Are there really such things as ‘superfoods’?

In recent years the food industry has seen a rapid growth in the popularity of superfoods. So can they really live up to their growing reputation, or is it just a term invented by the industry in order to boost sales? 

Superfoods have been attributed with all sorts remarkable health benefits, stretching from cancer prevention to an ability to drastically lower cholesterol. Blueberries were the first food stuffs to acquire the title, and since then the list has been getting longer and longer. It’s not as if there is rigorous application process to become a superfood, but there do seem to be certain criteria that a lot of them share.

The prevalence of antioxidants is common to a number of superfoods. Free radicals are the name given to chemicals that we find in the cells that make up our body, and are known to cause cell damage – potentially leading to the development of cancerous cells. If the research into antioxidants is to be believed, then they can supposedly protect your cells against the harmful effects of the free radicals. The problem is that the scientific research and evidence into this is limited to say the least.

What you may not know is that the EU has actually banned the use of the word ‘superfoods’ from being put on any food packaging. Which seems odd considering the apparent health benefits. The problem is that over marketing of foods with almost magic abilities could lead to consumers adopting a diet that almost solely depends on superfoods. Not to mention people may look to compensate for a poor diet with eating a large amount of these foods.

Let’s take a look at some of the foods that are considered to be super then:

  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Green tea
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Yogurt
  • Garlic

Of course there are plenty of others  to choose from, but that’s just a selection.

While there is evidence to suggest these foods can help reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure, among other things, research by the NHS has shown you’d have to consume the foods in obscenely large quantities to match the results shown in a lab – 28 cloves of garlic for example.

Now this is probably the part where you expect me to start talking about how there is no substitute for a healthy and balanced diet. Unsurprisingly there isn’t. It’s another case of trying to find that ‘quick-fix’, when really it isn’t there. It essentially comes down to adopting the right habits – creating yourself a healthy lifestyle.

This isn’t to say you should avoid anything that is considered a superfood. Many of them possess the nutrients you require to stay healthy. Especially the fruits and vegetables, which obviously need to be eaten as part of any balanced diet. Mistakes are made when people depend heavily on superfoods and ignore other essential food groups that provide key nutrients.

We live in a world where word of mouth help rumours to spread like wildfire. This has lead to a belief that all sorts of foods can help to cause, or prevent cancer. However, cancer at its core is a collection of diseased cells. So while diet can play a part in your overall health and well-being, what it can’t do is eliminate cancerous cells from our bodies.

It seems plainly obvious to us what foods we should be eating, and which ones we should look to avoid. Establishing a healthy diet has a lot more to it than that though. The team at Ollie Lawrence Personal Trainer are educated in healthy eating practices, and can help design a nutritional plan tailored to you. Rather than just eating whatever the Daily Mail says will help prevent you getting cancer in 30 or 40 years.

Ollie Lawrence
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