Move Over Superfoods- Say Hello to Focus Foods

By Neel Duggal, February 27, 2015

Superfoods: those mystical foods you hear about in the media that hold the promise of solving all of your health and fitness woes. Unfortunately, scientists, dietitians, and doctors have little consensus about what a superfood actually is, and the research methodology used to back up superfood health claims is inconsistent. As a result, InsideTracker decided to examine only the most rigorous research studies and create an extensive algorithm to tailor foods to your biochemical needs and personal preferences. InsideTracker has coined this innovation “focus foods”, a key feature in our InnerAge feature and soon to be in our Ultimate Panel.


Fad Food Recommendations: Superfoods

Superfoods range from familiar fruits and vegetables to formerly overlooked options such as kale, quinoa, and goji berries. Marketers and self-proclaimed health gurus often tout them with claims of enhancing your health and wellness. But what are superfoods really? Despite its recent surge in popularity, there is no formal or legal definition of a superfood by dietitians, doctors, or research scientists. A search on research database PubMed yields fewer than ten research studies assessing superfoods. This indicates that few researchers have looked at how these foods specifically impact your health. In contrast, searching the term “glycemic index” yields 6,075 results in PubMed.

That being said, some of these supposed superfoods have research to support their health-promoting properties. For example, adding oily fish such as sardines and salmon to your diet benefits your heart health due to compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids [1]. However, claims of health-restoring abilities seem to be superimposed upon other superfoods without any credible research. Goji berries are commonly referenced by Hollywood A-listers as a vitamin-packed, cancer-fighting nutrient powerhouse. It certainly sounds appealing that a “magical” berry used for thousands of years has therapeutic properties. However, a rigorous assessment of goji berries by the British Dietetic Association observed that “…the evidence of their health benefits so far comes from scientific studies using purified extracts of the fruit at much higher concentrations than the product contain” [3]. Additionally, the high price of goji berries makes them a costly choice for most people.

Superfoods are general recommendations not tailored to your specific needs- and that doesn’t lead to optimal health outcomes. A food that is super for one person may not be super for you.


Our Solution: Focus Foods

As a result, InsideTracker decided to use the USDA database- the most comprehensive catalogue of nutrition-related information- and rigorously assess the role that these foods play in optimizing your biomarkers. Read below to learn about some of the key benefits of using focus foods along with a balanced and varied diet.

Based on the Latest Science

When determining our focus foods, InsideTracker focused primarily on research studies with human subjects/participants. A lot of research investigating the health benefits of certain nutrients is often performed on isolated cells or animal subjects. While this research is certainly valuable, it can only be used to inform additional research on human subjects. Thus, InsideTracker looks primarily at human observational and clinical studies. We also make sure that our recommendations are supported by multiple peer-reviewed research studies as opposed to cherry picking one or two research studies that make a food look healthy. By using only high-quality research, InsideTracker confidently provides you with food choices that are proven to enhance your biomarkers.

Personalized for You

Focus foods are tailored to your individual biochemistry. After assessing up to 30 biomarkers in your blood and examining the research, we zero in on foods that can help you optimize your out of sync biomarkers. For example, if you are low in the anabolic hormone testosterone, we recommend a commonly overlooked food: amaranth grain. If you have elevated levels of blood glucose, we might suggest incorporating Hubbard squash in to your diet. Most of these foods are a healthy addition to your balanced diet. But we select your focus foods to give you the best nutritional bang for your buck by basing them on your biomarkers.


Adjusts as You Change

As you get retested and your biomarker levels change, we update your list of focus foods. For example, if you are suffering from un-optimized c-reactive protein- a common indicator of inflammation- we provide you with focus foods options that optimize its levels. However, if your next InsideTracker test shows that you have optimized your c-reactive protein but your Vitamin D levels dip below the optimal zone, we will recommend different focus foods so you can optimize your biomarkers. Focus foods change to match your changing levels of biomarkers.

Options for You

We recommend five focus foods for you to choose from, providing you with choice and variety. In your focus food recommendations you might get chia seeds. Some people view them as a crunchy add-on to their post-workout oatmeal while others view them as nothing more than slightly bitter black pebbles that get stuck between your teeth. Regardless, you will have four other options that could range from avocado as a replacement to mayo on your sandwich to white beans to toss into your salads (with a healthy, homemade dressing of course). We are aware that not everyone is going to like every health food- and that’s why we give you five options.


Simple to Apply Everyday

Finally, InsideTracker includes easy to find foods- not expensive foods you can only find in some special health food store or exotic foods that are only available by traveling to some far away destination (although a nice getaway might be on your list of things to do). Focus foods options such as avocadoes, oats, and spinach are easy to find at your affordable neighborhood supermarket. And we don’t stop there- we provide you with some interesting recipes so you can seamlessly add them into your diet. At the end of the day, you should have practical, accessible food options to choose from.

Focus Foods: Designed to Guide Your Life

Focus foods are tailored to optimize your biomarkers. InsideTracker believes that nutrition can be a powerful tool in maintaining health, maximizing your fitness, and potentially preventing the onset of certain illnesses. Thus, we decided to focus only on foods based on high-quality research and orient them towards your individual biochemistry and taste buds- not on exotic foods with no credible evidence. Before you search the globe for the best foods such as goji berries in China, acai berries in South America, and rooibos in South Africa, learn about your specific focus foods first. Click below to find out the best foods for your biomarkers.



Discover Your Focus Foods




List of References

[1] Din, Jehangir N., David E. Newby, and Andrew D. Flapan. "Omega 3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease--fishing for a natural treatment." Bmj 328.7430 (2004): 30-35.

[2] "Do Goji Berries Deserve Their A-list Status?" Are Goji Berries a Superfood? 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. .

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