What distinguishes superfoods?

Summary: Researchers are wondering if the so-called “superfoods” are really as good for you as people claim, and if so, how they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.

source: University of New South Wales

Everyone has heard the old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

It’s a statement that apples were probably the first to be classified as a “superfood,” long before the term became popular.

But now, not a week goes by without a new superfood popping up on social media, promising to deliver amazing health benefits. Modern crazes include quinoa, chia seeds, and kale.

But the most important thing is whether eating something like kale four times a week really supports your bone health. Or did someone run the biggest marketing campaign ever?

Food and nutrition expert, Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot from the University of New South Wales’ School of Chemical Engineering, says the term superfoods is sometimes thrown loosely by “lifestyle gurus”. While there is no universally agreed upon definition of “superfoods,” there is an appreciation for the health benefits due to the presence of the bioactive substances and compounds present in them.

“Scientifically, there is no such thing as a superfood – they basically refer to foods rich in nutrients or compounds that have properties that can affect health – but with a notable label,” Associate Professor Arcot says.

However, the term can unfortunately mislead people into thinking that some foods have amazing nutritional and health properties, and consuming them can solve every health problem.

“While no single food group holds the key to unlocking great health benefits, we know that some foods are better for us than others. As we become more focused on taking care of our health, it is natural that we begin to pay more attention to what we eat.”

“Food alone cannot treat health problems – but it can play a role as part of an overall treatment plan. If the goal is to lose weight, eating a superfood like blueberries will not achieve it on its own.”

“However, the right combination of these foods is balanced and in moderate amounts, to have some sort of health effect.”

Not a superfood for everyone

Backwards: About 5-10 years ago, before the term “superfoods” became popular, the phrase “functional foods” was used in the food and health community.

Functional foods are used in the context of foods that are physiologically beneficial, and are likely to reduce the risk of disease development due to the addition or removal of certain nutrients.

Later, the term “superfoods” was introduced to describe foods with targeted health benefits. However, a / a. Every food can be classified as functional — they all have some effect on the body, Arcott says.

“We know that drinking milk, which contains high concentrations of calcium, is great for strengthening our bones and teeth, or that eating foods rich in vitamin A works wonders for the health of our eyes,” she says.

On the other hand, high-fat foods are usually avoided due to the risk of increased cholesterol. But this will become very important for someone who is already at high risk because we know that there are also good fats like avocados and chia seeds that are superfoods.”

Kale is probably one of the most commonly mentioned foods when eating superfoods. While many studies have shown that kale contains potential antioxidants and anti-carcinogens, the literature is still lacking to conclude that kale consumption provides more health benefits than other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.

“If you start eating a lot of kale, no one will tell you it’s bad for you. Unless you’re someone who’s prone to kidney stones, for example, you likely have a lot of oxalate – a compound found in leafy greens when it’s advised to eat less. in your diet”, says A / Prof. Arcot.

“So there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this.”

Can superfoods still come to the rescue?

a / a. Arcot says we need to pay close attention to a food’s nutritional profile to determine if it’s a good fit for the health concerns we’re dealing with.

“There is no denying that a balanced diet is beneficial to an individual’s overall health,” she says.

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“For example, the Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that includes foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and seafood, and is believed to support brain function and promote heart health.”

Professor Arcot says compounds in some foods have the potential to prevent or delay the onset of certain chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease – which have primary inflammatory reactions in the body.

This blueberry appears on the bush
While there is no universally agreed upon definition of “superfoods,” there is an appreciation for the health benefits due to the presence of the bioactive substances and compounds present in them. The image is in the public domain

“Raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and while these properties may treat inflammation, they cannot be called superfoods because randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing inflammation.”

The sequel to the Superfood story

The latest superfood, turmeric, a common spice used in cooking, contains a powerful compound called curcumin known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

But how much of this compound do we actually need to consume before it has some effect on the body?

a / a. This is a complex area and more research is needed to find out, Arcott says.

“Sometimes, the compounds we need are only found in minute amounts in the food we eat,” she says.

“There is still a long way to go in terms of research before we know the exact amounts needed to bring about these types of changes in the body. But we do know that the effects can be cumulative over time,” she says.

“It’s all about preventing ill health – and a healthy diet with the right foods will contribute to overall well-being.”

About this diet and neuroscience research news

author: press office
source: University of New South Wales
Contact: Press Office – University of New South Wales
picture: The image is in the public domain

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