Are Superfoods a myth?

Blueberries, kale, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, avocado, salmon, beetroot, South American acai berries, Japanese matcha powder, wheat grass shots, turmeric, camu camu powder, chia seeds, coconut oil, goji berries, dragon fruit, jackfruit, seaweed, freekeh, sacha inchi, Icelandic Skyr yoghurt, bee pollen, hemp seeds, flax seeds… the list goes on and on!

Anything weird, wild or whacky can become the latest super food sensation, almost overnight, especially if it comes from somewhere exotic. All it takes is an entrepreneurial health guru or celebrity chef to endorse a product and suddenly it goes viral. You see it everywhere – displayed in ‘health food’ shop windows, on supermarket shelves, in magazines, on television, and in your social media news feed. Everyone is doing it, so it must be good… just don’t ask for any science to back up the claims of super powers!

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Superfoods are a clever marketing myth by large corporations wanting to cash in on our desire to avoid all those horrid diseases attached to normal aging. Public perception is key to selling more products, and if people are told something often enough, they will believe it. Who doesn’t want to look younger, live longer, and cure cancer?

Drinking a trendy green smoothie or a turmeric latte will not prevent a heart attack or make you look 10 years younger. If you drink them because you like the taste, then go for it, but don’t expect miracles. You might think you feel better when you drink them, but that says more about the state of your normal diet than the contents of your glass. If you always start the day with a double-shot barista coffee and a cigarette, of course you will feel better when you ease up on the caffeine and nicotine. It’s not rocket science! But you don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive exotic ingredients to feel better.

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Wishful thinking does not make any food a medicine. Yes, we need to eat to stay alive. And we need to ingest enough of the right foods to ensure we get all the macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) our bodies need to function properly. But eating lots of blueberries will not cure any disease you might already have, and none of these so-called super foods are a cure for cancer.

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Do yourself a huge favour. Don’t believe all the hype. Don’t spend a fortune on expensive supplements or exotic foods. Keep it simple. Eat a balanced diet of good quality protein, and choose fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables that are at their nutritional peak and full of natural goodness. Frozen fruit and veg have their place, for convenience. I keep frozen peas, spinach, and berries in my freezer as a quick add to fresh dishes. And if you don’t like kale, any green leafy vegetables are just as good, and they’ll taste better too!

By including foods of every colour, you will be getting enough of the good stuff. Aim to EAT THE RAINBOW. But if you like the occasional fresh juice or smoothie, then go for it. Food should be fun too.

REFERENCES

  • Caballero, B., Finglas, P. M., & Toldrá, F. (2016). Encyclopedia of food and health. Elsevier Science.
  • Crowe, T. (2018). Deakin University, Superfoods or Supermyths alumni seminar, Brisbane.
  • Wanjek, C. (2019). What are Superfoods? https://www.livescience.com/34693-superfoods.html

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