It seems like every year there’s a new round of wonder foods, vying for a place on our plates. But is there any truth to the superfood claim or is it a case of hype over health benefits?
What is a ‘superfood’?
‘Superfood’ is a term often used to help promote foods that are reported to have a particularly high nutrient density. However, it’s not a phrase you’ll often hear a dietician or nutritionist use.
Particular ingredients often fall in and out of fashion, and a huge trend in recent years – popularised by clean-eating influencers on social media – has been to include these so-called superfoods in our diets. But in doing so, we can often find ourselves paying over the odds for foods which really aren’t worth the inflated price tag.
While many superfoods do have a lot of excellent nutritional qualities, it is important to treat the claims with a health level of scepticism.
Sorting the miracles from the marketing
Slapping a superfood label on the packet may be a fast way to shift a product but could there also be some truth to the reported benefits found in many of the most popular ingredients? Let’s take a look.
Low in calories and high in antioxidants, blueberries are one of the first foods to earn the superfood label. Bursting with sweet flavour, they make for a tasty treat while also offering a decent hit of nutrients. But are they any better than other fruits overall? There definitely are many benefits linked to blueberries that make them worth including in your regular diet. But getting a variety of fresh fruits is important to make sure you get a full range of vitamins and nutrients.
- Green tea
For hot drink lovers looking to cut down on the coffee, green tea is often recommended as a healthy alternative. Purported benefits range from weight loss to cancer prevention, but studies are yet to prove these claims to be true. Those looking to cut down on caffeine might be surprised to learn that green tea still contains a fair amount, so enjoy in moderation.
- Chia seeds
An Instagram-worthy breakfast bowl just isn’t complete without a sprinkling of these tiny black seeds. But do they deserve their superfood status?
High in omega-3 fats, chia seeds do pack a punch when it comes to essential fatty acids. But you can find more of these is oily fish. For vegetarians and vegans, chia seeds may be a good alternative, but don’t discount other sources, such as kiwi fruits and flax seeds.
- Goji berries
Google ‘superfoods’ and you’ll likely see goji berries in the majority of the lists. But do the perks outweigh the often-hefty price tag?
In terms of nutritional value, goji berries compare with most other berries. Although they have been hyped up in the health world, little research has been conducted to prove the claims.
Unless you have a particular fondness for the fruit, choosing more widely available berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, will give you the same health benefits for a fraction of the cost.
A gluten-free ancient grain from south America, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has become a popular staple of the superfoods. Considered a ‘complete protein’, quinoa has pushed its way to the front of the queue when it comes to clean-eating diets. But is it worth it?
While those who avoid gluten might prefer to include it as part of their meals, quinoa actually isn’t as nutrient rich as other alternatives. Oats contain a similar amount of protein, with more fibre to boot.
It’s all about balance
While there are foods that are more nutrient dense than others, the most important thing is getting a good, varied diet that includes all the food groups.
Make sure you include portions of fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses, and sources of protein. Avoiding too much processed food and focussing instead on whole foods is also a good idea, to make sure you’re getting the maximum nutrition from your meals.
Superfoods have become popular due to our increasing interest in wellbeing, as we search for quick fixes and easy additions to help boost our health and combat common complaints like bloating, joint pain, and skin conditions. But it’s worth remembering that no one food in particular holds all the answers.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that introducing unfamiliar ingredients into your diet could lead to some unexpected side effects.
While it’s tempting to buy into the marketing claims around superfoods, the reality that food can affect us individually in different ways. If you’ve been stocking up on the superfoods, but aren’t feeling the benefits, it might be worth taking a closer look at your diet to understand what might be working against you.
What are the signs of a food intolerance?
Food intolerances, which can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it, can cause a host of inflammation.
Headaches, brain fog, IBS, bloating, low mood, and joint pain are all reactions that can result from a food intolerance, as well as skin complaints like eczema or acne.
Take control of your diet
Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. A common recommendation is the elimination diet, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. But this process can take a long time. And, although many of us commonly react to a few different ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.
Get answers faster with Smartblood
When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days.
Dedicated nutritional support
Importantly, our tests include a telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist. This additional support is there to help you understand your results and put a plan together to make safe, sustainable changes to optimise your diet.