If you pay any attention to the internet or grocery store check-out lines, you‘ve no doubt heard certain foods referred to as “Super Foods.” These foods are supposed to be so packed with nutrition that they will somehow transform your health.
There are a few foods that make pretty much every list of super foods. Let’s look at a few of them:
Blueberries. I dare you to find a list of super foods without blueberries on it. They are super-delicious, but they make the list because of their high level of flavonoids. Flavonoids are said to improve brain function, and are thought to play a preventive role in disorders such as asthma, cataracts, and varicose veins. That’s all good, and even if it’s just speculation, blueberries certainly won’t hurt you.
But, you don’t have to eat blueberries to get flavonoids. You can try apricots. Or black beans. Or pears. Or strawberries, raspberries, onions, cabbage, pinto beans and tomatoes. In fact, since there are over 6,000 flavonoids, you don’t want to rely on blueberries as your sole source.
Salmon. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is hard to beat, no doubt. But it’s also quite pricey, often going for $25 per pound, or more. If you can’t or won’t spend that kind of money on salmon, you may fear you are missing out on valuable support for your cardiovascular and nervous systems. But sardines, shrimp, cauliflower or walnuts are examples of substitutes that cost much less.
Dark Chocolate. Do you need more evidence that we are loved by a good and benevolent creator? Dark chocolate - 70 percent cocoa or more - is not only an aphrodisiac, but it is loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants. Antioxidants are good for your blood pressure and heart health. Research also suggests that dark chocolate is good for your mood. Like we needed a double-blind study to confirm that.
But wait. You can also get a lot of antioxidants from beans, berries, apples and plums. You hate me now, don’t you?
To be clear, I’m not here to bash blueberries or salmon, and certainly not chocolate. In fact I think most of the whole foods on any super food list can be a healthy part of any diet.
But take a look at the possible substitutions for the foods I listed above. Go to your grocery store, hit up the perimeters, and choose a large variety of products each week. With this approachyou’ll build a healthier diet with a larger variety of beneficial nutrients. And you won’t be a slave to a Super Food list.
So why do we categorize foods as super foods anyway? The answer is simple: Marketing.
Every one of us would love to have the magic pill--- or the magic food--- that will give us good health, a long life and a trim waist. We like diets that promise results in 28 days for the same reason. We want a quick and easy answer.
Marketers know this. This is why you can buy super food in a pouch and super food meal replacement powder. It’s also why an industry has been built around quinoa. It’s classified as a super food because it contains all the essential amino acids – the building blocks for protein. That’s great if you live in a third-world country where protein is hard to come by. But in developed countries we don’t develop protein deficiency, so quinoa’s claim to fame doesn’t do much for us. Other foods have gotten the same artificial build-up as quinoa.
In Europe, the term super food is highly regulated to prevent misleading consumers about the nutritional benefits of certain foods. Similar regulations don’t exist in the U.S., so the burden is on us to look into the legitimacy of any health claims.
The most important lesson here is that, as always, a diet with a large variety of whole foods – fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, seafood, meat, etc. – is still your best medicine. Creating a lopsided diet of “super foods” that decreases the variety of foods you consume is simply a bad idea. Just don’t leave out the chocolate.
Amy Rogers MD is not a practicing physician and nothing written here should be taken as medical advice from either Amy or AssetBuilder. Medical decisions should be made with care in consultation with your health care provider.