Are superfoods the cure-all the health food industry would have us believe?
Superfoods; Goji berries, acai, quinoa, cacao and chia all spring to mind, as do many other exotic-sounding foods that I’m not even sure how to pronounce but apparently are so incredibly good for you that you can’t possibly be healthy without them.
If you’re wondering what criteria a food has to meet before it gets promoted to superfood status, one of Australia’s leading nutritionists Lola Berry explains: “Generally it’s a food that has had a lot of studies done on it and it has a very high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, so a very high antioxidant scale, or it’s just really, really nutrient dense.”
Sounds simple enough. These days it seems even boring old broccoli is a superfood. Pomegranates are good for heart health. It’s also hard to overlook the ever-present avocado and humble oats. Where do you draw the line? Is it no longer enough to have a balanced diet combined with exercise? Lola agrees that healthy eating is the key.
“If you’re eating a diet that’s just full of balanced whole foods, real fruits and vegies, nuts and seeds, chances are you’re going to be eating about 30 or 40 super foods anyway,” she says.
“Nuts are considered super foods, walnuts are considered super foods because they’re so good for our brain, broccoli is considered a super food and a cancer fighter.
“You don’t need to go mental on acai or goji or all the things that cost a lot of money.”
In the European Union, use of the word “superfoods” is prohibited, substituting “functioning foods”. Are superfoods ultimately just a really clever marketing guise?
A friendly staff member from Prahran Health Foods in Melbourne said: “I consider it more of a marketing thing… if your diet is already pretty good, it’s not going to make much of a difference. That being said, some people do like to have that extra reassurance of having ‘superfoods’ in their diet.
“I’m opposed to the use or even the idea of superfoods as anything other than a marketing guise or concept, but at the same time if it promotes healthy eating habits and lifestyle, then there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Lola agrees: “It’s awesome marketing! Just great fruits and vegies, like the humble broccoli, is probably just as good for you, if not better for you than a handful of goji berries. So yes, I agree.” – Georgia Simpson