Superfoods: the fact and fiction revealed
Health and wellbeing have never been more important in modern-day society, with the general public constantly on the lookout to find new and inventive ways to stay at the peak of their physical health.
While enjoying a spa break in Yorkshire is certainly one way to revitalise the body, a more long-term option is the consumption of superfoods, but just how effective are these? The team here at Titanic Spa have gone to great efforts to answer this once and for all, and while we aim to highlight the most effective superfoods, we also lift the lid on the so-called frauds.
What does the term superfood mean?
In layman’s terms, superfoods are particular ingredients that offer an enhanced dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and other nutrients which are known to help towards physical wellbeing. As well as this, they also sport a low level of unhealthy fats and calories. Superfoods is the term used more by marketers than dieticians and nutrition scientists, mainly because the health benefits are not solely proved.
What are the most effective superfoods?
Today there are literally hundreds of foods and drinks which fall under the bracket of superfoods, all of which are being marketed to provide the most positive impact on the user’s health. Here’s just some of the most effective superfoods you should consider adding to your shopping list.
A safe bet to use when cooking with chicken, lemon provides a welcome burst of flavour and adds a huge amount of vitamin C to any meal. As well as chicken, lemon can be used on anything from cooked fish and raw salads to cooked vegetables or even a glass of chilled water. Add an extra spring in your step – whatever the time of day.
Another staple in any cook’s cupboard, garlic is one of the most versatile ingredients and can be incorporated into a wealth of dishes. As well as being relatively inexpensive (a whole bulb costs around 30p!), it’s in our list because of the incredible health properties it can provide. With recent studies finding that it can be used effectively in fighting cardiovascular disease, and also that it has both antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, its superfood status is clearly well deserved.
Colloquially known as the butter fruit, the avocado is one of the original superfoods and each spoonful provides huge amounts of goodness. Because avocado contains nutrients like oleic acid, lutein, folate, monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, it can help to protect the body from heart disease, degenerative eye disease and even cancer.
If you’re a fan of nuts, it would seem that walnuts are by far the best choice in terms of health benefits. As well as offering a healthy dose of Omega 3, alpha-linolenic acid, manganese and a host of other nutrients, walnuts also pack the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E, which is known to help safeguard the heart. Walnuts are also thought to slow down the effects of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
While Chia seeds may be tiny, don’t be fooled by their size. They’re actually the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids available on the supermarket shelves. Containing soluble and insoluble fibre to keep your digestion ticking over nicely, they are also crammed full of antioxidants, protein and other minerals which help support the wellbeing of the human body. Because they are virtually tasteless, they are easy to add into almost anything.
What are the least effective superfoods?
While maintaining a healthy mind and body should always be at the forefront of people’s minds, the rise of the superfood has led to many ingredients jumping on this bandwagon despite having only marginal benefits. Here are some of the ‘fraudulent’ superfoods you should be wary of in your pursuit of complete physical wellbeing. If you’re looking for a guaranteed boost for your body, it’s far easier to whisk yourself away for a Yorkshire spa weekend with us.
One of the original superfoods, green tea has become popular across the world because of the incredible health benefits it supposedly provides. Perhaps the biggest false claim of this hot, green liquid is that it can help in the battle towards weight loss, thanks to the EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) it contains. Some believe it can increase the hormone which makes the human body satisfied and helps prevent the body from storing excess fact. Although this sounds fantastic, a lengthy review into the link between green tea and obesity concluded that green tea has absolutely no meaningful effects. However, it does have a pleasant taste and does contain a number of biologically active ingredients which help the body.
Another fraud of the superfood world, vinegar is thought to slow the absorption of carbohydrates and the passage of food through your stomach thanks to its main ingredient: acetic acid. However, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest it will help to increase your metabolism and should never be considered as a weight loss aid.
A delicious addition to your family, these tiny mushrooms were originally believed to cut the level of fat in meat-based dishes thanks to their own ‘meaty’ flavour. Although that flavour does mean they stand as a great alternative to meat, there’s absolutely no evidence suggesting that they can actively reduce levels of fat.
A natural phenolic compound which is found in a variety of fruits such as blackberries, raspberries and cranberries, raspberry ketone has long been marketed as an effective weight-loss tool and is claimed to help break down the fat in human cells at an enhanced rate and ultimately burn it off faster. With no human studies to support this theory, and also the fact that it’s a synthetically formulated substance rather than an actual food, it’s certainly not all that it’s cracked up to be.
A common spice found in kitchens up and down the country, cinnamon was thought to lower the human body’s blood sugar levels by stimulating glucose metabolism, along with slowing the passage of food through the stomach. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support this and while it offers great flavour, it’s highly unlikely to affect the overall intake of calories.
What does the expert say?
To find out more about the effectiveness of superfoods we got in contact with Marvellous Superfood, the online retailer of everything superfood. As the clear experts on the topic, we firstly asked what they would recommend as superfoods for people to start eating.
“The best way to start is to substitute processed, nutrient-void ingredients in your cupboard with raw, natural alternatives. For example, get rid of the sugar and replace it with Organic Coconut Blossom Nectar, substitute your artificially flavoured and sweetened hot chocolate with Pure Raw Cacao and your whey-based protein shake with a hemp-based natural product. Then start introducing the powerful green powders that really give your body’s immune system a boost. The blue/green algaes such as chlorella and spirulina can take a bit of getting used to - they are VERY green tasting which some people find off-putting, but once you've had them a few times most people start to enjoy them - they are among the most nutrient-dense ingredients on the planet!”
- Marvellous Super Food
Also, we asked them about any foods which have been falsely labelled as superfoods.
“It's difficult to say anything is ‘falsely labelled’ because there is no official definition of the term but certainly many companies are eager to slap ‘superfood’ on a product label which contains just a tiny amount of Goji Berry Powder or a sprinkling of Hemp. For something to really be a superfood it needs to be predominantly powerful ingredients, and preferably organic.”
- Marvellous Super Food
Another expert able to offer their wisdom was Siobhan O’Brien from Superfood Siobhan, a website which specialises in plant-based recipes designed to help people feel great. When we asked her about what superfood we should all try, here are a few of her suggestions:
“Raw cacao powder - Cacao powder is the pure version of cocoa. It's the sort of chocolate we should be all be consuming, as it's the pure, unadulterated version with all of the iron and antioxidants we all hear about being so great for us, but without the sugar, dairy, processing, heat damage and additives that destroy the nutritional value. It adds a wonderful chocolatey flavour to smoothies!
“Chia seeds - High in protein, fibre and amino acids, antioxidants and minerals, chia seeds are a wealth of plant-based nutrition, with the fibre promoting satiety, the amino acids promoting a healthy weight, improved mood and improved sleep, and the other minerals being great for overall health. They're also high in Omega 3 fatty acids which are known to reduce high cholesterol, reduce inflammation and promote brain function.
“Maca powder - Maca powder comes from the ground up Maca root, and it's indigenous to South America, in the mountains of countries such as Peru. For hundreds of years it has been used by the native Peruvians as a food source due to it being rich in a wide variety of essential nutrients. It also has a delicious malty flavour that works great in oatmeal, green smoothies or desserts. Maca powder is rich in vitamin B1, B2, C, and E, and it is also high in calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.”
- Siobhan O’Brien, Superfood Siobhan
Our final expert is Andrew Maciver from Superfood Warriors, a journey around the world to find the most nutritious and medicinal foods on the planet. You’ve read about what superfoods to try, and now Andrew reveals why you should be giving it a go.
“We live in a modern world linked to technological and scientific advances yet we consume processed foods and conventional foods that lack nutrients. Our mineral-depleted soils make superfoods an intelligent choice. The ongoing effect of these poor nutrients has resulted in an increase in obesity, as well as other common and unique illnesses.
“Superfoods are rich in nutrients and work wonders in keeping your mind and body healthy. Once you start consuming superfoods on a regular basis, you will start noticing the difference in not just how you feel, but also how you look. Eating these foods regularly makes your body healthier, helps you flush out toxins more frequently and leaves you with a healthy glow. It also helps you maintain your weight and you can continue to remain healthy without having to take annoying vitamins or mineral tablets. Superfoods in fact contain all the right nutrients in the right proportions. However, the best part is that these foods are clean and pesticide-free, organic sources of these nutrients, so in effect they act faster and work better. The health benefits from superfoods are endless; they can help you with weight loss, muscle gain, detoxification of the body and help you increase your energy. Consuming superfoods also has a therapeutic effect on the body systems; often displaying anti-inflammatory purifying properties. They are a powerful source of clean protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, good fats and oils, essential amino and fatty acids. They promote nutritional excellence, health and wellbeing, beauty, sustainable agriculture, and can transform individual diet and lifestyle, leading to a revitalized humanity and planet.”
- Andrew Maciver, Superfood Warriors