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What are superfoods? What kind of benefits can they bring to our health?

There is no agreed upon definition for superfoods however for argument’s sake we can say that “superfoods” are foods that are particularly nutrient dense. In fact, we should all be a little suspicious of the term as it is largely the creation of marketing agencies. Lots of everyday foods should really be regarded as “super” but familiarity breeds contempt and we often overlook them in favour of exotic imports.

The truth is that if you try to eat a varied diet of whole foods, remembering to incorporate a wide spectrum of colours, then you’ll be eating a very nutrient dense diet.

Can you introduce three types of superfoods?

I’ve divided these into higher and lower energy foods.

A “superfood” might be full of nutrients however if it is also full of calories it might not be appropriate for someone with a weight loss goal.

Higher Energy Superfoods

Avocado– a great source of monounsaturated fat (think Mediterranean diet and heart health), high levels of potassium and fibre.
Egg Yolks– a source of choline which is used for creating acetylcholine- brain fuel, cell membranes, DNA synthesis, contain zeaxanthin and lutein powerful antioxidants.
Potatoes– potatoes are often overlooked in favour of sweet potatoes which is very unfair-regular potatoes contain more resistant starch than sweet potatoes (especially if they are allowed to cool prior to eating), this is a great source of fuel for beneficial gut bacteria. They are also higher in magnesium, potassium, folate and phosphorus. So you should eat both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.

Low Energy Superfoods

Leafy Greens(kale, rocket, chard, spinach) These are all high in folate, magnesium and potassium.
Cruciferous Vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts)- these are fantastic foods- high in a compound called sulfurophane which exerts a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the body. They are also high in fibre and taste delicious roasted.
Berries (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries) these are all high in fibre and antioxidants, and they’re delicious.

How should we intake superfoods in our diet? E.g. do we need to include them in every meal? What frequency should we eat them in order to improve our health?

  • There are no extra points for eating superfoods. They certainly have a place in most diets however including superfoods doesn’t take priority over fundamental principles
  • Make sure that you are eating the right amount of food for your goals and activity level(calorie intake)
  • Make sure you are eating sufficient protein to support lean body mass
  • Eat a serving of vegetables with each meal
  • Once you’re doing all of the above superfoods might be worth placing more emphasis on.

Are superfoods really good for us? Is there any downside eating them?

There are a few downsides to superfoods. Firstly a lot of people think that regular superfood consumption will protect them from the laws of thermodynamics. Put simply, if weight loss is your goal then you need to pay attention to calorie intake. Certain superfoods are very high in calories and would be best avoided.

Acai bowls are having a moment. They might be ok as an occasional treat but they shouldn’t be a dietary staple. Some Acai bowls can clock in at 80 grams of sugar per serving.

Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse however they are high in fat which means they are high in calories and shouldn’t be gorged on.

Also, you shouldn’t force feed yourself superfoods in place of foods you enjoy.

I can’t stand quinoa for example so I don’t eat it. It has a complete protein make up, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids, however, it is still relatively low in protein and I get plenty of protein from other sources. Therefore it doesn’t make sense for me to try to include it in my diet, I’m much better off consuming foods I enjoy such as oats, potatoes and rice.

We would advise everybody to consume a wide range of nutrient-dense foods that they enjoy rather than focussing on consuming a handful of foods arbitrarily deemed to be “super”. If you do the research you’ll be surprised at the health benefits on offer from everyday ingredients you already eat.

Posted November 9, 2018

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