Are Superfoods Truly Heroic?
Alex Morgan – Is currently crushing his studies in Dublin. Alex is a career writer, by choice! He posts on a number of blogs and websites and harbors desires to begin a great novel, but struggles creating character names – Look for the epic fantasy “Tom the Barbarian” on shelves soon.
He can often be found on twitter under the handle @Al_Exical. He finds it comforting to talk about himself in the third person. He also hated it when his mother made him eat kale.
We have all heard the phrase Superfood before. It gets bandied about in the media so often that it has become nothing more than a buzz word. Each week, it seems, brings about a new superfood discovery. Almost to the point where you wonder what isn’t a superfood?
What are superfoods?
Well, let’s start with a little fact. Nutritionally speaking superfoods aren’t a thing. They aren’t a separate category by themselves. They aren’t a food group. They don’t fall into any nutrient category. There are no set criteria for qualification. It is simply a nickname given to certain food examples that have slightly high levels of nutrients than other similar foods. More than likely, for marketing purposes.
Let’s take blueberries for example. Blueberries are usually at the top of any superfood list. Mainly because they have high quantities of vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals. Wait? Don’t all berries contain this? Actually yes, in differing amounts berry to berry, but on the whole if it’s in a blueberry then it’s in a strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry or a Chuck Berry – actually Chuck Berry wasn’t just known for his guitar riffs he is also a great source of Vitamin C.
Batman vs Superman
Superman is a lot stronger than a regular man, Batman just has more money. Superfoods are more like Batman than Superman. While Superman can fly and punch mountains to pieces with his fists and many other impossible feats, Batman is only human, and any human can do what he does. He just does it slightly better. I think we should start referring to Superfoods as Batfoodsit would be more accurate.
Blueberries Vs Strawberries
Type that title into Google and it will throw back a side by side comparison that looks like the image on the right (didn’t know Google did that? Well now you do, try it with any types of food).
If you compare the two you can see that while blueberries are indeed ahead of strawberries in many measures, the opposite is also true. I would say it’s pretty much a tie. At least when it comes to making a smoothie. I’m not going to go out of my way to find blueberries when I have strawberries right here. While I enjoy both, I prefer strawberry, so in all likelihood that’s what I’m going to choose in my weekly shop.
This applies to many superfoods. Kale is king for many organic cookbooks and farmer’s markets, but spinach, bok choi, chard or even (gasp!) the lowly cabbageare all pretty much the same thing. I had a deep conversation with a friend last month regarding his hatred of kale. He hates the taste, hates the fact he can’t live a healthy life unless he eats it, hates the fact he has to choke down several handfuls a week just to stay alive. He was quite shocked when I told him he didn’t have to. “What!” He exclaimed. “If I don’t eat kale then I will be shunned and forced to live in Siberia, where I will die after a few short weeks because I lack sufficient nutrition”.“Do you like collard greens?” Came my reply. Of course he did he’s American isn’t he? And Cabbage? Sometimes. Just eat those then. You never need to force down a so called superfood if it is not to your taste. They are merely foods with marginally better nutritional content than their peers, and much better PR agencies.
Eat a Rainbow, Be a Rainbow
The real trick, and much more important than hunting out superfoods, is a varied and balanced diet. One of the best ways to do this is eating by color. Eat a mixture of meat and vegetable, always choosing brightly colored vegetables. Throw in the occasional portion of fruit and nuts and dairy and that’s as complicated as it needs to get.
Vegetables get their color from their vitamin content. Bright colors mean more vitamins;a wide variety means you’re likely eating the full range of vitamins. Leafy greens like “Batkale”, collard greens, cabbage, bok choi and even lettuce all contain vitamin K, A and iron to varying degrees. Most berries contain similar vitamin profiles as each other. In fact, almost every superfood has a similar profile to its kin.
Don’t each too much of one type of food at the detriment of others as this unbalances your diet.
The League of Extraordinary Vegetables
The superfood list also contains many other vegetables, take a look and see if you can’t spot a suitable non-super variety which you could just as easily eat.
- Dark chocolate
- Sweet Potatoes
- Black Beans
Each member of that team has a place, but they can easily be substituted with a similar type, Potato for Sweet potato for example, or Cannellini Beans for Black Beans.
Heroes or Villains
Just because a food has been labeled as Super many people think they can eat as much as they like. While no-one is probably eating Batkale by the fistful it can be toxic. It has high amounts of Vitamin A, which is why it has its super status. Vitamin A is stored in the liver and in high quantities can be toxic. Walnuts are high in Omega-3 fats and because of this they are, like all nuts, high calorie. If you’re under the impression that as a Superfood they can do no harm, you’ll be wrong. A handful of walnuts is around 200 calories. Eat a few handfuls in a day and you’ll have consumed half of you daily calorie allowance and destroy any weight loss plans you might have, that extra chin you’re trying to ditch might not be there because of all the mars bars, but all of the walnuts, remember that. Everything in moderation, including Superfoods.