The category of superfoods first gained traction in the mid-1980s and has only become more prevalent since. Despite this popularity, contestations exist over the validity of the term, the science behind it, and its utility for consumers. However, systematic and scholarly investigations into the idea of the superfood remain limited. Using content and discourse analyses on global English-speaking news media, this paper examines the breadth of comestibles considered superfoods, the ways in which these foods are being mobilized to address particular health concerns, and the wider socio, political, and environmental contexts surrounding superfoods. Our analysis revealed a total of 217 foods were considered superfoods, and were linked to 71 conditions, that primarily emphasize the ability of individuals to optimize their health by preventing possible future illness. We contend that socio-environmental researchers have much to offer into critical investigations of the superfoods phenomenon.
What Is a Superfood Anyway? Six Key Ingredients for Making a Food “Super”
Melinda Butterworth is Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Willamette University. Her research examines the socio-environmental dimensions of health and disease. She has published in journals such as The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Environmental Health Perspectives, and Health & Place, and co-edited the 2012 issue of You Are Here: The Journal of Creative Geography.
Georgia Davis has a PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona. She has published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and Journal of Geography, and co-edited the 2012 issue of You Are Here, the Journal of Creative Geography. She is a former political journalist and Emmy-nominated documentary producer.
Kristina Bishop has a PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona and currently works as a Senior HIV Adviser. Her work focuses on the structural barriers to healthcare access, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. She has published in journals such as GeoJournal and GeoForum.
Luz Reyna is a congressional aide in Oregon. Her office handles issues related to environmental sustainability, livability, agriculture, and natural resources. Her portfolio also includes immigration and healthcare policy, casework, and community engagement. She graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics.
Alyssa Rhodes is an Air Technician at the California Air Resources Board. She works in the Incentives and Technology Advancement Branch, where she promotes clean-air technologies and develops programs helping disadvantaged communities. She attended and graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science.
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Melinda Butterworth, Georgia Davis, Kristina Bishop, Luz Reyna, Alyssa Rhodes; What Is a Superfood Anyway? Six Key Ingredients for Making a Food “Super”. Gastronomica 1 February 2020; 20 (1): 46–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2020.20.1.46
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