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Sizing Up “Superfoods”

The truth behind the hype

In recent years, we’ve been bombarded with fantastic foods, the likes of buffaloberries, chia seeds, kale, quinoa, agave… and the list goes on. They might be exotic and packed with “super claims”, but do we really need to eat berries from far-flung places to stay well?

MYTH #1

Superfoods” are truly miraculous. 

“Superfood” is a label that has not been clinically defined, said Jaclyn Reutens, principal dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants. There is no scientific criteria to qualify for the description, so anyone can claim their product is a “superfood”. While it is generally true that “superfoods” have health benefits, they are not one-shot wonders. Just because blueberries contain anthocyanins that help to reduce the incidence of age-related macular degenerative disease does not mean that eating blueberries alone will protect you against the disease.

Some studies that tout the supremacy of such foods are based on research conducted on animals and cells under laboratory circumstances, and may not apply to real human diets, warned Vanessa McNamara, founder of The Traveling Dietitian. Young happy woman eating salad, isolated on white

MYTH #2

A healthy diet comprises only “superfoods”.

Our complex bodies need a large variety of nutrients to maintain good health. “If you stick to one or a few types of food, your diet will not be nutritionally complete,” cautions Jaclyn. It is all well and good to include these foods in our diet, while still eating from a variety of food groups, said Marcus Tan from Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy. If you want to get the most from your diet, you’re much better off focusing on dietary diversity rather than loading up on the top ten foods that some magazine says you should eat more of.

 MYTH #3

Acai and goji berries are remedies for many things – from obesity to sexual dysfunction.

In 2006, the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reprimanded twoGoji berry isolateddifferent goji product manufacturers for making unsubstantiated health claims. “While acai berries are packed with antioxidants, studies have yet to confirm association with weigiStock_000027518993_Largeht loss,” said Marcus. Of the small amount of research on goji berries done on humans, most just demonstrate improvements in antioxidant levels in the blood and subjective feelings of “well-being”. For those looking to lose weight, he suggests eating a mix of fruits and vegetables and complementing diet with exercise.

MYTH #4

Exotic foods like kale and quinoa can protect against heart attacks and stroke.iStock_000022510852_Large

Okay, this is really a half-myth. There’s no question that some foods are rich in nutrients that may help keep arteries clear, and it’s great to eat them. But what’s really important is eating a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods that deliver “the whole package” needed to keep the heart healthy, rather than only “superfoods” for getting high amounts of specific nutrients, said Dr Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, in a March 2014 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter. So while you’re shopping for kale, don’t neglect spinach, romaine lettuce and arugula. Quinoa is great, but so are almonds and lentils.

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Kelly Ng
Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 5 2014. Filed under Myth Busters. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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