What Are Superfoods?

Superfoods need to be introduced in the context of a balanced diet in order to develop their functions and provide health benefits.
What Are Superfoods?
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 24 April, 2023

Superfoods have become all the rage in recent years. Plenty of so-called miracle diets have sprung up around them, and their consumption has been linked to better health. In fact, they have even been attributed medicinal properties. We’re going to tell you the truth behind these products, as well as the opinion of science on the matter.

Although some foods may be more beneficial foods than others, the basis of a healthy diet is variety. It’s true, however, that the intake of products with a higher nutritional density should be emphasized.

What are superfoods?

All products from the plant kingdom that stand out for their nutrient or antioxidant content are classified under the superfood label. Their consumption is linked to a lower risk of developing complex, chronic, or degenerative pathologies.

However, the use of this concept is less and less recommended, since it creates discrimination between groups of plants that aren’t scientifically substantiated.

Superfoods stand out for their content in phytonutrients. These substances have demonstrated their effectiveness in reducing the risk of suffering from some diseases. However, this doesn’t mean that megadoses of these compounds achieve miraculous effects.

On the other hand, this class of food can also be characterized by having a high number of amino acids in its composition or unsaturated lipids of a healthy nature. Even fiber can be part of them, as it’s a nutrient capable of improving intestinal function, according to a study published in the Central European Journal of Public Health.

What are superfoods?

We’re going to show you below which are the most famous superfoods and what science says about them.


These fruits stand out for their polyphenol content. Specifically, they have substances –  anthocyanins – that can reduce oxidation in the body. Consuming them neutralizes the production of reactive oxygen species at the cellular level.

In fact, research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology tells us that regular intake of these compounds can help prevent malignant cell changes and help to increase the success rate of chemotherapy.

In parallel, anthocyanins are also capable of exerting effects on the cardiovascular system through the regulation of blood pressure. They can also decrease the rate of oxidation of VLDL lipoprotein, which has a positive impact by reducing atheromatous plaques.

In any case, blueberries must be introduced in the context of a balanced diet in order to experience any benefit from their intake. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that most of the studies carried out with anthocyanins use high amounts of them, much greater than those that can be found in a reasonable serving of fruits.

Blueberry tea is a superfood.
Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which have proven effects in protecting cardiovascular health.


Quinoa has become one of the most famous cereals. It stands out for its low glycemic index carbohydrate content and for the presence of fiber in its composition.

Although some people claim that it has more protein than other grains with similar characteristics, we need to highlight that they’re of low biological value. However, quinoa does have essential vitamins and minerals for the body.

However, the substance with the most beneficial properties of quinoa is fiber. The same thing happens in the case of oats. This substance has been shown to have the ability to ferment at the intestinal level, stimulating the microbiota. In addition, thanks to this process, a series of short-chain fatty acids with an anti-inflammatory character are produced.

At present, diets that are committed to minimizing or restricting carbohydrates in the diet have become fashionable. This option could have positive consequences for a wide spectrum of people, especially those with a sedentary lifestyle. However, in the case of wanting to propose a flexible diet, quinoa could be a great option.


Cocoa is one of the most consumed foods since ancient times. It has great properties thanks to its polyphenol and flavonoid content. However, today we have a wide spectrum of products that contain cocoa in their composition, but that aren’t beneficial.

Cocoa flavonoids are capable of reducing human blood pressure, as confirmed by research published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. Thanks to this property, the risk of developing cardiovascular pathologies, such as myocardial infarctions or cerebrovascular accidents, can be reduced.

Some experts even claim that regular cocoa intake may be able to delay aging thanks to the antioxidant properties of its phytonutrients. These substances control the oxidation balance at a cellular level and the associated inflammatory processes.

In any case, when consuming cocoa it’s important to make sure that you choose a product that has a high content of this ingredient. This will take advantage of the flavonoids, fatty acids, and proteins in the food, instead of introducing harmful simple sugars into the body.

Along the same lines, coffee can also be mentioned, as it’s another product with a higher phytonutrient content. However, it has a bad reputation due to the presence of caffeine in its composition. Despite the fact that moderate amounts of the alkaloid have not shown harmful effects, you can always resort to its decaffeinated variety.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds stand out for their content of fatty acids and micronutrients. Although they also have protein, as this is of vegetable origin they aren’t highly digestible. In addition, they’re deficient in certain essential amino acids.

However, the lipids present in chia seeds have anti-inflammatory properties. They are, for the most part, representatives of the omega 3 series, capable of protecting the cardiovascular system, according to a study published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

In this sense, it’s essential to balance the consumption of omega 3 and omega 6 in the diet. If not, inflammatory processes could be generated, creating a negative impact on the body. This doesn’t mean that omega 6 lipids are harmful, but that their consumption requires a certain balance.

In turn, chia also has significant amounts of fiber. This substance can increase the volume of the fecal bolus, thus reducing the risk of constipation.

Goji berries

We can’t close the list of superfoods without talking about goji berries. These are small fruits with an intense red color and a dehydrated appearance that have become fashionable due to their antioxidant and vitamin C content.

This vitamin is able to increase the efficiency of the immune system, as well as the production of collagen synthesis. This improves the quality of lean and connective tissue, which reduces the risk of developing joint and muscle problems. The incidence of infectious pathologies will also be reduced thanks to the this vitamin.

However, goji berries have a high sugar content, basically due to their low water content. Thus, its intake is recommended in moderation, so that the balance in terms of macronutrients isn’t altered in any way.

Superfoods - cocoa.
Cocoa has many properties, but its commercial forms tend to have high amounts of added sugar.

Better than superfoods, a balanced diet

It’s true that the so-called superfoods stand out for their contribution of nutrients and for their beneficial effects on the body. However, nutrition professionals stress that it’s far more important to ensure that a proper context is created for its introduction.

In this sense, a balanced and varied diet is more beneficial than ingesting a large number of superfoods. The appropriate thing is to avoid the restrictions of food groups, prioritizing the intake of fresh foods over industrial ultra-processed ones.

It’s clear that superfoods can trigger positive effects, but it’s necessary to ensure that other healthy habits are carried out to guarantee a good state of health. These include daily physical activity and proper rest.

  • Ranjan A., Ramachandran S., Gupta N., Kaushik I., et al., Role of phytochemicals in cancer prevention. Int J Mol Sci, 2019. 20 (20): 4981.
  • Hijjova E., Bertkova I., Stofilova J., Dietary fibre as prebiotics in nutrition. Cent Eur J Public Health, 2019. 27 (3): 251-255.
  • Lin BW., Gong CC., Song HF., Cui YY., Effect of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancer. Br J Pharmacol, 2017. 174 (11): 1226-1243.
  • Holscher HD., Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut Microbes, 2017. 8 (2): 172-184.
  • Ludovici V., Barthelmes J., Nagele MP., Enseleit F., et al., Cocoa, blood pressure, and vascular function. Front Nutr, 2017.
  • Abdelhamid AS., Brown JT., Brainard JS., Biswas P., et al., Omega 3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2018.

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