Why French Fries Are More of a "Superfood" Than Kale

Why French Fries Are More of a "Superfood" Than Kale
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A superfood is a bit like Superman... except it doesn't wear a cape, can't fly, and won't save your life.

The lack of a cape and an inability to fly should come as no surprise to superfood fans, but ardent eaters of goji berries, blueberries, acai, and kale might be surprised to learn that these foods, and other "superfoods" like them, do not magically grant health and longevity.

This blunt truth actually runs counter to the Oxford Dictionary's definition of a superfood: "a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being." The Oxford Dictionary needs to hire some fact-checkers.

'The term "superfoods" is at best meaningless and at worst harmful,' Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London, told The Guardian. 'There are so many wrong ideas about superfoods that I don't know where best to begin to dismantle the whole concept."

Flowery food writer Michael Pollan even agrees. He recognizes that a single nutrient or food doesn't make a healthy diet or lifestyle.

While the Oxford Dictionary isn't up-to-date on scientific evidence, Wikipedia is. The online encyclopedia's definition of "superfood" is far more accurate and much less appetizing: "Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits. The term is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists, many of whom dispute that particular foods have the health benefits often claimed by advocates..." (Emphasis added.)

Frankly, the superfood term could use a sensible and scientific makeover. The foods most commonly crowned with the description are fruits and vegetables with high concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, studies conducted "generally don’t provide strong evidence that antioxidant supplements have a substantial impact on disease," so there's no reason to assume that eating tons of so-called "superfoods" would impart added benefits over a balanced diet. Moreover, the body doesn't need mega doses of vitamins, and too much can actually be harmful. For example, consuming an average of 1.5 cups of cooked kale a day over a six-year timespan could result in chronic vitamin A toxicity, and that assumes no other dietary intake of the vitamin.

Clearly, someone could not subsist on the current conception of "superfoods," so how "super" are they really? A truer superfood, one which provides almost everything the body needs, is the humble potato. Packed with starch, fiber, and protein, as well as a plethora of vitamins and minerals, it may be the most complete food on the planet. Cut one up and lightly fry the slices with a little canola oil and a pinch of salt, and you've got yourself a healthful feast!

While one might be able to live on potatoes alone, a better solution is simply to eat a balanced diet. Feel free to even include a few superfoods like kale, blueberries, dragon fruit, oca, and French fries.

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