what makes a superfood super
What Makes a Superfruit “Super”?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “superfruit” at some point, either on a label in the store, on TV, or on social media (or even on this site). But is “superfruit” just a buzzword marketing has developed to sell expensive, exotic fruit? Or is there actually truth behind the madness?

“Superfruit” is a term that was originally coined to describe fruits that have exceptional health benefits. Some will argue that any fruit could be called a “superfruit,” but it only actually refers to fruits with higher concentrations of nutrients that have scientific backing for various benefits.

Most prominently, superfruits have high concentrations of antioxidants.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a type of molecule that protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. These free radicals can cause oxidative stress on the body, which can trigger cell damage, and perhaps have a negative impact on your health. Some antioxidants are made in your body, but others are not, which is why it is important to get them in the diet.

So why do we want to get antioxidants in our diets? Antioxidants can provide great benefits through their ability to help fend off free radicals.

Common types of antioxidants include vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, selenium, and phytochemicals. However, the term “antioxidant” is a blanket statement for compounds that control free radical damage.

There is a mind-numbing amount of antioxidants, but you can get all them all by eating a diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Phytonutrients

I just threw a big word out there, so let’s reel it back a second. Phytonutrients are compounds that occur naturally in all plants. Plants produce these compounds to protect themselves from different threats in the environment.

Just like humans produce antioxidants to protect against oxidative damage, plants do the same. Polyphenols and carotenoids are a subclass of phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties.

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are found in several different sources including berries, peaches, grapes, apples, olives, tea, and cocoa to name a few.

Polyphenols can be further broken down into sub-classes – the most well-known being flavonoids. Flavonoids not only act as antioxidants, but also a natural plant pigment. They give red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables their color. Foods like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red onions, and plums all contain flavonoids. Different flavonoids come from different colored fruits and vegetables, so do your best to eat the rainbow!

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are another plant pigment which also have antioxidant properties, and give yellow and orange plants their color. Foods like carrots, yams, papaya, tomatoes, oranges, and cantaloupe all contain carotenoids.

Not all antioxidants have the same structure, therefore, they act differently on the body and offer distinct benefits. This is another reason why it is important to vary your fruits and vegetables to get the most comprehensive array of antioxidants.

The Bottom Line

Any fruit and vegetable can provide great health benefits with their vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. Superfruits tend to have more antioxidants, but including a variety of “normal” fruits is also very important.

Incorporate some superfruits into your repertoire of healthy foods to maintain a well-balanced diet. Superfruits provide great benefits, but remember, by no means can they counteract the effects of eating a poor diet.

Superfruits have a high antioxidant content that can prevent oxidative damage. Make educated decisions about the food you buy, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking superfruits are a panacea.

Carla Cos

Carla Cos

Carla Cos graduated in 2017 from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's of Nutrition in Dietetics and recently completedthe Coordinated Program in Dietetics. She is now eligible to become a registered dietitian and plans to sit for the exam in September.

During her time at UT, Carla discovered her love for sharing her nutrition knowledge with others and helping them reach their goals. Carla is excited to be working as a clinical dietitian and a nutrition consultant. During her free time, Carla enjoys playing the piano, cooking, traveling, spending time with friends, and photography.
Carla Cos

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