There isn’t a globally recognised standard for a food to be named a ‘superfood’. Instead, this is a marketing term. However, there are lots of natural products we’ll all understand as having high enough concentrations of minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that mean they’re undoubtedly super for our health!
CBD isn’t a new product, but it has experienced dramatic growth and exposure, as research continues, studies are published, and millions of users around the world give favourable testimonials.
Currently, CBD isn’t a regulated product – which is one of the most challenging factors as a new CBD user.
It’s critical only to purchase CBD from licensed, respected suppliers to ensure you’re buying what you think you are and aren’t inadvertently exposing yourself to potentially harmful ingredients.
That aside, is CBD even a food?
- What does it contain that makes it such a potent natural product?
- And does it have the calibre to become rated as a superfood?
- What does the term ‘novel food’ mean – and why is it relevant?
Let’s find out.
What is a Superfood?
Superfoods are nearly always plant-based, but some dairy products and fish are considered in this category. To be super, the food needs to be substantially high in beneficial ingredients – namely vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
They can’t contain excessive calories and should deliver proven, tangible benefits to our health.
Food as medicine also isn’t a new concept. Still, organic living, local sourcing and reducing artificial ingredients in our diets is emerging as one of the fastest-growing lifestyle choices, where fast foods and synthetics become recognised as detrimental to our well-being.
Here are a few superfood examples, and why they qualify:
- Green Tea – yes, we’re starting with something that isn’t a fruit or vegetable! Green tea was initially produced in China, as a non-caffeinated or lightly caffeinated drink. It is rich in antioxidants, including EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). The tea also contains polyphenolic compounds, which act as an anti-inflammatory. Green tea is thought to assist in weight loss and protect against chronic disorders.
- Nuts and Seeds – these foods do contain high amounts of fat, and are therefore relatively high calorie. However, that fat is heart-healthy, and indeed nuts and seeds are said to protect against heart disease. Plant compounds are full of fibre and antioxidants and are thought to defend against oxidative stress. This applies to pretty much all nuts and seeds, including almonds, chia seeds, cashews, peanuts, hemp seeds and flaxseeds.
- Ginger – used in multiple teas, foods and herbal supplements, ginger is a robust flavour that has long been used in holistic medicine. It is used to treat pain and is said to prevent disease, with antioxidants including gingerol.
- Kefir – this drink is a fermented dairy product, stacked up with probiotics that are good for your immune system, and digestion. Plain kefirs are low in sugar, although you can buy all sorts of kefir varieties.
- Watercress – leaves tend to pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value and very low calories. Watercress is nutrient-dense, with all leafy greens containing carotenoids – thought to protect against cancer – as well as calcium, vitamin C, fibre, zinc and folate. Other greens are also superfoods (although watercress contains the highest concentration) – including kale, spinach, chard and collard greens.
- Berries – all berries contain antioxidants, as well as multiple vitamins and minerals. Eating raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries, for example, is said to treat digestive health issues, improve your immune system and be beneficial for overall health.
With all of these foods, it’s easy to see why they are considered a superfood. That said, the term isn’t regulated or officially awarded – so any food can be marketed as a superfood trend, and we’ve all seen some dubious claims!
Natural, raw ingredients are doubtless better for us than artificially manufactured food products, and incorporating plants, berries, herbs, nuts and leaves into any diet will have benefits.
So, what does that mean for CBD?
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Is CBD a Food – and What Does ‘Novel Food’ Mean?
If you follow CBD news, you’re incredibly likely to have heard the phrase ‘novel food’. For most of us, that phrase doesn’t mean much, so allow us to explain.
A novel food is one that has not been in mainstream usage for many years. The benchmark is May 1997, in both the EU and UK. Therefore, a food that has been used widely throughout Britain before May 1997 cannot be considered a novel food.
There are lots of examples of this, primarily new foods, or food products imported to the UK from overseas that may have been consumed for generations elsewhere, but which weren’t present here before 1997.
Examples include things like chia seeds, UVC-treated milk, edible insects and exotic fruits. Such products are listed in the European Commission Novel Food Catalogue.
Other cannabis-derived products, such as hemp seed oil, have been used long before 1997, and therefore do not carry novel foods status. CBD does and was confirmed as such by the Food Standards Agency in 2019.
To grant novel foods status, the FSA will undertake toxicological testing, carry out consultations, and require an application be made for the product being sold to be added to the Novel Food Catalogue.
This ruling determines that CBD is a food product – albeit a new one – and demonstrates why it is critical to present it as a natural, plant-derived therapeutic substance, and not a medicine.
Does CBD Carry Superfood Status?
CBD isn’t commonly marketed as a superfood – but remember, this is a marketing term and popular phrase, rather than a scientifically identified property.
That said, it does contain natural benefits, although the concentration of CBD compounds can differ significantly between products.
Let’s also bear in mind that those accepted superfoods are all-natural, non-synthetic products – and not manufactured or processed ingredients, so that should be a mainstay of the superfoods designation.
Therefore, we might decide that artificial CBD compounds, CBD oils with flavourings, colourants, additives and stabilisers are NOT superfoods – although they are equally low in calories.
Likewise a vape liquid, tablet or topical cream would have a hard time being sold as a superfood since although it might contain CBD, it isn’t an edible product, nor is it as refined and pure as an Organic Certified CBD tincture.
What does CBD oil Contain That Makes it a Potential Superfood?
Cannabis and hemp plants themselves contain an abundance of natural vitamins and minerals – although most are found in full-spectrum CBD rather than pure CBD isolate. Such compounds include zinc, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, vitamins A, C, E and B-complex, as well as potassium and magnesium.
Therefore, we’d say that while hemp plants contain this volume of vitamins, they aren’t as readily available through CBD as the other properties listed below. Pure CBD is an extracted compound from the hemp plant, and while those plants might contain multiple beneficial vitamins, it isn’t correct to state that CBD will also include such properties – since it is one compound.
Consuming plants might deliver all of the vitamins available, but alongside that is THC, which is a psychoactive compound and illegal for UK consumption. Licensed CBD is extracted from hemp plants with up to a 0.2% THC concentration per EU legislation.
Those vitamins notwithstanding, several properties are present in CBD that make it a potential candidate for being labelled as a superfood:
- Antioxidants – compounds that prevent oxidation from producing free radicals that can damage cells. We are exposed to free radical production through pollution, UV rays, some medicines, and smoking. Oxidative stress means you have too many free radicals, which can be a toxic condition.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties – inflammation occurs in many ways and for multiple reasons. Injuries, illnesses, stress and immune responses all stimulate inflammation, which can become chronic, and lead to oxidative stress. CBD compounds are thought to bind to our receptors that manage inflammation, desensitising such sensors.
- Analgesic Properties – CBD compounds are also thought to interact with our glycine receptor. This is responsible for sending pain signals to our brain through our spinal cords. CBD is, therefore, believed to have natural analgesic properties that help manage pain conditions.
While much debate continues about whether CBD is a superfood, and what future regulatory controls might mean for the classification of this potent natural compound, it remains unclear whether this label can be correctly assigned.
On the one hand, CBD meets many of the superfood criteria – it is natural, plant-based, healthy, and deliveries benefits to millions of users.
On the other hand, CBD retailers implying that it contains all the natural vitamins and minerals of the hemp plant are relaying fake news.
For our money, it’s all dependent on the carrier oil. Carriers are also often natural, and we believe that CBD infused in a powerful, pure carrier are much stronger candidates for superfoods than those in different forms, or using synthetic carriers.
Adio uses hemp oil in all of our tinctures (also known as hemp seed oil). This oil itself is often regarded as a superfood, and hemp as a more comprehensive product base is commonly considered extremely beneficial for our health.
- Hemp oil is produced from licensed hemp seeds. These seeds contain an ideal balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6, iron, vitamin E, and all the essential amino acids.
- Seeds can be pressed into oil, with cold-pressing the ideal process to retain the quality and concentration of those natural components.
- Hemp seeds can be toasted or eaten raw, used in cakes or flours, and are a common ingredient in natural protein powders.
As one of the most refined carriers, hemp seed oil combined with the power of CBD has strong potential to be considered a superfood – and contains all of the properties of many vegetables, plants and nuts already considered firmly in that category.