How super are superfoods?
I’m sure you’ve heard of superfoods. On the internet we are constantly bombarded with headlines like “10 superfoods to improve your health instantly,” or “top 5 superfoods you should incorporate into your diet.” In a world of fad diets, quick anti-aging tips and magic fat burning workouts, we are bombarded with marketing, telling us quick ways to improve our health. Are superfoods just another marketing ploy, or are they the secret to a healthy life?
Blueberries by Natascha via Flickr
What makes them so super?
Superfoods are foods – usually vegetables, fruit or fish – that are thought to be very nutritious. These foods are often high in certain vitamins and minerals making them good for our health.
Blueberries, kale, and quinoa are all examples of superfoods.
These “super” properties include high antioxidants which may ward off cancer, healthy fats that prevent heart disease and fibre which prevent diabetes and improve digestive problems. However, there is no real definition for determining what is a superfoods and certainly no regulation of the use of the term.
Is it all just a marketing ploy?
The term “superfoods” isn’t a scientific one, but rather a term used to market certain foods as being good for your health. Emma Beckett, and Australian nutrition researcher, says that the science doesn’t really live up the hype around superfoods.
“I’m not saying that there’s no scientific research into superfoods, but we definitely don’t call them super.” – Dr Emma Beckett
She even thinks that the idea of superfoods may actually be doing more harm than good. Many people get the idea that eating these so called superfoods will make them healthy, despite any other bad habits. Many people may think its ok to have a muffin for breakfast because it has blueberries in it, or that drinking several cocktails isn’t such a bad idea because it had acai in it.
These superfood diets can also hit you in the back pocket. “Super” berries can cost more than double regular berries, but they certainly don’t have double the nutrients. Food companies do a great job of marketing the healthy aspects of foods, which drives up prices and increases their profits.
So, do they work?
Most of the marketing around superfoods is based from scientific studies. However, most of the experiments done in the lab use concentrated extract from foods. Therefore, the effects seen in humans are usually lower than what is seen in laboratory experiments.
Quinoa by Daniel Lobo via Flickr
Even though the effects on your health aren’t always the same as what was seen in the lab, superfoods are high in certain nutrients, and are definitely good things to be including in a balanced diet. So, while its important to keep in mind that these superfoods are marketed as miracle foods, they are still usually quite good for you.
We all want our foods to make us healthier, but focusing on single foods and eating loads of them is not the answer. Instead it is important to eat a wide variety of foods with different kinds of nutrients.
In a world of quick fixes and fad diets, make sure you are weary of the marketing around superfoods, but superfoods are definitely a good thing to include them in a healthy balanced diet.