/ Food & Drink, Health

Superfoods – more hype than nutrition?

Blueberries

Do you get sucked in to headlines claiming a food is going to cure all your ailments? Do you make sure your shopping basket contains lots of so-called “superfoods”? Do you even know what a superfood is?

In the past few years there seems to have been an article every week claiming a food is the new superfood. Sometimes you’ve probably been eating it for years, other times it’s a food you’ve never heard of.

There’s so much hype surrounding superfoods, but there’s actually no legal definition of what one actually is. However, the idea that a single food can offer extraordinary benefits captures the imagination of journalists and consumers. So what elevates these foods to the “super” status?

Too much can be toxic

Supposed superfoods are usually foods that have a high level of a particular nutrient – blueberries, broccoli and salmon to name a few.

But what most of these articles don’t tell us is that our bodies have a finite requirement for each nutrient. If you consume more than your requirement, your body will expel it – excess Vitamin C is excreted in urine as your body can’t store it, for example.

In some rare instances an overload can cause damage – excessive consumption of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, or iron, can be toxic. Plus, women and girls planning to have children shouldn’t eat more than two portions of oily fish a week due to pollutants found in the fish.

Eat a good variety

Superfoods can also carry hefty price-tags. Yet, I think it makes much more sense nutritionally and financially to buy a selection of fruit and veg for £5, rather than spending it all on one packet of goji berries. Especially as the superfood hype is often unsubstantiated – a couple of florets of broccoli or a tablespoon of spinach contains more Vitamin C and folic acid than a shot of wheatgrass juice.

It’s worth pointing out that you get different vitamins and minerals from different colours of fruit and vegetables. Red and orange fruit ‘n’ veg provide beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in our bodies. Whereas green leafy vegetables provide us with folate and Vitamin C. So it’s important to eat a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables to get the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

In my opinion, if you want to get the most out of your diet, variety is key and much more important than eating the top 10 foods off a “super” list.

Comments
Member

Good points. It’s also worth noting that a normal diet will provide adequate vitamins and minerals for most people, so you don’t need either ‘superfoods’ or supplements.

Encouraging children to eat a variety of coloured fruit & veg might help them towards a better diet. Habits developed as a child can help in adult life.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
24 June 2011

Everything in moderation has always been my diet and will remain so regardless of hypes. And life’s too short to drink wheatgrass juice.

Member
Gimcrack says:
27 June 2011

Labelling something as a ‘super food’ is just an excuse to charge more. It doesn’t help that certain tabloid newspapers will believe any old hype and happily promote the latest food fad on behalf of marketeers rather than wonder why PR companies want consumers to buy whatever berry they’ve been paid to promote.

Member
eat&sleep says:
4 July 2011

superfoods need superfinance but do not produce anything ‘super’ variety is the spice of life and everything in moderation….even marmite!
but a query to Shefalee please.
you mentioned how the nutrients in fruit? and veg? reduce rapidly when cut/sliced…
we blend our fruit and veg for drinks and soups …(respectively!!) and we wondered how this affects the values of what we consume as we often blend enough for anything from 2 to 4 days???
and often freeze the soups?
And if you are really in a good mood……..how does fruit /veg deteriorate between picking andd selling on say shop/s’market shelves??
any reserch on this please//
many thanks