Thursday, May 22, 2014

So what's the go with "superfoods"?

I keep hearing about the terms "superfoods" and whether we should be eating more of them. Just like many other people, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me that I wasn't eating boatloads of kale, acai, chia, goji berries and whatnot at every meal. Apples, spinach, nuts, fish? Suddenly my diet all sounded a bit pedestrian and... well... common. And besides, how could I get "healthy" by shopping at the supermarket and the farmers' market, shouldn't I be buying things at the health food shop?

So I've been doing some reading and you know, there's a lot of hype out there but not much evidence. "Superfoods" are not just foods any more, but have morphed into a marketing tool for companies to use to convince us to buy one product over another.  This is not unlike the "superdiets" promoted by diet gurus and celebrities (you can read my previous rant post about the "one true diet" here). Lets take Goji berries for example -Australian consumer group Choice tested a range of "superfood" juices and found that you would need to drink about 300ml of Goji juice in order to obtain the same antioxidant benefit of eating one medium-sized Red Delicious apple. Goji juice is around $50 a bottle, apples around $5 a kilogram. Get the picture?

So what does "superfood" mean? Well, nothing. It's not a scientific term. It makes us think of foods that are full of nutrients, that are proven to have significant health benefits, that will make a big difference to your life if you eat them but interestingly most foods touted as "super" have none of those benefits proven. But there are foods that do exactly those things!  So what, in my humble opinion, are the real superfoods?  Well most fresh, unprocessed foods have great health properties and some of them especially so. The evidence is really strong for:

  • Fruits (especially berries and apples)
  • Vegetables (especially the dark green leafy kind)
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains (especially oats )
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Green tea
  • Red wine (in safe amounts)
  • Dark chocolate (I hear you cheer!)

And you know what? You don't have to go to a specialist health food store, order online, mortgage your first born child or listen to a celebrity chef or supermodel infomercial to buy any of them. Oh and they don't need "activating" either ;)

It's pretty simple, really. To quote the wise and succinct Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants"

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

To learn more:

  1. Here's a great article on this issue by Australian chef Matt Preston - Real Life Superfoods
  2. And for a much more eloquent and amusing version of what I just said, sit back and enjoy 9 minutes of "The Checkout" a brilliant Australian consumer watchdog program - satirical and cutting investigative journalism. You're welcome!

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