Over the past decade, blueberries have become big business in the U.S. In 1998, the Oregon blueberry harvest was 17 million pounds. By 2013, blueberry production had catapulted to 90 million pounds, on track to reach 150 million over the next five years. Blueberries are certainly delicious and nutritious, but how much of the Pacific Northwest’s $94-billion-a-year industry can be attributed to the humble fruit’s makeover—by dieticians, cookbook authors, and celebrity doctors—into a superfood?
Dozens of diet books with “superfood” in the title have been published over the last decade. Some so-called superfoods are common: Beans, apples, tea, broccoli. There are also the imported “miracle” berries and roots: açaí, goji, maca. More recently, dragonfruit, breadfruit, and mangosteen were declared nutritional miracle foods. The label often leads to a sales bump; in 2011, the top-selling superfruits brought in more than $205 million. That’s a lot of money spent on nutrient-rich foods that flaunt a label with no official definition.
Are some fruits and vegetable really far superior to the rest? The answer depends on who you ask.. Marion Nestle, the author of What to Eat and a professor of nutrition at New York University, told the Washington Post that she doesn’t believe in superfoods.On her blog, Nestle denounced the MonaVie brand that was selling acai juice for $40 a bottle in 2009. “The bottom line: all juices have antioxidants and most are a lot cheaper than MonaVie,” wrote Nestle.
Registered dietician Andy Bellatti agrees that the superfoods label is all about marketing.
“The field of nutrition is primed for these gimmicks because manufacturers know there are a lot of people looking for silver bullets,” says Bellatti. “The term ‘superfood’ as we know it today is silly because it is basically code for ‘grown 15,000 miles away in a remote mountain range and sold at a premium.’ As far as I am concerned, all whole, minimally processed, plant-based foods are superfoods. Are goji berries healthy? Sure. So is an orange.”