Superfoods and food supplements, what are the differences?

Superfoods or food supplements? It is sometimes difficult to find one's way through these designations. While the interest of food supplements is justified to complete a normal diet thanks to a well-defined contribution of one or more nutrients, superfoods are favored for their contribution of a complete cocktail of several 100% natural nutrients. More detailed information in this guide, definition, regulations, composition and role. It will help you to see more clearly to differentiate them and especially to choose the one which will be the most appropriate for your situation.

Superfood or food supplement, which one to choose?

Focus on superfoods

  • For a complete intake, of one or more nutrients found within a 100% natural food
  • For gustatory pleasure, adding to everyday recipes

Favouring food supplements

  • To complement a deficiency or specific need in one or more well-defined nutrients
  • For their galenic formulation and doses that can be used in cures

What are the differences?

The regulation


Superfoods are natural products that are particularly rich in nutrients and considered beneficial for health and well-being. The term is not the result of any legal definition, but was originally used to refer to foods that are rich in nutrients and minerals, allowing them to cover a large number of the body's needs. However, to highlight the nutritional and health benefits of superfoods, claims can be attributed to them. Nutritional and health claims are highly regulated, they must be recognized by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and the European Commission to be validated and the product must prove from its composition the suggested virtues.

Food supplements

Since 2002 food supplements have been regulated by strict regulations at the European level and since 2006 in France. They are defined as "foodstuffs whose purpose is to supplement a normal diet and which constitute a concentrated source of nutrients or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect alone or in combination, marketed in the form of doses.". This is a purely regulatory definition of dietary supplements. If we want to make it shorter, dietary supplements allow, as their name indicates, to supplement our diet in the case where it does not provide the nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the body. This can for example be the case of certain dietary behaviors such as the vegan diet which is totally devoid of vitamin B12 present in foodstuffs of animal origin.

Several organizations are linked to the development of dietary supplements. The DGCCRF (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes) is involved in the declaration of the marketing of food supplements. Other organizations can take over, including the Anses (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety), which is responsible for ensuring nutrivigilance, that is, a health watch to improve consumer safety. The Synadiet, national union of food supplements, was also created to bring together the players in the sector and accompany them daily in their efforts.

Their roles

Superfoods: multiple roles

They are mainly consumed to satisfy our taste cravings, while covering the body's needs in various and varied nutrients, often more than fifteen different nutrients. Depending on the composition of superfoods, they can therefore meet several nutritional needs. For example, Chia seeds are both rich in omega 3, protectors of the cardiovascular system, fiber beneficial for intestinal health, weight loss and regulation of blood sugar, but also in protein, vitamins and minerals providing energy, vitality, tone and well-being.

Food supplements: a very specific role

Food supplements are products that are taken according to a defined dosage to benefit from certain effects on health, well-being or slimming. They mainly help to fill deficiencies or to prevent certain deficiencies in the body. However, dietary supplements do not in any way exert a therapeutic action, but only a nutritional action and therefore a physiological action. They are therefore not intended to treat a disease and they are not a substitute for a drug. On the other hand, the dietary supplement may have health claims or nutritional claims on its packaging, in the same way as foodstuffs such as superfoods or your jar of cottage cheese for example. This corresponds to messages suggesting the particular properties of the product. Food supplements can be prescribed by a doctor, but are most often subject to self-medication, which is why you must be warned when using them.

The shapes

Superfoods: various forms

Superfoods are foods in their natural or lightly processed forms, thus we find:

  • Fresh or dried fruits and vegetables
  • Plant or root powders
  • Seeds
  • Products of the hive
  • Juice, syrup or sap of plants

We can therefore enjoy all the benefits of superfoods without being reduced to a single galenic form. The advantage of superfoods is that they can be consumed at any time, alone or in a recipe. However, this does not mean that they should be abused; they should be incorporated into a varied, balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Food supplements: a well-defined form

Dietary supplements are marketed in the form of doses that come in several galenic forms depending on the nature of the supplement, the ingredients it contains, its use and the consumer's preferences. There are thus generally 4 galenic forms:

  • Tablets, capsules or capsules
  • Bottles and syrups
  • Powder
  • Bulb

The advantage of food supplements is that the necessary quantity of a substance is directly present in the capsule for example. It is only necessary to respect the number of doses per day to supplement deficiencies or to bring the desired effects. These galenic formulas also avoid the sometimes unpleasant taste of certain products and therefore facilitate the consumption of active substances for the consumer.

The composition

Superfoods: an exceptional composition

Superfoods will be able to have the same components as some dietary supplements, with the difference that these components are naturally present in the food and do not result from a formulated mixture. The components are therefore "dosed" in a natural way, and it is this particularity that makes the exceptional character of superfoods. Indeed, their composition depends on many factors and in particular on their region of origin, some plants have to face harsh climatic conditions and thus develop many nutrients to protect themselves. It is thanks to this that we can then enjoy all the benefits of these plants!

Food supplements: a composition under the microscope

Food supplements are mainly made up of ingredients with a nutritional or physiological effect. They may consist of different components such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements, fatty acids, amino acids and proteins, plants and fungi, prebiotics and probiotics, enzymes or excipients. There is an exhaustive list that lists the components authorized in food supplements by French and European legislation. They generally consist of one or more nutrients from the list above and often excipients such as preservatives, colorants, flavors, or even anti-caking agents. Food supplements are dosed according to a strict dosage based on the daily reference intake. To put it simply, a simple little capsule taken over the long term is dosed enough to cover certain daily intakes.

Good to know: while dietary supplements and superfoods are two different products, it is important to note that a dietary supplement can be composed of one or more superfoods.

Potential risks and precautions

Although superfoods and dietary supplements are two different products, it is nevertheless important to be careful when consuming them.

Indeed, there are several risks associated with the consumption of food supplements, for example, misuse that can lead to toxic effects due to overdose or overconsumption. These risks can also apply to superfoods, if the precautions of use are not respected. Interactions can also occur with other plants or drugs. It is therefore important before taking any dietary supplements or superfoods to watch the contraindications or in doubt do not hesitate to seek medical advice.