We are constantly being advised how certain foods that are labeled as superfood can do a whole range of amazing things for our health. Let's look at superfoods in a little more depth and examine some of the claims.
A superfood salad (Attribution: Wikicommons - Ewan Munro)
What is a superfood?
While some people have claimed that nutritionists don't use the term superfood, this is not strictly speaking true. Superfoods are naturally occurring food stuffs that contain a very broad range of nutrients. Because the term superfood has been taken over by health food marketers, nutritionists tend to avoid the term.
Are superfoods good for you?
Yes and no. Their real value is that in many societies where nutrition is poor, superfoods are able to provide a great deal of nutritional value. Generally however, anyone eating a normal balanced diet will obtain all the nutritional value they need from a varied diet. So for most healthy people superfoods do very little.
Vegetarians and vegans may benefit from adding superfoods to their diet (Attribution: Pixabay - Hans)
For some vegetarians and especially for vegans, superfoods provide a great way to cover a lot of their nutritional requirements. Many people new to being a vegan will often suffer because it takes time to properly adjust your diet. Superfoods, used wisely, can assist with the transition.
Can superfoods be bad for us?
Superfoods are generally pretty good for us, however some can be high in calories, meaning that they might not be the best thing to eat when trying to lose or maintain weight. In addition we can use the presence of a superfood to justify eating something unhealthy. I know some people take this attitude to blueberries. Just because the muffin has a superfood in it, doesn't mean it is a healthy choice.
Other than that, most superfoods are a great part of a normal diet.
Are their any other problems with eating superfoods?
Quinoa is one of the examples where its popularity has caused problems for the societies that traditionalyl eat this food as a staple. The high price that quinoa reaches in developed countries has meant that the cultures used to relying on quinoa can no longer afford to eat it. And so because it is a superfood, replacing it with another more affordable staple can cause them difficulties and health problems.
Quinoa is a popular super grain. Luckily these days most of it is locally grown. (Attribution: Wikicommons - blairingmedia)
This has often been the case. The same happened with many of the nuts and seeds that vegans eat to supplement their diets. They come from developing countries, and when they first became popular in developed countries, locals could no longer afford to eat them, causing problems.
What about all the claims I read about superfoods?
Most of the claims for superfoods are genuine. They will tell you to eat a particular food that will say improve brain function, give you better skin, improve your mood, or something like that. The claim is usually based on the fact that the recommended superfood is high in a particular nutrient or vitamin. However you don't need to eat that particular food to achieve the same goals, as that nutrient would be in a whole lot of other foods as well.
What are some example superfoods?
Last year it was blueberries and this year it is chia seeds. Yet people forget that the humble tomato is also a superfood. The list of superfoods is extensive.
Blueberries, a good superfood or an excuse to eat blueberry muffins? (Attribution: Wikicommons - Jim Clark)
There is no law that stops an advertiser from adding the superfood claim to anything they want. Given that many of the superfoods are expensive you have to take it all with a grain of salt and as always do your homework on what you are eating.
One last reminder
Superfoods are a great way of supplementing your diet to make sure you are getting all the nutrients that you require. However they are still only a part of a complete balanced diet.
Variety is the key to a good diet (Attribution: Pixabay - Flyupmike)
Related articles * 7 reasons to eat quinoa [LINK http://healthyhints.com.au/testing-the-super-claims-of-superfoods/ * Testing the 'super' claims of superfoods