The truth about su­per­foods

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - HEALTH NEWS - — PA­TRI­CIA WEST-BARKER

What makes a food “su­per”? Some say it’s the high vol­ume of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, fiber and health-pro­tect­ing an­tiox­i­dants a par­tic­u­lar fruit, veg­gie, grain or fish con­tains. Oth­ers say the phrase is mean­ing­less, noth­ing more than mar­ket­ing hype largely un­sup­ported by cred­i­ble re­search.

The Euro­pean Union, which takes a stronger stand on many health-re­lated is­sues than the U.S. gov­ern­ment does, banned the use of the term in 2007 un­less the claim could be backed by spe­cific sci­en­tific re­search.

Does that mean the usual su­per­food sus­pects, such as kale and other leafy greens, broc­coli, cau­li­flower and other cru­cif­er­ous veggies, blue­ber­ries, pomegranates, dark choco­late, wal­nuts, wild salmon and other fatty fish, are worth­less? Not at all. Th­ese foods are in­deed rich in nu­tri­ents and worth eat­ing as part of a healthy diet. But they are not magic bul­lets, guar­an­teed to cure what ails you.

Kale is a good ex­am­ple. Home cooks who hadn’t heard of it 20 years ago are now fold­ing it into ev­ery­thing from smooth­ies to pesto to cake. Bon Ap­petit mag­a­zine hailed 2012 as the year of kale, and Oct. 2, 2013, marked the first cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional Kale Day. Last year kale ap­peared on restau­rant menus 400 times more fre­quently than it did in 2008.

WebMD con­firms that kale is in­deed rich in nu­tri­ents. One cup, the site says, con­tains nearly 3 grams of pro­tein; 2.5 grams of fiber; vi­ta­mins A, C and K; folate, an omega-3 fatty acid; lutein; and zeax­an­thin, phos­pho­rus, potas­sium, cal­cium and zinc. The most popular mem­ber of the cab­bage fam­ily is cer­tainly worth eat­ing, but claims that it will boost your im­mune sys­tem, stave off aging and fight can­cer are likely more than a bit overblown.

Still, the search con­tin­ues for a magic for­mula to zap ill­ness and slow aging, with more and more foods pop­ping up on the su­per­food lists. Chia seeds (last seen grow­ing “hair” on pot­tery pets) are hav­ing their day, as are goji and açaí berries and quinoa. Co­conut wa­ter is still popular de­spite a 2011 class-ac­tion law­suit that forced Vi­taCoco, the drink’s largest dis­trib­u­tor, to re­write its health claims. Prov­ing that ev­ery­thing old is new again, bone broths and fer­mented foods such as sauer­kraut, kom­bucha and kim­chi are among the tra­di­tional foods re-emerg­ing on the su­per­food stage.

In a sense, all un­pro­cessed foods, es­pe­cially fruits and veggies, could be con­sid­ered su­per­foods, and eat­ing more of them, but not too much of any one, sup­ports health, if only be­cause they keep you from fill­ing up on french fries, dough­nuts, potato chips, diet or regular soda and pro­cessed meats.

Re­search has shown that the ideal diet is one that is largely plant based with a wide va­ri­ety of fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains and health­ful an­i­mal prod­ucts. Su­per­foods can be a good en­try into healthy eat­ing, and un­der­stand­ing their nu­tri­tional value is en­light­en­ing, but the sound re­search to back up the mar­ket­ing is just not there.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.