A superfood is basically a nutrient-dense food that provides more health benefits than others. This term can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century, but its popularity has been rapidly rising as a result of the growing public interest in the subject of diet and health.

Superfoods have become quite ubiquitous in the media, with magazines, newspapers, and blogs publishing scientific evidence of their amazing power. Unfortunately, the bulk of information can be overwhelming. How do we know which superfoods we need? Is there really some truth to the media’s claims?

To help you see beyond the hype and discover what superfoods really are, I’ve written this quick, simple guide.

Antioxidants, the molecules which safeguard us from the harmful effects of free radicals, are said to be found in many superfoods, most especially berries. The hype that emerged as a result of this discovery has been overwhelming, but it is nonetheless true. Blueberries, which have undergone extensive studying have been found to contain high concentrations of plant-based antioxidants that can inhibit the growth of harmful cells.

In terms of antioxidants, cocoa is one of the best superfoods. It has been proven to help maintain a healthy heart by helping increase blood vessel elasticity and lowering blood pressure with its high flavonoid content. Pomegranates and acai berries are also rich in antioxidants, and studies show that they can lower the risk of heart disease.

Other superfoods are not falling too far behind. Beetroot has been proven to be extremely beneficial for heart health. Its impressively high levels of nitrate can be converted by the body into nitric oxide, a nutrient that’s known to lower blood pressure. Salmon is preferred by many diet experts because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content, which may provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis and prevent heart problems for those who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Many of the studies that have been performed to uncover the health properties of various superfoods show that certain types of foods are in many ways more nutritious than others. However, how they are applied to diets can be a matter of complexity. This is due to the fact that the way superfoods are normally consumed by most people is not similar to the manner in which they are studied by scientists.

Unnecessarily high levels of nutrients are often consumed by those who set unrealistic expectations, thinking they’ll be safeguarded from chronic health problems just by adding a serving or two of nutrients-dense foods to a poor diet. But the truth is, the superfoods are beneficial for our overall health when incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet based on a variety of nutritious, whole foods. This should include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, fish and lean protein.

Eating copious amounts of one type of food — no matter its nutritional value — may prevent us from getting all the nutrients we need and result in multiple deficiencies.

The health effects of superfoods can be affected by our overall diet, lifestyles, and genes. While a great deal of scientific evidence points to the fact that certain foods have exceptional health benefits, we must not limit our intake to superfoods alone. To ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health, we need a range of nutritious foods. And since the positive physiological effects of many superfoods are short-term, consuming them often goes without saying.