Superfood or supermarketing?
I showed you that the paleo diet wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be (view the article here) and now I'm looking at the many claims of Superfoods.
We are all looking for the answer to perfect health, and we are often convinced that it lies in a newly discovered ancient food that has been eaten by an exotic tribe for centuries. Wheatgrass, spirulina, quinoa, kale, goji, chia, acai, African mango seed, activated almonds, the list of so called “superfoods” goes on. But is this really the answer?
Well, actually, no. The marketing campaigns for these superfoods are really just manipulating us and our desire to find a quick and easy way to be healthy. It seems so simple: all you need to do is add this one ingredient to your diet and you will lose weight, fight cancer, age slower, clear your skin, feel happier, extend your life, improve libido....... It’s no wonder we fall for it!
Here are some superfoods claiming to have innumerable health benefits:
Goji berries can be found dried, powdered and in juices. Not particularly pleasant in flavour, goji berries are tolerated for their high amount of antioxidants, which in truth is no higher than most other berries (just a whole lot more expensive). Proof of the amazing capabilities of marketing, Goji berries are exactly the same as Wolfberries which can be purchased from Chinese herb stores for literally half the price!
Chia seeds have been touted for their many supposed health benefits such as assisting weight loss, reducing risk of disease and colon cleansing. Advocated by models such as Jennifer Hawkins, it must be a superfood, right? Wrong. While you may want a cleansed colon like Jen’s, studies have actually found that chia seeds do not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. While chia seeds are very high in omega 3’s, there is no evidence to suggest you need extra omega 3’s if you already follow a balanced diet.
Acai was listed as Oprah’s Number 1 superfood, and has since generated more than $13.5 million in sales per year. Human studies show that antioxidant levels increase after consuming acai in the same way it increases after consuming apple sauce. This means you are essentially getting the same result for a helluva lot more money.
Further to this, there is very little evidence that truly shows the benefits of antioxidants.
“We reviewed a decades worth of research and found that maintaining a healthy weight and cutting down on smoking and drinking are far more important for warding off cancer than consuming extra antioxidants.” Professor Tim Key, Cancer Epidemology Unit, Oxford University.
Superfoods may have health benefits, but so do standard fruits and veggies such as apples, carrots, eggplant, grapes, pears, sweet potato, zucchini, bananas, capsicum, and spinach to name a few - but these won't set you back quite as much.
Last year, ABC’s The Checkout exposed the secrets of the superfood industry and investigated the claims of many companies providing these foods to consumers. You can see the episode here.
So what is the secret to health? Well for starters, we should stop listening to Oprah and supermodels and instead of looking for a quick solution, simply eat a balanced diet. This doesn’t mean cutting out food groups like gluten or carbs, it means eating a wide range of natural wholefoods even if it’s not paleo, (yikes!)