I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, we didn’t have superfoods. Don’t get me wrong- I grew up in a fortunate household with responsible and loving parents, where food was thankfully not a source of worry. But we didn’t have superfoods. So for me, the term conjures up images of blueberries with capes or bananas dressed up in leotards.
In similarity to my post earlier this week about the ‘fat burning zone‘ and antioxidants, ‘superfoods’ is one of those terms that gets bantered around a lot. While there are no stringent legal definitions of the word, the Oxford English Dictionary defines superfoods as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” (Oxford Online). Generally speaking, the term refers to a variety of foods that are found to have strong health qualities (e.g. a high micro-nutrient content) and limited negative properties (e.g. high sugar, saturated fat and salt content).
In some cases, the term is helpful. Lists of superfoods inspired by seasonal fresh produce harvests or well-founded research are plentiful. However, like many things in this maze-like health and fitness world, harnessing the health benefits of a fad takes a bit of faith and a lot of common sense thinking on your part. As we all know, there is no magic bullet answer to reaching your health and fitness aims- even when it’s packaged up in a radical term like superfoods.
Despite the current fashion of superfoods, the term has actually been around since as early as 1915 (Wikipedia). But its renewed use to market foods has burgeoned so much in the last decade that the European Union was inspired to initiate regulation of the term’s use in 2007. Any food or drink sold in EU countries with superfood on its label must now be backed by a scientific study demonstrating a “relevant and authorised health claim” so that “the consumer knows why the food is healthy.” (BBC)
So if these foods are said to have great health qualities and use of the label is actually regulated by law (at least in the EU), should we embrace superfoods?
The short answer: Carefully and sparingly.
The long answer:
Prioritise fresh unprocessed foods in your budget over superfoods. Some of the most popular superfoods, such as acai berries, are expensive. Don’t spend so much on a few magic berries that you can’t afford other fresh produce. Spending the same amount on cheaper fresh foods will give you and your family more health benefits than a few super-berries.
Superfood content doesn’t make the cake healthy. I’m all for eating cake, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re eating a health food if it has a few fresh superfood berries in it. Eat the cake and enjoy it for the wonderful indulgent cake that it is.
Don’t be fooled by labels. Yes, in the EU, the term is regulated, but it has to prove one clear health benefit. Read the label carefully and make a smart decision about whether the health claim justifies the price.
Our bodies can process a finite amount of nutrients. Once we’ve consumed enough, our bodies just get rid of the rest. If you focus on consuming a never ending amount of micro-nutrients, you’re really just paying for them to go down the loo… quite literally. You don’t need 400% of your daily recommended intake, and your body will just get rid of the excess as waste. In some cases, an excess can actually be harmful.
So what’s the take-home message?
Include a variety of healthy, unprocessed fresh foods in your diet, and you’ll meet your nutrient and energy requirements. This means a range of colourful vegetables, some fruit, a variety of whole grains and a decent amount of protein. Read labels carefully and use good judgement when making more expensive food purchases.
Nothing new, but it’s simple and effective: a winning combination! Even if it doesn’t have a fancy name.
Bananaman from Vincentfung.ca