Today I visited my local library for a browse, and I picked up a few interesting books on healthy eating, craft, and deadly Australian spiders! I also borrowed a copy of ‘Nature & Health,’ which is an Australian healthy living magazine, which I hadn’t come across before.
One of the articles entitled ‘Nature’s Exotic Juices’ began:
“A plethora of delicious new ‘super juices’ is making a splash in a market near you. Here’s the juice on five of the most promising ones you’ll find in you local healthfood store.”
Their top five ‘super juices’ are:
- Mangosteen – has a sweet, tangy taste, sometimes describes as a blend of pear and strawberry
- Acai – taste is a mixture of blueberries and chocolate
- Goji - has a slightly bitter taste
- Pomegranate – tastes less sweet than the others, has a sharp, tart flavour
- Noni – often described as having a distinctive taste. For many, this juice is an acquired taste, to say the least
Recently, I’ve notice a great deal of hype surrounding the so-called ‘superfoods’. They seem to confront us everywhere we look, in magazines, books, T.V., and on nutritional labels.
Upon reading this article, I began thinking to myself, “should I too be jumping on the ‘superfoods’ bandwagon?” However, I quickly banished this thought, as I began contemplating the various problems and concerns I can see from the popularisation of such foods.
Here are the main problems I see:
1. Superfoods imply other foods are not super
Labeling particular items as a ‘superfood’ suggests that the other foods available to us are somehow deficient in their content of nutrients in comparison, this is total rubbish.
There are so many foods available to choose from, we shouldn’t underestimate their usefulness as part of a balanced diet!
2. Superfoods lack scientific evidence
The poor quality scientific evidence, which apparently “backs up” the nutritional labeling claims.
For example, the research which has been carried out on the health benefits of mangosteen juice.
Researchers have looked at the rind of the fruit, and not the juice itself. Therefore, how can we be sure that if we drink the juice, we will benefit from the active compounds, reported to be contained in the rind itself? It is impossible to say so, without a scientific study to prove this.
3. Superfoods are overpriced
The price consumers are asked to pay for such superfoods is extortionate. You can expect to pay around $10 for a 16 fl oz carton of these juices. It really is ridiculous, and I feel that manufacturers are taking advantage of consumers in this age of health awareness.
An expert opinion…
According to Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at St George’s Hospital, London (where I trained as a dietetic student), “The term ‘superfoods’ is at best meaningless, and at worst harmful.” She reminds us that “Just because certain foods are bursting with a particular vitamin or nutrient, does not mean they will be especially good for you.”
We must remember that our bodies need nutrients in specific quantities, if we have an excess in our diets, they will be excreted, and therefore our good money is wasted! Too much of a particular nutrient can also be harmful in some instances.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consume these foods, however, I’m suggesting you need to be aware of the manufacturers money making ploy, and interpret such nutritional claims with caution.
Unfortunately, as I’ve stated before, there are no single ‘superfoods’ which can cure all of our ailments! Catherine Collins states, “People should not look for individual superfoods, but try to eat a super diet“. I agree wholeheartedly with that.
One of the blogs I visit regularly is that of Kathryn Elliott, nutritionist from Limes and Lycopene. Kathryn has recently written a couple of interesting articles on this very subject. Check out her thoughts: Against superfoods & Against superfoods II.