Are ‘Superfoods” really super?

Super foods

When it comes to food and our diet, we are constantly receiving mixed messages about the most healthy foods to eat.  Where ever we turn, we are confronted by an array of products all with a variety of health claims.  The food industry is fully aware that we all want to be healthy and raise healthy children, and that health claims usually attract consumer support.

However, it is often the very products that make these health claims that are the most processed and in fact contribute very little, if anything, to good health and wellbeing.  Now we have a new wave of health claims in the form of ‘super foods’ that have inundated the health food industry (and I’m sure the processed food industry aren’t too far behind)!  So are ‘superfoods’ really super?

Simple solutions…
I believe that it is the simple things in life that are important.  Every whole, real food provided by nature really is super!  The more whole the food and the less human intervention that has taken place before it reaches your plate, the better it is going to be for you.  It doesn’t necessarily have to hail from some deep dark corner of the Amazon to possess super health benefits.  In fact, a humble fruit or vegetable grown organically from a near by farm may just yield as much goodness and have more of its life force intact, than a super food that has been processed into a powder and travelled some distance before being packaged and sold for top dollar.

However…
Many of the foods hailed as ‘super’, do indeed have impressive nutrient profiles; chia seeds, quinoa, cacao and coconut oil are personal favourites (and all whole foods too).  However some other ‘super foods’, especially the berries and roots, must be processed in order to be preserved and this is often at a significant cost to their health giving nutrients.

Look at the big picture…
‘Super foods’ form a very small part of a much bigger picture.  That is, you can’t eat a  largely processed diet and supplement with an Amazonian fruit powder thrown in and expect long lasting health and vitality.  I am eternally amused at the queues outside one of my local “health” food shop selling a well marketed Acai Berry giant cup full of ice-cream like stuff (much like the wave of Boost Juices a few years back).  These things are SO sugar laden and you’re body (and budget) will be better served  by a big fresh salad.  Remember fructose is dangerous and fattening (more on this here and here).

No short cuts…
There are no short cuts and no fast fixes when it comes to maintaining good health.  Also, remember that what may help to make one person feel fabulous, may not suit another.  This is the case especially with those products touting a variety of medical or health claims.  If it sounds too good to be true, it often is.  None of these powdered super foods are used in formulas made by reputable research driven supplement companies.  That’s because only evidence based medicinal herbal (plant based) extracts are worthy of quality medicinal supplements.

Finally…
So before you spend your hard earned dollars on any food, even super foods, please consider the processing it has undergone.  Eat food, not products!  At the end of the day, simply sharing a variety of seasonal, local, whole foods with friends and family and creating delicious food memories, is all that you really need to live a healthy, happy life.

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Super foods

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  • Sally

    This is what I was talking about in my last comment! I’m just going to concentrate on the SLOW concept. The main meal I need to switch in my diet is honey on sourdough for breakfast. Sugar + refined carbs! Maybe once on weekends, but something more nutritious the rest of the time :)

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      Yes even add in some tahini or nut butter to the honey on wholegrain sourdough plus a whole foods protein smoothie (more sustenance than just honey and bread). Or make french toast with berries. I’m in the process of writing a breakfast book which will help you along too. G x

      • Lynsay

        A breakfast book?! Brilliant – my fave meal of the day. Can’t wait.

        • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

          Yes in the making – if only I could find another 40 hours a week!! G x

          • Sally

            I can’t wait either – it is probably the meal I struggle most with. Especially now I’m getting dizzy spells in the morning. I’m also waiting with anticipation for the meal planner!

          • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

            Sally have a few almonds before bed to support your blood sugars overnight. The meal planner will come once I have enough recipes to support it – lots of plans for the future!

  • Nat

    Many of those Boost juices have more calories than a Big Mac and I love the idea that ‘I’ve been good and just had juice for lunch’.

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      Yes, go an ice cream over a boost juice I say. G x

  • Gail

    I have just starting making smoothies on a regular basis and have included maca and lucuma powders in my list of ingredients. I presume these are the type of “superfoods” you are referring to?

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      Hi Gail. I have had many years of experience with Maca and I have seen too many adverse reactions to feel comfortable endorsing it. Some people do feel it benefits their health. In my opinion if you are including it for hormonal support, there are less expensive, safer and more effective herbal treatments. Lucuma I know only as a sweetener and it does contain fructose. Whole food smoothies are great, I just believe they best consist of whole food, fresh ingredients if possible. Hope that is the information you are after? G x

  • Gail

    Thank you Georgia. There is just too much information out there isn’t there! But I think if we can stick to ingredients which don’t come from a packet then that is the way to go. To be honest, I am not using Maca for any reason other than recommendations from other blogs, so it was timely to read this article of yours (thank you to Jo from Quirky Cooking for the facebook post yesterday). Thank you again Georgia, it is good to be able to make a more informed choice.

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      Yes, back to basics is always best – as close to how nature intended. My aim with Well Nourished is to try to simplify health, so thanks for your question Gail. G x

  • Annie

    It is so confusing all the hype out there. But I have to ask a question about Chia – I love it, but I am not convinced of the bioavailability of the nutrients since it creates the gel that protects the seed… do you therefore do anything special to the chia other than soak? Or is it in fact the sprouted chia seeds that would be more beneficial? Love your thoughts on this. cheers Annie

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      A fantastic question – any seed does contain anti nutrients such as phytic acid that make the minerals less bioavailable. Like all seeds soaking,activating and sprouting helps to breakdown the anti nutrients making the nutrients (minerals esp) more available. Interestingly with Chia, most claim that the whole un-ground seed, (with its husk intact) still yields the omega 3 fatty acids it is famous for (where as linseed needs to be ground to break the husk and yield its fats). I have however read a study though that indicates a very impressive rise in omega 3 levels in women taking it (within a week or doing so) but only in the group taking the ground seed (the same effect was not seen with the whole seed). The gel consistency is due to the very high fibre content of the seed.
      So I think the best option is to soak (overnight), or sprout the seeds and I’d also consider grinding them, hope this helps? G x
      PS – moderation and variety are so important with any food. I wouldn’t rely on chia as my only source of omega 3 fatty acids

  • Christy

    Thanks Georgia. This has really helped so much information is thrown at us. Keep it whole and simple is so much easier to follow that all the powders! I love your posts and also enjoying your tips for my baby starting solids too :)

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au/ Georgia Harding

      Yes a mine field of information out there and lots of money to be made from the latest and greatest food/supplement. Thanks for your support Christy,
      G x

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