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Superfoods: What Are They, Exactly?

The term superfood, which seems to convey foods that have some sort of special powers, has become quite popular lately. What does it mean, exactly, and how can you incorporate more “superfoods” into your child’s diet?

The truth is, there is no such thing as one “superfood.” It is best to consume a variety of colorful and nutritious foods in order to experience the maximum health benefits. This is because the term superfoods actually refers to foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are compounds found in plants that research has shown to reduce the risk for certain diseases and to boost overall health. Consuming a variety of whole foods not only increases phytochemical intake but also keeps mealtime flavorful and interesting!

Certain phytochemicals are now available in a supplemental form, but it is best (and more economical!) to consume them through whole foods because there are many other beneficial compounds, including fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats that are included in the superfood package!

Some foods rich in phytochemicals include:

These are just a few of the many phytochemicals and phytochemical-rich superfoods out there. In fact, researchers believe that there are over 5,000 different phytochemicals in nature, and they are only beginning to scratch the surface of the numerous health benefits that go along with them.

Because so many phytochemical-rich superfoods are brightly colored, they are appealing to kids and can be an easy and fun way to enhance the nutrient quality of their meals.

Teach your kids to eat the rainbow and boost their superfood intake with these tips!

  • Add a handful of berries to yogurt for an easy breakfast or snack

  • Add slices of cucumber, zucchini, or carrot to the lettuce and tomato on sandwiches

  • Blend up a quick and healthy fruit smoothie

  • Keep a container of fresh vegetables in the refrigerator for snacks

  • Put raisins, grapes, grated carrots, zucchini, or cucumber into chicken or tuna salad

  • Bake some delicious and crispy kale chips

  • Chop up red peppers and carrots to dip into hummus

  • Choose whole-grain bread for sandwiches

  • Use a high powered blender or food processor to make your own nut butter

FUN FACT: Blueberries were called “star fruits” by North American indigenous peoples because of the five-pointed star shape that is formed at the blossom end of the berry.

About the Author: Mollie Linn is a dietetic student and intern currently earning her master’s degree in nutrition science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.



1. Brown, Judith. Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2017.

2. Smith AM, Collene AL, Speed, CK. Wardlaw’s Contemporary Nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2018.

3. Antioxidants and Phytochemicals, American Institute for Cancer Research

4. Superfoods or Superhype? Harvard School of Public Health.

RECIPE: Veggie Tots (EGG FREE)

RECIPEL: Berry Cobbler

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