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.
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.
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.
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.
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