Over the past decade, we hear about foods such as goji berries, dragonfruit, quinoa, and they have become part of our daily vocabulary as being the next ‘supefood’ that will fight off disease and slow down the aging process. The health benefits of these so-called superfoods are introduced to us with the notion that they are packed with more nutrients and vitamins than most fruits and vegetables.
The problem with this is that almost every day a new fruit, vegetable, nut, or spice is being labelled as the new superfood. I often wonder why these foods are so superior to other whole foods and what magic ingredient they contain that makes them so super. How do we know if a food is really that super?
With the numerous super food lists available online, simply determining what to eat and buy can be daunting. Lists created by celebrities or social media have consumers not only confused, but spending more money on foods that can already be found in their own refrigerator. Most superfoods introduced have high nutrient density compared to the amount of calories in them. Chia seeds, acai berries, kombucha are just example of foods that are being pushed for their many health benefits and are being shipped to North America with a hefty price tag.
Many consumers are looking for the quick way to get healthy and food manufacturers know this. These foods being introduced to us in grocery stores are to attract attention to consumers using words such as ‘antioxidants’ and ‘free radicals’ and people get on the health wagon thinking that they are ingesting the worlds healthiest foods. But, do these trendy foods really live up to the hype? Do the health benefits outweigh the drawbacks of lack of availability and higher price?
If anything, it seems like these superfood lists are a good way to discover new foods and try them out. However, it’s important to remember that some of the worlds healthiest foods already exist in your own fridge and pantry and don’t come with a hefty price tag. The term ‘Superfood’ is not a recognized nutritional term. It is somewhat of a marketing gimmick which can be applied to any food.
All Whole Foods Are Super
Any whole food is considered a superfood. If we look at the antioxidant properties of blueberries and the nutrients contained in dark leafy greens, we are already consuming a large dose of nutritious foods. All plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains have useful nutrients. The whole point about consuming whole foods is to eat a variety of foods, foods from the rainbow. Each food is super because they all contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for our long-term health. If we each just one, two, or three whole foods, we would be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals. All whole foods work together to complement each other and cannot be singled out for one single nutrient.
The trend with many is that they think they can supplement a superfood within an unhealthy diet to reverse the damaging effects of consuming highly processed foods. Our bodies don’t work this way. The focus on adapting a plant-based lifestyle is to eat a wide variety of whole foods that are high in nutrients. Eat with the intention of lots of colour. If you want to forgo the pricy tag of whole foods being shipped from another country, trying eating a variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains that are grown in your own country.
When a new exotic fruit or grain from South America or other countries is introduced into the North American market it can impact us in a negative way. The carbon footprint for shipping these fruits from half way around the world and the demand it places not just on the cost of shipping but decreasing the availability of this food to the local population who rely on this particular food. People in North America and in other countries around the world will pay a large price for these foods believing that it will change their health by consuming this one particular food. This belief system is destroying food production for those who need it and playing havoc on our environment.
Instead, try eating local. When fruit is in season, eat it. Not only will you save money, but you will help support local businesses and that have a smaller carbon footprint. Remember, nature has a funny way of providing us with everything that we need.
Reductionist vs. Holistic Approach to Food
We’re really heavily fixated on plant sources of food and for good reason; environmentally they’re really important and they also tend to be less expensive. They also provide us with the essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need. We live a society where we are too fixated on macronutrients. We have to ensure that we get enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water daily in order to survive. There is something terribly wrong with this reductionist way of thinking and consuming food.
All whole foods contain protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Our focus needs to switch to that of a holistic mindset to eating. Our eating habits should be determined by the amount and the diversity of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In order to achieve optimal health, we must ingest a variety of whole foods. One food alone cannot provide the essential compounds to a healthy body. If we use spinach as an example, it’s a nutritional powerhouse. We don’t eat spinach alone because it is high in calcium, we consume it because it contains folic acid, vitamin K, iron, vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids. All these micronutrients serve our body with a purpose. However, there are essential vitamins and minerals missing in spinach that you can find in other foods. This is the importance of consuming a variety of whole foods rich in colour.
When we look at our health as a whole, we worry about our weight, but almost everybody neglects their health by not focusing on consuming whole and plant-based foods. The weight is just a number but your body cannot fight or prevent disease if you only consume a small amount of plant-based foods.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,