We often hear about a new 'superfood' that we simply HAVE to include in our diet. There’s been so many over the years it’s hard to keep track - From wheatgrass and quinoa to coconut oil and chia seeds. So, are these foods actually as ‘super’ as they claim to be?
Firstly, what is a superfood? No concrete definition exists, so various definitions are floating around and include ‘a non-medical term popularized in the media to refer to foods that can have health-promoting properties, such as reducing one's risk of disease or improving any aspect of physical or emotional health’ or ‘a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’. However, the term is not regulated so any food can label itself as a superfood - Whether it’s high in nutrients or not.
It’s true that some of the superfoods on the market are particularly nutrient dense. Many are particularly popular due to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are able to fight free radicals in our body caused by environmental stressors such as exercise, pollution, smoking and diet. Therefore, their consumption may be one protective factor against diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological degeneration. Others such as green powders (such as wheatgrass, spirulina and chlorella) are also convenient options to boost your intake of greens especially when travelling.
However, using this name can make people feel compelled to buy them, as if good health is dependent upon their use. They can also carry a pretty hefty price tag! We must also remember that we don’t eat foods or nutrients in isolation - We eat a whole varied diet. The overall healthiness of a diet does not depend upon one food but rather all the foods we consume. If you want to try them and (most importantly) if you enjoy consuming them then work away, but let’s not forget about the foods we consume every day which are also nutrient powerhouses in their own right. Here are some of our faves we feel you shouldn't forget - They might not be trendy, but they're still super!
1. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in antioxidants, fibre and micronutrients such as vitamins C and K. Berries, particularly blueberries, are especially high in anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol. Blueberries have been shown to exert positive effects on brain function and memory.
2. Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta glucan. Beta glucan has the ability to lower total and LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia is a primary risk factor for CVD. The beneficial effect of oat beta glucan consumption has been seen in many trials. Another reason to eat porridge oats every day! Try our porridge bread for another way to include oats in your diet here
3. Whole eggs are a fantastic source of protein as they contain all 9 essential amino acids. A 2017 study also reported that whole eggs were better for muscle building and repair than egg whites alone even when protein content was matched. They’re also one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D.
4. Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach are also fantastic additions to the diet in smoothies and salads. These vegetables are rich in many nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium and fibre. They’re also rich in nitrates which promote the production of nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which can contribute to increased performance in resistance training in addition to their blood lowering effects.
5. Garlic has been shown to have protective effects on our immune systems. A study in 2012 found that garlic consumption was associated with reduced frequency and severity of colds and flues. Garlic also contains a prebiotic known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS. Prebiotics such as FOS act as food for our gut microbiota, supporting our gut health.
While some ‘superfoods’ such as green powers for example, can be really useful additions to the diet, we should not be quick to forget about all the nutrient dense options that are readily available to us every day.