Superfoods are super popular these days. Black rice, buffalo berries, Queensland plums, pichu berry, kamu kamu have all been touted the hottest superfoods for 2014 along with quinoa, blueberries, eggs, turmeric, chia… Apparently even chocolate and genetically modified purple tomatoes are considered superfoods these days. But what are superfoods and are they really that super?
What is a superfood?
Superfoods are foods with supposed special health-related characteristics. Apparently they are magical ingredients that can help you fight stress, lose weight, lower your cholesterol, protect your body from toxins, prevent heart disease and cancer…
A word that tends to be used as a marketing tool – even Cancer Research UK and Wikipedia say that calling food a superfood is a supermarketing tool rarely used by credible dietitians and nutritionists!
Whats the problem with calling it a superfood?
Interestingly enough, the EU banned food products from using the claim ‘superfood’ way back when in 2007 unless it was accompanied by a specific authorised health claim that explained to consumers how it would benefit their health. Just saying that a product is ‘good for you’ or a ‘superfood’ isn’t good enough. It’s important to know how, why AND have the evidence to prove it.
It’s a word that can bring on the ‘health-halo’ effect tricking people into buying a product because it is perceived to be healthy – regardless of whether it is or not. Similar to when a product is labelled organic, anything with the word superfood on it can sway a consumer and even convince them to pay more for something.
Superfoods at super cost
Many so-called super foods are expensive and not affordable or practical for most families to consume on a regular or daily basis. New research published this week on how strawberries can lower your LDL cholesterol levels has made strawberries the superfood of the week!
I’m not saying that strawberries aren’t good for you or anything, but the problem is you would need to eat 2 punnets a day (500g) per person to get the super cholesterol lowering effect obtained in this study. Averaging at £1.50 a 227g punnet, the £90 monthly strawberry bill might be a bit of a super stretch for most people. Double it if you want organic.
Keep on sticking to the nutrition messages you’ve always heard – eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes and you’ll be on the right track to a super diet that contains all the nutrients you need. No one food contains all the nutrients you need. It’s the balance and variety consumed as part of a healthy diet that is key – not how much broccoli you can eat for dinner.
On that note, I wanted to share this brilliant video on superfoods which I think everyone should watch.
Essential reads on superfoods
- NHS Choices: Superfoods
- Cancer Research UK: ‘Superfoods’ and Cancer
- Health Scope Mag The truth about superfoods
- The Guardian: Do superfoods really exist
- Tim Crowe at Thinking Nutrition: Superfoods, more like super myth
- The Conversation: ‘Superfoods’ – another battleground between marketing and common sense