My father-in-law is what I would refer to as a food faddist. He’s always into a new trend – pomegranate juice, goji berries, almonds. We went on vacation with him this summer and ate salmon four nights in a row. Now, he may possibly live to be 100, but we will never know for sure if it was because of these foods.
So what are “superfoods?” These are products marketed for their supposed superior nutritional value. Superfoods often hold promises to cause weight loss, lower cholesterol, detox your body or boost immunity. Their marketing research often contains big words like “a source of anthocyanins, polysaccharides and essential fatty acids.” What you may not realize is that these are big words for things in many ordinary foods. Many “superfoods” tend to be foreign, expensive and not super tasty. Of course, this makes you feel even healthier when you eat them, as you assume that because they taste bad, they must be good for you! Examples include chia seeds, hemp hearts, goji berries and acai berries.
While these foods are usually healthy, they probably won’t change your life. The reality is that you can take almost any fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, seed or legume and argue that it is a superfood. The nutrients found in marketed “superfoods” are also found in many regular foods you can buy for much cheaper at your grocery store. For those of us who don’t have a huge disposable income, eating a regular balanced diet is a better approach.
Here are some examples of less expensive “superfoods” available:
Oatmeal (not instant): great source of soluble fiber, selenium, magnesium. Versatile for many healthy additions like local frozen fruit (to get your antioxidants), ground flax seeds or nuts (your essential fatty acids). Caution: may cause flashbacks to your childhood.
Dark green leafy vegetables – like kale, chard or spinach. High in antioxidant vitamins, B vitamins, a source of calcium, iron, potassium. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Can be grown in your garden like a weed.
Lentils – great source of fibre, protein, iron, B vitamins. Can be added to most soups and stews. Cook quickly. Likely cheapest protein source in your grocery store.
Winter Squash – rich in antioxidants, potassium, fiber, manganese, B6. Seeds can be roasted and eaten and are rich in protein, monounsaturated fats, calcium and zinc.
Bottom line: most natural foods are superfoods, so you don’t need to spend a fortune.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.