The term "super fruit" was popularized in the mid-2000s, a combination of clever marketing techniques and the discovery that certain fruits contain a higher-than-average level of nutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants may have the ability to protect cells from being damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals, which may lead to cancer. Understandably, so-called super fruits that are high in antioxidants are valued by health-conscious consumers.
The term "super fruit" originated in 2004 with the publication of the book "SuperFoods RX: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life" by Kathy Matthews and Dr. Stephen Pratt. In the book, the authors detailed 14 foods that are exceptionally high in nutrients. Among these foods were various fruits, which came to be known as super fruits. According to the website of Superfruit, a Scandinavian company specializing in super fruits, super fruits are defined within the food industry by their higher nutritional content and significantly higher levels of antioxidants than other fruits.
Types of Super Fruits
Blueberries were one of the 14 foods listed in "Superfoods," and other fruits have since been added to the list of super fruits. According to Superfruit, research is being undertaken to determine which other fruits can prove successful in fighting or preventing illness. As of June 2011, Superfruit's list of recognized super fruits included blueberries, cranberries, red grapes, pomegranates and goji berries. Determining which fruits should be termed super fruits is problematic, however, as there is no legal definition or requirement preventing any marketer from designating a fruit as a super fruit.
Sales of Super Fruits
According to a 2011 CNBC story, super fruits account for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales each year. The top five U.S. super fruits in terms of sales are acai berries, cranberry, coconut, elderberry and goji berries. However, popularity of specific fruits is subject to change. This can be seen in the 2010 sales of pomegranate-based products, which dropped by more than 20 percent compared to the previous year, while sales of coconut-based products grew by 50 percent.
Critics of super fruits point out that there is no solid research to back up the health claims that are either implied or directly made regarding super fruits. According to the National Cancer Institute, earlier studies indicated that antioxidants "may" play a role in slowing or possibly preventing cancer, but the results of recent clinical trials have been "inconclusive." As Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, points out in the CNBC article, it is not necessarily negative that consumers are eating more fruits and vegetables because of health concerns, "as long as the companies aren’t claiming it cures cancer.”
- Photo Credit NA/Photos.com/Getty Images