Superfoods are everywhere and it seems like they will be sticking around for a while. They boast of their many wonderful nutritional properties and benefits to health. However, all these wonderful claims come with a price tag to match. The real questions is, are superfoods really that exceptional, or do they just have a very clever marketing team?
Firstly, what is a “superfood”
The term “superfood” is not actually regulated in any way. This means that a food, drink or ingredient does not have to comply with any criteria or guidelines in order to use that term. That means that a food marketed as “super” does not need to contain proven amounts of nutrients, have proven health benefits, or anything else of the sort.
Basically, marketers can take the title and run wild with it…and they have. This isn’t to say that highly processed, non nutritive foods are using this term. Often the meals / ingredients using it do have some very good nutritional properties, but whether they are truly “super” and a step above the other “regular” foods is debatable. It is also an unfortunate side-effect of the superfood movement that other nutrient dense foods are being considered less favourable by comparison to their “super” counterparts.
Let’s discuss a couple of examples.
Acai berries and bowls
Acai bowls are all the rage and definitely a meal strongly associated with the ‘superfood’ tag. The acai berry is made in to a sorbet and then put in the bowl with a mixture of other nutritious ingredients like nuts and seeds. This sounds like a very healthy option so what it the problem?
Unfortunately sorbet usually has sugar added to it, as do most. The other thing to note is that the acai berry is known to be a superfood mainly for its antioxidant content when in fact many other fruits have equal antioxidant content, yet they are not classed as superfoods. You are therefore paying extra for any products that contain acai berries when you could get very similar benefits from an apple. However, acai bowls are still a more nutritious option than some other breakfast items on a menu.
A product that has the word coconut on it is immediately associated with being healthier. However, at the end of the day, it is still fat and over 90% of that fat is saturated. Adding coconut oil to a slice or brownie will not make it good for you. Coconut oil does not have any miracle health benefits.
Superfood juices and smoothies
These are often high in sugar and low in fibre. You are better off actually eating the fruits and vegetables instead because you will receive more fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Your body also has to work a little bit harder to break it down.
You will find that a lot of the superfood powders that are on the market actually contain only a minute amount of vegetable and fruit in them anyway.
What do I class as super foods?
Pretty much any natural food that is not processed!
Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and all vegetables have wonderful health properties and they are all important in our diet for their own individual reasons. Getting a variety of types and colours is what will really provide you with the super benefits, as opposed to one single fruit/ vegetable providing it all.
Getting a variety of grains in your diet is also recommended. Opting for wholegrain products where possible for their fibre will provide a valuable source of energy and other micronutrients.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are wonderful for you. Getting a mixture of types and varieties is again going to help you obtain a range of vitamins and minerals.
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are a great meat substitute, whether they were dried and soaked or from a tin.
Fish is full of healthy fats and very lean.
Herbs and spices
At risk of sounding repetitious, herbs and spices all provide an assortment of beneficial properties so mix it up. They can be used as a tastier replacement for salt too.
Will your body suffer without kale? No. Will you be less healthy if you don’t eat coconut products? No. So don’t stress if you can’t afford superfoods.
Getting a range of foods from each of the five food groups will provide you with more than enough vitamins and minerals without the need for pricey marketing. Besides, having one acai bowl will not make up for an otherwise unhealthy diet; you are much better off eating the “regular” less trendy foods and using fresh ingredients for the majority of meals.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!