What is the importance of superfoods on a global scale?
What is a superfood?
A superfood is a disputed term. A food is called a superfood when it meets many of the following criteria:
- Exceptionally nutrient-dense.
- Unusually high in antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, and/or trace minerals*.
- Unique in taste, color, texture, smell, and/or biological makeup.
- Cultural. Most superfoods have been consumed long before we've seen them in nice packaging on our grocery shelves.
- Sparse, in general.
- Produced and packaged with attention, care, and integrity.
Excessively marketed, they can come across as elitist. The idea of the food suddenly becoming healthier than the food itself. It's important to keep the information about foods deemed as functional data-based.
To study them more truthfully, temporarily ignore quick facts and cute infographics. Revert back to what they are when they grow, when they are harvested and at every step up until evem pas their consumption (as in by-products, how much waste does this food produce?). What's the overall score? The fair-trade indigenous cacao bean? I think it might be positive.
Fundamentally, they are good foods. Good as a noun in this case, rather than an adjective. For various measurable reasons. From the production to transformation to consumption.
Produced, distributed and consumed with integrity, they are the epitome of small-scale farming and fair-trade practices. The uniqueness of most superfoods - based on the criteria mentioned before - means they are tightly linked to a particular land and culture where it has been consumed for some time. Also, their rarity means that, especially when made globally available, they require the particular attention that any new innovative product needs when it first lands on the market.
On a global scale, in general you can’t package a superfood without getting in contact with a local culture and understanding what it is, where it grows, and how it is consumed. This requires effort and care and connection. It's the necessary connection with the people that can harness empathy.
A superfood product achieves a delicate balance between meaning, biodiversity, and nutrition. They are the opposite of commodity crops. That is their true power. They actively empower consumers to contribute to the bettering of the food system. They introduce wild variables in a system that thrives on commodity, control, and predictability. Just by nature, they shake things up.
On a side note, superfoods can be used and exploited improperly. Both intellectually and physically. Research is important. Not too much to forget to feel, but just enough to know how you feel.