The term ‘superfood’ is not a recognised nutritional term, but is used to market foods considered to be of high nutritional value, full of vitamins and minerals, and low in saturated fat and salt.
Some of the most common foods regarded as superfoods are fermented milk drink kefir, acai berries, and quinoa.
But what makes these foods so special and are they really that good for us?
According to Sarah Ballis, clinical dietician at The Harley Street Clinic Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, foods marketed as superfoods do have nutritional benefits, but these are not unique and can also be found in cheaper, more everyday alternatives.
“The idea of a superfood is rather of a marketing trick that can be applied to almost any food,” said Ballis.
According to the dietician, the following ‘superfoods’ have the same health properties as these everyday foods.
Quinoa is a high-protein grain grown in the Andes, which claims to be rich in protein, fibre and B vitamins.
Similar alternatives are lentils, barley and oats.
Coconut oil is marketed as being rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, but actually has the same qualities as rapeseed oil.
Maca powder comes from the ground root of a cruciferous vegetable native to Peru, and is marketed as a rich source of minerals and antioxidants.
Suitable alternatives are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and other leafy green vegetables.
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the salvia hispanica plant native to South America, claiming to be high in omega-3, fatty acids, fibre and protein.
Suitable alternatives are almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax or sesame seeds, and other nuts and seeds.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from cows’ milk bacteria and yeasts, which claims to be a good source of calcium and probiotic bacteria.
Everyday alternatives include greek, plain and natural yoghurts.
Acai berries and goji berries
Acari berries come from Brazil, while goji berries come from Asia. They are marketed as being high in antioxidants and vitamin C, respectively.
However, blueberries and all other berries are suitable alternatives to acai berries, while goji berries can be swapped with raspberries, strawberries and cranberries.
“Before you run to the shops for the latest, must have, weight reducing magic ingredient that will eat at your bank balance, why not take a look at your current dietary intake?” said Ballis.
“The key to a healthy diet is balance and variety.”
“If you’re content your diet is balanced and you still are intent on a ‘superfood’ or two, by all means indulge, but remember that the evidence shows your investment is more to assure your mind than your body.”