It seems superfoods are “discovered” more rapidly than Marvel or DC can drop its next movie or TV series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good superhero story. Despite that, it can feel pretty overwhelming trying to keep up with the break-neck pace that these shows get released. It can often feel the same way with all the mighty “superfoods” that seem to be discovered.
“This just in! This new root, found deep in the Amazon Rainforest, might be the best food to cure inflammation, make you feel 10 years younger, help you make more money in your job, and it will even do your taxes!”
You might think I’m sounding crazy, but the claims that made around these supposed “superfoods” make it seem like you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider and can now scale walls or swing from webs. Truth be told, some of these “magic elixir” powdered greens or ‘health’ drinks taste so bad, I’d rather just get bit by the spider and take my chances.
Why, then, does it seem that our diets are populated by the mundane, superpower-less types of foods (“Hello boring ol’ white potatoes, broccoli, and carrots!”) while we are constantly bombarded by the “next major superfood to take you from zero to hero”? When you really boil it down, it comes back to our same fascination with superheroes. There’s nothing exciting about the everyday staples, the boring, the normal, but there’s something endlessly fascinating about the incredible, new, or unique. So, as you stare down at yet another boring salad, you dream of the superpower promises brought on by goji berries and dragon fruit.
But when we think about it, we have to ask the question – what makes a superfood super? When we strip it down, remove the masks and capes, are these foods really super or are they just posers with a great PR department? Do they stack up like Superman, wielding impressive otherworldly powers, or are they more like Batman – a grown-up karate kid with plenty of money and impressive gadgets?
Let’s take a look at the humble spud, the white russet potato, and its super counterpart, the sweet potato.
|The Contender:||White Potato (medium, baked)||Sweet Potato (medium, baked)|
|% Daily Recommended Intake|
Credit: Information sourced from Precision Nutrition Infographic
Upon analysis, it appears that the sweet potato might not be as dramatically superior to its “less-as-super” counterpart. The sweet potato comes in at lower overall calories per serving, but also with less carbs and protein – nutrients that can be critical to fueling an active lifestyle (or fighting crime!). As far as dietary fat and fiber are concerned, these potatoes are a dead-tie. The sweet potato weighs in heavily with a Hulk-sized punch of vitamin A. Besides just beating out the white spud in vitamin C, the russet potato demonstrates a strong lead with a number of highly important dietary minerals, particularly electrolytes that are often lost in sweat.
After combing through the results, what can we conclude? That both potatoes certainly carry their own unique traits and contributions. My verdict? These both have their place when you assemble your plate, in the same way that every hero has their role to fill when the Avengers assemble.
Truly, the definition of a superfood according to Oxford Dictionary is, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” When you really dig into it, you might come to realize that this definition applies to any fruit or vegetable.
Did you know that carrots, broccoli, and garlic are among some of the best kryptonite for various forms of cancer? Also, the healthy monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil defend you from inflammation in the same way that Iron Man’s suit defends him against – well, everything. These foods are anything but new or exciting, but they carry immeasurable potential!
As a dietitian, I often get asked “What’s the main foods I should eat for [insert goal here].” In this moment, I know people are asking me for a specific answer - the foods that I’ve supposedly learned of in my years of studying that are apparently not known to the public. In this moment, these clients see me as some sort of nutritional Nick Fury – a man who’s investigated and assembled the most powerful superfoods on the planet, wielding the power of the superfood Avengers to come to the rescue at any moment. Unfortunately, the answer is rarely one they want to hear. The truth is that the fix to most nutritional goals rarely lies in the next, up-and-coming hero of a food. The truth is the answers lie within the mundane, within the everyday staples of life. Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t as easy as finding the next magical cure of a food.
That’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: optimizing your nutrition isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Captain America makes for a wonderful example. Steve Rogers gained his incredible abilities from a Super-Soldier serum, but he never would’ve mastered these abilities without all of his rigorous training and dedication. In Captain America’s case, the serum and his powers weren’t what made him super. Steve Rogers’ dedication, heart, and discipline are what truly made him into Captain America.
Well, that’s nice… but what the heck does that have to do with food?
It means that committing to consistency – consistently eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (not just the “super” ones), consistently drinking enough fluids, consistently getting in your exercise to train towards your goals – is the key to accomplishing what you seek. Finding dedication to the mundane and everyday – in the same way that Captain America commits to his training – is what will constantly and consistently move you forward.
This means that you can stop searching for that next magic food. You can rest assured that the capability for (nutritional) greatness already lives within you! It lies within the ‘boring but oh so fundamental’ truths we’ve been told growing up. Maybe mom was onto something when she told you to eat your vegetables so you could be “big and strong like a superhero”.
As you start to discover the freedom and power that comes with embracing the basics, never forget: with great power comes great responsibility.
After seeking the “quick fix” of nutrition for so long, it can be hard to figure out what the fundamentals even are and how to apply them to your life. Just like every hero needed guidance in the mastery of their powers, you may want to consider talking to a Wellness Coach or dietitian about how to harness your newfound nutritional powers. Check out the link to our website below to answer your Call to Adventure and begin your own Hero’s Journey!
Another way to tap into the potential powers found in all fruits and vegetables is finding more ways to get them in the house and on the table! Thankfully, Western will be partnering with a local farm, Moder’s Gardens, this summer to offer Western members the opportunity to purchase farm boxes. These boxes are filled with seasonal, local produce that can be picked up directly at Western! If you’re interested in learning more, speak with a Western employee at the Fuel Bar.