In the early 1990s, a cookbook called Superfoods appeared in the bookshops. It was co-written by the alternative medicine practitioner, Michael Van Straten, who is one of a handful of people said to have coined what has become one of the most spuriously bandied-about marketing terms of our times.
The book revealed Straten's "four-star superfoods", which "supply the vital bricks that build your body's resistance to stress, disease and infection". The list held few surprises, consisting of, you know, stuff that's good for you: common fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts. Foods we're especially keen on eating in January, as an antidote to Christmas excesses. Wouldn't these foods be more accurately described as simply "food" (as opposed to junk food)? Nevertheless, the notion of superfoods was, and still is appealing. Except this century, the term is now used to assign near-magical powers to overpriced, exotic foodstuffs. It's promotional potency went into turbo boost when the theories about antioxidants – probably the most successful "the science bit" spiel of all time – hit the public consciousness. Ever since, food sellers have clambered to keep "discovering" novel, unparalleled sources of "extraordinary nutrients". Waitrose recently introduced yuzu juice to stores as a gourmet ingredient/superfruit. Coffee fruit is the next big super, along with monk fruit, which is sweeter than sugar but with less calories. Both promise antioxidants in abundance.
A review paper on vitamin supplements recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says not. One of the authors, Edgar Miller of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that while supplement suppliers advocate that we have many nutritional deficiencies, in truth, "we are in general overfed, our diet is completely adequate".