While there’s no official definition of what makes something a superfood, most of us have heard these claims at least once. Whether it is Acai berries, blueberries, chia seeds, pomegranates, wheatgrass, or maca powder to name just a few, the superfoods trend is not going anywhere. So, how do we get past the noise of the latest food buzz and get to the bottom of real nutrition? According to Bumrungrad’s Dr. Pansak Sugkraroek , the key is maintaining a balanced, well-rounded diet that includes a diverse source of nutrients, rather than just focusing on a small group of popular foods.
Why are Superfoods so Popular?
Simply put, it’s because they are promised to be nutrition powerhouses that will make us live longer, be more energetic, and probably more physically fit than people who don’t eat superfoods. Food companies often fund research on their products in order to exploit whatever health benefits the foods may offer, and then market their products based on that research. It’s a given that your diet has a major impact on your risk for chronic illness, as well as major health concerns such as stroke, heart disease, and even cancer. So, it’s natural for people to gravitate towards products that promise to ease their health anxieties. If you fear you may be at risk for heart disease, for example, you may respond more eagerly to advertising on foods that are going to improve your heart health. Just the same, when people hear about a specific food that’s touted to contain “cancer-fighting” properties, it’s easy to latch on to this in hopes that it will zap away the cancer cells. For the most part, choosing these nutrient-dense superfoods is a very good practice, and we do recommend a diet that includes these foods. However, it’s also very important to put the focus on your whole diet, not just some of the things you may eat once in a while.
Whether it is boosting our physical fitness, increasing energy, or slowing down the aging process, many foods are marketed to us from the angle of “you need this food,” and many of us believe it. However, what would be the point of someone drinking a wheatgrass shot if, the rest of the day they don’t eat a balanced diet? Additionally, is there a real health benefit to acai flavored ice cream? Or chocolate covered blueberries? Just because something is identified as a superfood, does not make it good for you in every setting.
Getting Beyond the Noise
When you read or hear about the amazing health-boosting benefits of garlic, for example, a natural response might be to include more garlic in your diet. However, in order to achieve the purported health benefits of garlic, you would need to consume 28 whole cloves of it per day. It’s possible to achieve that, but not many people would enjoy eating garlic in those quantities on a daily basis. Does this mean that adding some garlic to your recipes is a waste of time? Absolutely not. But it’s a good reminder to consider the research when reading about the benefits of a superfood. Extracting specific chemicals from a food in a lab is very different from consumption in daily life.
Superfoods are proven to have high levels of important nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and certain polyphenols . A great deal of plant-based foods are very high in these nutrients and minerals, so the key to unlocking these benefits is found in a diet rich in diverse and balanced sources such a s fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and certain fats. Green tea is very rich in antioxidants, but if you ate donuts and crisps all day, drinking green tea is probably not going to deliver the health benefits you’re seeking.
Instead, follow the simple strategies for achieving a super-diet, one that includes a healthy amount of superfoods within a balanced, consistent diet of mostly plant-based nutrients and lean meats once in a while. Some examples of a super-diet include the Mediterranean diet, which includes healthy oils, lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and very little (if any) fried foods. Another great example is a heart healthy diet, which also includes some omega-3 fatty acids, low amounts of sugar and sodium, plenty of lean sources of protein, unlimited vegetables and fruits, and whole grains. The truth about superfoods is that they are great additions to a super-diet.
At Bumrungrad’s Wellness and Anti-Aging Center (Vitallife) , we’re committed to helping you achieve a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Call us today to schedule your appointment, and get on your way to a super-diet.