How Super are Superfoods?

Superfoods have taken on superstar status. The celebrities of food, they feed an insatiable appetite for our need to find the magic fare that has it all.

But pull their pants down, and the highly-hyped goji berry is just a fruit, and quinoa is just a grain.

"All the claims about superfoods really are highly questionable," says Sydney dietician Dr Joanna McMillan, the co-author of Star Foods. "There are no clinical tests that identify a superfood, no legal definitions, so finally it just becomes a marketing tool to sell the food of the moment."

And food companies line up to give a superstar spin to the latest food fad, but without any scientific or comparative basis to their claims, says Darwin dietitian Clare Evangelista. "One apple has more antioxidants than a serve of goji berries. And goji berries cost about $40 a kilo and apples about $4," Ms Evangelista says. "There is no magic food. Although that's not what food companies promote. They promote their superfoods as cure-alls."

But the good news is that the nutrients promoted in superfoods are available in a wide range of everyday foods."The reality is there are foods in a lot of the food groups that are stand-outs," Ms Evangelista says.

Some superstar performers follow in their food groups, ranked by Ms Evangelista and Dr McMillan according to their antioxidant power, fibre content, glycemic index and nutrient value.

VEGETABLES

Broccoli and cauliflower - high in iron and vitamin C and a good source of fibre.

Tomatoes - particularly high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, beneficial in preventing prostate cancer and possibly other cancers.

FRUIT

Blueberries - "One of the stand-out superfoods," says Ms Evangelista. High in fibre, vitamin C and anti-oxidants, they're excellent for protecting the heart from disease and protecting us from all types of cancers.

Guava - "The fruit with the highest vitamin C by a long shot," says Dr McMillan.

GRAINS

Quinoa ("keen-wa") - "The superfood of the moment," says Ms Evangelista, it is one of the rare grains that is a complete protein source, unlike rice and wheat which need to be eaten in combination with other foods, such as dairy, to get the required amino acids. Quinoa is also low GI and high in magnesium and iron.

Oats - a very highly soluble fibre which helps reduce blood cholesterol level by preventing absorption of cholesterol from our gut. Also helps prevent bowel cancer.

NUTS AND SEEDS

Brazil nuts - high in selenium which reduces the risk of prostate cancer. "Compared to other nuts, these come out top for magnesium," says Dr McMillan.

Flax seeds - plant-based form of omega-3 fats found in salmon and tuna are "great for people who don't like to eat a lot of fish", says Evangelista. Good for arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and improving cholesterol levels.

DAIRY

Yoghurt - a stand-out because of its pro-biotic qualities which are good for bowel health and may be helpful in boosting immunity and preventing allergies. Look out for yoghurt with at least three different bacteria - acidophilus, bifidus, shirota (found in Yakult) - and ensure it's eaten at fridge temperature (2-3 degrees) to keep bacteria alive.

MEAT AND PROTEIN

Eggs - "They have a bad wrap, but contain lots of good fats, they're full of omega-3 fats and high in zinc and magnesium," says Ms Evangelista. "The Heart Foundation now recommends three-four eggs a week."

Lean red meat - "The best source of iron and zinc without doubt," says Dr McMillan.

HERBS AND SPICES

Cinnamon - is emerging as a superfood for improving blood glucose levels and reducing blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

By Virginia Ginnane, AAP

Want more? We thought you might like this video.

 
 

Sign Out

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

1 comment
Please login to comment
Posted by Alexandra141Report
I think a superfood means any food with an outstanding array of nutrients or a very high amount of certain nutrients or phytochemicals comparable to other foods. Although superfoods have taken a bad rap as 'fads' I believe that all the fantastic foods above would be beneficial to add to the diet weekly or some even daily.

A couple of other ones which taste fantastic and I highly recommend:

Acai berries with just 5gm of freeze dried containing the antioxidants equivelant to 120 blueberries! and is the highest known antioxidant containing fruit. It also contain heaps of fibre, omega 6 &9 and is relatively low in sugars and mesquite powder which is a high protein vegetarian meal which also contains good quantities of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc!

I eat them both on my yoghurt for breakfast YUM!!