Lists of this year’s trendy new SuperFoods are making their appearances and it’s driving me crazy! It’s all a bunch of hogwash. Can we just stop the nonsense and simply eat real food?
The UK’s Telegraph proclaims maqui berries, algae fat and watermelon seeds are this year’s go to superfood. PopSugar Australia lists avocado oil, activated charcoal and sacha inchi nuts. Readers’s Digest mentions broco leaf, kelp and dandelions while Oprah’s list includes cocoa nibs, buckwheat and green moringa powder. Oh please, give me a break!
By all means if you’re in the mountains of Chile, enjoy maqui berries by the bowlful. And yes, taste and experiment as many foods as your heart desires – I’ve certainly enjoyed making a few dandelion treats. And by all means use and enjoy buckwheat, grown right here on the Canadian prairies. But please, let’s stop pretending we NEED any of these particular superfoods to maintain good health. It’s elitist, insulting and completely misleading.
There isn’t a single major health organization representing any chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, alzheimer, kidney disease, cancer, respiratory disease, arthritis, etc) that recommends any one particular food to help prevent, minimize or cure chronic disease.
Yes, there is promising research into specific components within certain foods, but at this time none of the leading health organizations around the world have recommended that any one of these superfoods be eaten in any sort of regimented or prescribed way. While they may support a particular class of foods, eg. dark leafy greens or whole grains they do not support the idea of specific SuperFoods. More important than focusing on any one specific food or nutrient, they recommend we focus on our overall eating patterns. Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, and associate professor of neurology at Columbia University, says, “We don’t eat foods or nutrients in isolation, we eat in combination with other foods so there is value in dietary patterns.”
They go even further by recommending healthy eating patterns need to go hand in hand with physical activity, not smoking, stress reduction and social & mental well-being. For example, in its report on Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease, the National Institute on Aging states, “What we do know is that a healthy lifestyle—one that includes a healthy diet, physical activity, appropriate weight, and no smoking—can maintain and improve overall health and well-being. Making healthy choices can also lower the risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, and scientists are very interested in the possibility that a healthy lifestyle might have a beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s as well.”
And while there may be some slight differences in what each organization emphasizes in their recommendations for healthy eating, they all include the following general tips:
Eat more vegetables and fruits of all colors.
Eat more whole grains and high fibre foods.
Choose a variety of protein sources.
Reduce sugar & salt intake.
Choose and use fats wisely.
While not as sexy or exotic as the foods found on trendy top ten lists, it seems to me that homecooked meals made with real, unprocessed foods where we’re in control of added ingredients are our best bet for achieving these recommendations. That’s good news for us, because it’s something we can all achieve.
Need help figuring out how to use everyday, real food to implement these tips into your overall eating pattern? No problem. There are plenty of great resources to help.
- MINDfull a Recipe Book by Dr. Carol Greenwood, Senior Scientist at Rotman Research Institute
- Heart & Stroke Canada’s Guide to Healthy Eating
- The DASH Eating Plan recommended by the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute
- Cookspiration – recipes & plans by Dietitians of Canada
- Eating Healthy by Canadian Diabetes Association
- Eating Well by the Canadian Cancer Society
And if you’re looking for tips and recipes for homecooking seasonal foods, hit the subscribe button and follow my family and I as we work to incorporate these recommendations into our everyday eating.
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.