What It Takes to Make a Food a Superfood

The term superfood has gotten thrown around quite a bit lately, but what does it actually mean? What does it take for a food to be considered super?

Despite the fact that the term probably makes you picture your cauliflower wearing a cape and being the hero of your dinner, there are no true nutritional requirements for a food to be labeled a superfood. Superfoods are not their own food group and there is no baseline requirement of nutritional balance for a food to be considered a superfood.

The term superfood refers to any food that is nutritionally dense, provides health benefits when eaten and are packed with nutrients. It’s also a marketing term created to tout that food’s health benefits and to make it more appealing to the general population.

When you hear “superfood,” you should think “this is probably a nutritionally-dense food,” but like any other food, you should always do your own research to understand what makes that particular food “super.”

Many of the foods that typically fall under the superfood label are plant-based, high in vitamins and antioxidants and provide significant health benefits compared to other foods, all of which are highly beneficial to your body. However, keep in mind that someone labeled this food a superfood because they believe that food is worthy of the label, not because it met any type of nutritional requirements.

Below are some of the top super-healthy foods that are often called called superfoods and how they earned the “super” status.


We all know that kale is packed with fiber, but did you know that it has more iron per ounce than beef? Typically, the darker the green, the more nutritional benefits kale has so opt for the darkest green kale you can find to reap the incredible nutritional benefits.


Packed with healthy fats and omega 3s, salmon is among the top of the list of healthiest non-plant based superfoods. Omega 3’s support a healthy heart and brain and should be eaten regularly.


Blueberries are one of the most nutritionally-dense foods on the planet. They are packed with antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. Because of this, they can lower your risk of heart disease and and cancer.


You probably know acai as a smoothie booster or as the purple base of your Instagramable acai bowl, but you probably didn’t know that the acai berry contains more antioxidants, fiber and fat than most other berries. Despite its sweetness, it’s low in sugar and has major anti-aging benefits.


Pomegranate seeds are a less commonly eaten superfood, but pack a serious nutritional punch. Pomegranate helps prevent cancer and provides immune and fertility support.


Understanding that these superfoods are labeled as such without meeting a specific criteria, meals made with ingredients like these are still an excellent starting point in creating a diet that packs more nutritional punch with each serving.

To plan out a week’s worth of superfood-infused dishes, start here:



The next time you see something labeled as a superfood, you can assume that the food offers some serious health benefits and will make for a great meal star to your meal. However, keep in mind there is nothing required of the food to earn the label. Like anything else you consume, research its nutritional content, where it came from and any health benefits it may offer. Then, you can decide for yourself if you consider that food a superfood.

Eat Nutrition

About Ashley Stevens Phillips

Ashley is an Integrative Nutrition certified health coach living her dream life in Chicago with her husband and two puppies, Sal and The Dude. A Pinterest account manager by day, Ashley spends her free time tapping it back at Soul Cycle, blasting rap music while baking home made gluten-free granolas, and strolling though the local farmers markets with a green juice in hand. Ashley believes in balance in food and fitness and loves helping people meet their holistic wellness goals. Her ongoing personal goal is to try every class on ClassPass at least once, and she’s made a pretty good dent in the list so far.