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bowls with different superfoods in them such as blueberries, nuts

How superfoods compare to everyday foods

04 May 2022 • 6 min read

Superfoods are everywhere these days, but are they really worth the type? Their impressive nutritional profile suggests that they might be.

That’s why we’ve put 9 popular superfoods up against regular foods to highlight the differences. From spirulina to maca powder, find out why it’s worth adding them to your diet, below. 

The deep dive

Pretty impressive, right? Want to know more about each of these swaps? 

Here's everything you need to know about these popular superfoods and what they offer. 

Skip to:

  1. Spirulina vs. spinach 

Spirulina is fast becoming one of the most popular health supplements, and for good reason.

It’s packed with a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants which may be beneficial for various aspects of health.

But how does it compare to something simple, yet healthy, like spinach? Check out the side-by-side comparison below:1,2​​​​​​

Nutrients Spirulina (tbsp) Spinach (cup)
Calories 20 7
Iron 2mg 0.813mg
Protein 4g 0.858ng
Copper 0.427mg 0.039mg
Magnesium 13.6mg 0.269mg
Vitamin B1 0.167mg 0.023mg
Vitamin B2 0.257mg 0.057mg
Vitamin B3 0.869mg 0.0217mg

Summary

Spirulina trumps spinach when it comes to iron contents, offering almost two and a half times more of it - as well as more protein and magnesium!

  1. Cacao powder vs. cocoa powder

We all know and love cocoa powder for making chocolate bakes, but how does it compare to cacao?

Equally as chocolatey but with added nutrients, here’s how the two match up:3,4

Nutrients Cacao powder (3 tbsp) Cocoa powder (3 tbsp)
Calories 80 37
Iron 2mg 2.253mg
Protein 5g 3.18g
Fibre 7g 6g
Magnesium 160mg 80.7mg
Calcium 100mg 20.73mg
Potassium 400mg 246.3mg

Summary

Cacao powder offers double the amount of magnesium than cocoa powder, plus just under five times more calcium!  

  1. Wheatgrass vs. kale

While wheatgrass doesn’t sound the most appetising, there’s a reason it has a cult following.

It contains a whole host of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals – but how does it compare to kale? Let’s find out:5,6

Nutrients Wheatgrass (1 tbsp) Kale (1 tbsp)
Calories 25 8
Iron 1mg 0.33mg
Protein 1g 0.602g
Fibre 4g 0.861g
Calcium 24mg 52.3mg
Potassium 196mg 71.7mg
Vitamin K 86.4µg 80.3µg

Summary

Just one tablespoon of wheatgrass powder contains almost three times more iron than a whole cup of kale. It boasts over four and a half more fibre contents than kale!

  1. Flaxseed vs. herring

Okay, it sounds like a weird comparison, but hear us out.

Both flaxseed and herring are known for their omega-3 content, but which comes out on top? Dive into the detail below:7,8

Nutrients Flaxseed (1 tbsp) Herring (1 tbsp)
Calories 37 86
Omega 3  2.35g 946mg
Iron 0.401mg 0.604mg
Fibre 1.91g 0g
Vitamin B1 0.115mg 0.05mg
Copper 0.85mg 0.054mg
Magnesium 27.4mg 18.4mg

Summary

Flaxseed takes the biscuit with almost 2 and a half times more omega-3 per tablespoon, than 40g serving of herring – plus more fibre!

  1. Manuka honey vs. regular honey

Honey has been used for centuries to sweeten up food and drinks, as well as for its antibacterial properties – but where does manuka fit into this?

A much more natural, less processed alternative, manuka honey is fast becoming a favourite in the world of superfoods. Check out the nutritional differences below:9,10

Nutrients Manuka honey (1 tbsp) Regular honey (1 tbsp)
Calories 70 64
Carbohydrates 7.96g 17.3g
Protein 2g 0.06g
Sugars 7.81g 17.2g

Summary

 Scientific research has found that manuka honey offers stronger antibacterial properties than regular honey – especially those with a higher Unique Manuka Factor!11

  1. Acai vs. cranberries

Acai is the key ingredient in those tasty-looking smoothie bowls all over social media.

But is it actually any better than something like the humble cranberry? We’ve compared the two in this table:12,13

Nutrients Acai powder (1 tbsp) Cranberries (1 tbsp)
Calories 33 30
Fibre 1.3g 1g
Protein 1.3g 0g
Vitamin A 60μg n/a
Calcium 13.3mg 0mg
Iron 0.2mg 0mg
Sugar 1.3g 7g
  1. Turmeric vs. bananas

Turmeric is the perfect accompaniment to many curries and even drinks, but why is it hailed as a superfood?

When compared to the classic banana, you’ll see why:14,15

Nutrients Turmeric (12g) Bananas (2 large)
Calories 37 210
Manganese 2.4mg 0.6mg
Iron 6.6mg 0.6mg
Copper 0.2mg 0.2mg

Summary

Just 12g of ground turmeric contains four times more manganese than two large bananas!

  1. Chia seeds vs. soybeans

Another favourite of health fanatics, chia seeds are known to be an excellent source of omega 3.

Soybeans are also known to be a great source of omega 3. But which comes out on top? Discover the winner below:16,17

Nutrients Chia seeds (2 tbsp) Soybeans (1/2 cup)
Calories 138 209
Omega 3  5g 670mg
Fibre 9.75g 7.53g
Magnesium 95mg 106mg
Vitamin B1 0.176mg 0.198mg
Vitamin B2 2.5mg 0.351mg

Summary

Just two tablespoons of chia seeds have a whopping seven times more omega 3 than half a cup of soybeans.

  1. Maca vs. porridge

Maca is a Peruvian plant that has been used for centuries as both food and medicine.18

But did you know that it’s a great source of fibre? We’ve put maca head to head with porridge to see which wins on fibre contents:19,20

Nutrients Maca powder (1tbsp) Porridge (100g)
Calories 30 56
Fibre 2g 0.238g
Protein 1g 3.21g
Sugar 4g 11.4g
Carbohydrate 6g 11.4g

Summary

 There’s a clear winner when it comes to fibre, as a tablespoon of maca powder contains over eight times more fibre than 100g of porridge!

The final say

It’s clear that superfoods have earnt their right to being ‘super’, especially when compared to regular grub.

To find out how you can use these superfoods in your everyday meals, check out our superfood recipes for tasty and nutritious ideas. 

Last updated: 4 May 2022

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
amy-talbot

Amy Talbot

Author

Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: August 2005

Amy originally started her career with Holland & Barrett in August 2005 with the Labelling Regulatory team for Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements. 

Amy moved over to support the Food Regulatory Team in October 2020 and was promoted to her role of Regulatory Affairs Associate (Food) in February 2021.

In her spare time, Amy likes to go to the gym, listen to a variety of podcasts, read and socialise with friends.

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