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Superfoods are supposed to offer profound nutritional benefits, and they are marketed as such.

The problem is that it’s not always clear whether the label is deserved because there’s no accepted standard for what makes one food “super” and another merely healthy.

Moreover, it’s unclear whether this focus on individual foods is worth pursuing in the first place. The fact is, broader dietary patterns are much more useful for predicting health outcomes than the consumption of any one food, no matter how healthy it is.

Still, superfoods are mega trendy. Google news search trends show that there was a huge spike in searches for superfoods starting mid-2016, and the number of web searches have generally been much higher throughout the past ten years than the six years before that.[1] “Superfoods” returns more than a billion Google search results, many of which are focused on the exact same questions:

  • What is a superfood?

  • How many superfoods are there?

  • How do we obtain superfoods?

  • Which are the best superfoods for x illness (e.g., diabetes), or y life condition (e.g., expectant mothers)?

Much rarer are results questioning the premise of this focus on superfoods; the effectiveness of this focus on superfoods; and the potential dangers of this focus on superfoods.

And that’s worrying. Because even though many of the foods touted as “super” are indeed healthy, our celebration of their miraculous properties often goes overboard, and there are negative side effects of these attitudes.