruff, athlete’s foot, gum disease, and other problems.
But what makes it a super-powerful food is its variety and high levels of so many different nutrients: 100 grams of dried moringa leaf contains 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 12 times the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 25 times the iron of spinach, and 9 times the protein of yogurt[*].
Benefits you can feel: Some moringa users have found that the leaf gives them a serious energy kick — even though it has no caffeine. This could be because of the high iron content; if you’re low in iron, it can be associated with feeling lethargic.
How you can enjoy it now: Raw moringa leaves can be sourced from Asian groceries or health food stores, and can be used in salad — they’ve got a bite that’s almost like a radish. You can also get moringa leaf powder, which can be added to tea or water. I include it in our Mushroom Matcha Latte with Maitake, with the superfoods ceremonial grade matcha green tea and maitake.
Science-Backed Superfood #2: Goji
Science-backed benefits: Goji berries are considered the most nutrient-dense fruit in the world. They’ve got 2.4 times more immune-supporting antioxidant properties than blueberries. Unlike most plant-based protein sources, they’ve got all the amino acids your body needs — and 10 to 14 percent of the weight of the berry is protein. And they’re great for your eyes: In one study, participants who ate goji for 90 days increased levels of zeaxanthin, which is known to fight macular degeneration[*].
Benefits you can feel: Fullness! If you have some goji with breakfast or as a snack, the combination of protein and fiber can help make you feel full — and stay feeling full. Fifty grams of goji has 7 grams of protein (about as much as an egg) and 6.5 grams of fiber[*].
How you can enjoy it now: Dried goji berries are great on their own as a high fiber snack, and are perfect mixed into trail mix or your morning oatmeal.
Science-Backed Superfood #3: Eggs
Science-backed benefits: Wait, I thought eggs were bad for your cholesterol? Turns out the opposite may be true: Eggs have actually been shown to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, as well as decrease markers of inflammation[*][*]. They may also help maintain your vision over the long haul: When older adults had one egg per day, they significantly increased their amounts of lutein, which has been associated with eye health[*].
Benefits you can feel: Energy without lagging: A 2008 study found that eating two eggs for breakfast helped dieters feel more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast with the same calories[*].
How you can enjoy it now: Pick your preference. Add a hard boiled or scrambled egg to your morning. And don’t skip the yolk: That’s where most of the nutrients live, like vitamin A and vitamin E[*].
Science-Backed Superfood #4: Chia Seeds
Science-backed benefits: The seeds may help reduce triglycerides and support blood sugar management[*]. They’re also a source of filling fiber and omega–3 fatty acids.
Benefits you can feel: Endurance. Part of the reasons chia seeds went from “thing you put on a terra cotta sheep” to a food we eat is the book “Born to Run,” which describes raw chia’s use as an easy-to-carry endurance snack for Aztecs and Mayans running long distances centuries ago. You can get the same benefits from these protein-rich seeds now — though a bar may be more convenient than carrying a satchel of loose seeds.
How you can enjoy it now: Sprinkle them on salad, stir them into a smoothie or oatmeal, or let them soak overnight for a pudding-like chia bowl.
Science-Backed Superfood #5: Beets
Science-backed benefits: About 2 to 3 hours after you drink beet juice, you’ll need less oxygen to do the same amount of exercise. When study subjects in a 2013 study drank 280 milliliters of beet juice, they could cycle almost twice as long without becoming exhausted when compared to cyclists given a placebo[*]. And drinking beet juice may help your brain “look” younger and fight aging, according to research from Wake Forest University[*].
Benefits you can feel: An extra fuel reserve when you’re doing a long-distance endurance event, and a bit of a kick when you’re weight lifting.
How you can enjoy it now: In both studies discussed here, it was beet juice that provided the benefits. Follow the science and drink your roots. You can find them in shot bottles at natural grocery stores or juice your own.
Science-Backed Superfood #6: Adaptogenic Mushrooms
Science-backed benefits: Where to begin? Mushrooms have also been shown provide essential nutrients from vitamin D to essential amino acids, support your immune system, support stress management, improve gut health, make your skin glow, and so much more!
Benefits you can feel: Cordyceps mushroom support performance during cardiovascular exercise by helping provide sustained energy[*]. Sipping lion’s mane during work will help with focus and concentration. Reishi before bed will ensure a restful sleep. Chaga is an immune system superhero.
How you can enjoy it now: In your coffee. More than 60 percent of American adults drink a cup every day already, and having Four Sigmatic coffee with adaptogenic mushrooms can help reduce some of the drawbacks of your morning mug — reducing the incidences of sleep disturbance, making your stomach less acidic from the coffee, and promoting digestion.
Want to learn more about functional mushrooms? Check out the Mushroom Academy for a 100 percent free e-learning platform to learn about these true superfoods.