A superfood is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. However, this term is now regarded as a marketing tool simply used to boost food sales. As of 2007 it has been prohibited to market food as a superfood unless credible scientific research has been carried out to show the specific health benefits that the food provides.
The idea of superfoods is that if you eat a certain food then your health will rocket. However, dietitians tend to steer clear from this idea and instead stand by the fact that the most proven way to improve your health is to live a healthy lifestyle with a diet that includes a diverse variety of foods rather than only eating a small number of ‘superfoods’.
One issue found in research into superfoods is that you would need to eat the food in such large quantities to reap the benefits of the chemicals and extracts they contain that it would not be feasible. For example, it was found that you would need to eat 28 garlic cloves to benefit from the nutrient they contain that is suggested to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
Aside from the marketing benefits, there are some foods which have been found to have significant health benefits. These include:
• Blueberries– these are one of the main foods claimed to have superfood effects. Research into the exact results of consuming blueberries is inconclusive but it has been found that blueberries have high levels of antioxidants which help to neutralise free radicals- molecules that are naturally produced in living cells and can damage cellular structures and contribute to ageing. Many studies have also shown that consuming blueberries regularly leads to a decrease in blood pressure.
• Beetroot– this vegetable contains nitrates that are converted to nitric oxide in the body which is thought to lower blood pressure. However, dietitians stand by the fact that there are other just as effective ways of reducing blood pressure including being more active and reducing salt intake.
• Oily fish– if you’re looking for a food besides fruit and veg to eat to improve your health then oily fish could be your option. Eating two portions a week keeps your blood pressure at a healthy level and improves blood lipids which lessen risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Broccoli– broccoli contains nutrients including folate, soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins C and A and calcium, as well as containing compounds which are linked to preventing the growth of cancer cells in the body. Who knew eating broccoli decreases the risk of getting cancer?