Does anyone else have trouble with the recent proliferation of the term “superfood”? We’re seeing it in ads, in articles, and on grocery store shelves. While we might appreciate a shift in awareness toward nutrient rich alternatives, we might also notice that this superlative label applies to fresh kale as well as a prettily packaged single serving of processed oatmeal.
Let’s not insist on a legislated application of the term, only to see it manipulated to the point of meaninglessness by agribusiness lobbies. Rather, let’s consider what this term could really mean.

Remember the space race in the 60s? A fascination with specially prepared and packaged foods arose because of the necessity for sending efficient nutrition into space with the astronauts. The technology NASA developed for the space program found its way into camping and back packing supplies in the form of freeze-dried ice cream, for example. For astronauts, and backpackers, these preparations had to satisfy all nutritional requirements while offering compactness and convenience. These inventions might earn the label “superfoods” if their macro-and micro-nutrient densities exceeded that of whole foods.

That whole foods like kale have earned the moniker of “superfood” amuses me enormously. Only because so few include this nutritious green in their diet does this seem to make sense. In actuality, what many of us eat from bags, boxes, and cans constitute “subfoods” of woefully inferior quality. The fact that whole foods nourish us better than processed food products does not make them super. It makes them FOOD.