Superfoods aren’t that super

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer.
Founder and Head Coach
Certain food group are healthier than others, but not for everyone. Superfoods are not always that super.

Superfoods have the image of having a variety of positive health effects due to high levels of good nutrients and anti- oxidants. A necessity for anyone who wants to be healthy and fit. But claimed health effects of superfoods are generally not sufficiently scientifically substantiated [0].


Certain food groups or products are probably healthier than others, although there is a lot of controversy among nutritional scientists. Nutritional guidelines have historically focused on population averages. But, no one is average. What is good for you, might not be the best thing for someone else. There are a lot of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ in the field of nutrition, who love to make a lot of money selling quick fixes, diets, supplements and myths.

Research has shown most nutritional scientists agree that highly-processed foods, white rice, and fast food are unhealthy, and olive oil, blueberries, and coffee are healthy. But for many other products, there is little agreements. This is not because leading nutrition experts have all got it wrong. It is because the human body is very complex, as is the food we eat and how the body responses to food. It is complexity on top of complexity [1]

Coconut oil: good and bad

Furthermore, sometimes a product has positive and negative health effects, such as coconut oil. Both need to bew taken into account when making food choices. One example is coconut oil.

Over the last years, coconut oil has become more popular because of proclaimed health benefits. An important feature of coconut oil is that it potentially raises blood LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is considered ‘the bad cholesterol’ because is takes cholesterol from the liver tobody cells, which can result in a higher risk of heart diseases.

Coconut oil also raises blood HDL cholesterol levels. HDL is considered ‘the good cholesterol’ because it removes the cholesterol from the bloodstreams and takes it to the liver so it can be removed from the body. So you might be tempted to think eating coconutoil can help to prevent heart diseases.

Research on the effects of coconut oil on our health are very difficult to execute. That is because the use of coconut oil is very limited in most countries, and people who regularly consume coconut oil have other dietary and non-dietary habits, making it hard to compare to people who don’t use coconut oil. Yet we do know for sure from scientific research, that coconut oil raises blood LDL. And that is unhealthy. So the best thing you can do is play it safe andminimize your coconut intake. Rely on science, not on hypes.

Unique response to food

Every human body has a unique response to food, so what works for one person may not work for another. The effect of certain foods or nutients depends on numerous factors such as health condition and the combination of other nutrients the food is taken in with. Sometimes some nutrients are healthy for some people and less healthy for others. An example is anti- oxidants: For athletes, high doses of anti- oxidants can negatively affect athletic performance [2], and in some studies, the risk of cancer even seemed to increase when taking antioxidant supplements [3].

More is not better

Furthermore, more is not better. Unsalted unbranded nuts are considered a healthy product and a good alternativbe for potatoe chips for example. But one handful of nuts still contains the same amount of calories as the same amount of chips.

A healthy diet is a well balanced diet, with minimally processed foods, lots of vegetables, whole grain products, lean protein and healthy fats, in moderate amounts. Trends and hypes are money making machines.

Create your own health!©


[0] Superfoods. March 2024.

[1] ZOE Project

[2] Factisheet Antioxidanten. June 2019.

[3] Antioxidanten. March 2024.