Super foods or hype? Dubai residents share their views
Dubai - Superfoods include regular fruits and vegetables and others like salmon, blueberries, seaweed, beetroot, kale and acai.
It's catching on, but we wonder if superfoods enhance health. Do they guarantee a robust life? In fact, we consume what are known as 'superfoods' in some form daily, but nifty marketing could be elevating their status. New superfoods are being added to the list with some over-the-top claims. They can cure cancer, others can fend off ageing. We attempt to sift the wheat from the chaff, the truth from fiction.
Superfoods include regular fruits and vegetables and others like salmon, blueberries, seaweed, beetroot, kale, acai and pomegranate that are nutritionally dense, scientific studies do not show that consuming single superfoods makes a major difference to one's health.
Yes, some food may be more nutritional than others, but specialists and nutritionists urge a balanced and healthy diet that includes a variety of food to contribute to decreased risks of cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Nigerian Gbemi Giwa, a fitness blogger in Dubai, said acai, blueberries and seaweed are among her favourite superfoods, but stresses on having a balanced diet throughout. "Not eating superfood doesn't mean you are not getting the nutrients you need, but they give you that boast of energy and extra nutrients every once in a while," said Giwa, who switched to vegan lifestyle last year.
"You're healthy when you eat vegetables and fruits regularly and drink water, but powder of cocoa gives you a boast of energy." For Giwa, it's about finding that balance, without solely relying on a single type of food.
For Dareen Alhiyari, a vegan for the past three years, eating whole and superfood does not reverse diseases that arise from bad lifestyles. She stresses on having an active lifestyle besides healthy eating. "If you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and do regular exercise, nothing is a superfood. And if you don't, no superfood will save you."
She added, "To think that having superfoods amidst processed or junk food will be a balance is wrong idea. Healthy eating without consumption of sugar and preservatives must be a lifestyle throughout." Alhiyari urged people not to wait till the damage to their health is done.
Caroline Bienert, nutritional therapist, said while there are certainly foods that can have a positive impact on one's overall wellbeing, the body needs to be in good condition for them to start working.
"If you have a healthy lifestyle and diet, then superfoods are a great addition," she said. Berries are anti-oxidants, wheatgrass helps improve the immunity system, while maca is an energy booster.
Evelin Novikova, founder of Raw Love Vegan for gluten and dairy-free sweets and cakes, said superfood that include nuts, whole grains (quinoa, freekeh, bulgur, brown rice.), berries, spinach, kale, beans, blueberries, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy enzymes and good fats. "Superfoods are great for our well-being, and help prevent diseases and maladies," said Noviko.
A plant-based diet, generally, has a huge list of benefits including more energy, clearer skin and younger looks. "Eat more superfood every day and solely plant-based diet and you will notice the difference. We are what we eat, so we have to choose the best food for ourselves to feel great and maintain the health."
No science behind superfoodsThe term superfood is not used in scientific journals, but is widely believed to be a "marketing nutritional term."
According to the Cancer Research UK, the term 'superfood' has little scientific basis. "It's certainly true that a healthy, balanced and varied diet can help to reduce the risk of cancer but it is unlikely that any single food will make a major difference on its own," the website says.
So even consuming large portions of a superfood might not provide enough of a specific ingredient to have any effect on our health. Further research has shown that the ideal is a plant-based diet with a wide range of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with healthful animal products.
In fact, nutritionally speaking, having large quantities of certain vegetables, fruits or superfoods is not recommended.
Riwa Chidiac, managing partner at Protocol Food consultancy, said nutrition is all about balance. "Anything that comes from nature has good and bad sides. If you consume certain fruits in large quantities, for example, you'll risk diabetes." She added although avocados, considered superfood, is good for the health, nutritionists do not encourage consuming a full avocado a day.
The same applies to nuts like almonds and walnuts where a handful of six pieces are enough. She stressed that other food might not be classified among the trendy superfood, yet would have the same benefits.
"Orange can be considered superfood for its phytochemicals and antioxidants that lower risks of body infection and cancer. Bulgur is full or protein, fibres and minerals and less expensive than quinoa that is marketed as superfood," said Chidiac, stating garlic, sweet potatoes, carrots, almonds and cashews are also among the nutritionally dense food outside the superfood spectrum.
She stressed that all food items are super when consumed with balance. Each meal, she said, must contain the three categories of carbs (found in grains, beans, seaweed, bulgur, quinoa, brown rice), vegetables, and protein (found in lentils, chicken, fish and tofu).