Superfoods: super-healthy or super-hype?

There is no official definition of a superfood; rather it is a marketing term used to describe particular foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some of the most recently talked about superfoods include: Chia seeds, kale, raw cacao, acai berries, mangosteen, spirulina and goji berries.

With increased public interest in superfoods, food and supplement companies have used this to their advantage often making wildly exaggerated and unrealistic claims about their superfood products.

An example may be the currently very trendy superfood kale. Now don’t get me wrong, kale is an absolute nutrient powerhouse that is rich in vitamins and minerals. However, a common claim that I hear regarding kale is that it has more calcium than milk. If kale is eaten raw, then yes it technically is higher in calcium per 100g compared to milk (only by 25mg mind you), however if it is boiled then half of the calcium content is lost. More importantly is the amount of kale that would need to be eaten – 3 cups of raw kale would need to be consumed to receive the same amount of calcium that is found in 1 cup of milk! The average recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is approximately 1,000mg per day…which means that you would need to consume about 10 cups of raw kale every day – puts it all in perspective doesn’t it?!

Whilst each of these foods are all good for us, there are many other healthy and nutritious foods that are full of vitamins and minerals (and not as pricey) that you may be more familiar with including: strawberries, raspberries, apples, blueberries, tomatoes, carrots and many more common fruits and vegetables!

To sum it up: Of course, if you wish to purchase the less mainstream, more expensive ‘super’ foods then go for it, they are good for you after all, just remember to take the over-hyped and often misleading marketing claims with a grain of salt. The key message here is to employ a ‘Super DIET’ rather than investing on expensive ‘Super Foods’.  It is your overall diet – containing a variety of coloured vegetables and fruits as well as a variety of grains and nuts – that promotes good health and wellbeing rather than having single ‘super’ foods or supplements.

 

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