What are superfoods?

We examine the evidence behind the health claims of 10 of the most popular so-called superfoods. So-called, because in fact there is no official definition of a superfood and the EU has banned the use of the word on packaging. But that hasn't stopped many food brands from funding academics to research the health benefits of their product. The superfood trend e ploits the fact that healthy lifestyle choices, including diet, can reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer.
'Superfood' or 'super diet'?

!ietitians a"oid the term #superfood# and prefer to talk of #super diets#, where the emphasis is on a healthy balanced diet, as illustrated by the Eatwell plate

The food industry wants to persuade us that eating some foods can slow down the ageing process, lift depression, boost our physical ability and e"en our intelligence. $any of us want to belie"e that eating a single fruit or "egetable containing a certain antio idant will %ap a diseased cell. The problem is that most research on superfoods tests chemicals and e tracts in concentrations not found in the food in its natural state. &arlic, for e ample, contains a nutrient belie"ed to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. But you'd ha"e to eat up to '( clo"es a day to match the doses used in the lab – something no researcher has yet been bra"e enough to try. )oods that ha"e been ele"ated to superfood status in recent years include those rich in antio idants *such as beta-carotene, "itamins +, ,, E, fla"anoids and selenium- and omega-. fatty acids. +ntio idants are chemicals thought to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals, which are chemicals naturally produced in e"ery li"ing cell and known to cause cell damage. /owe"er, e"idence about the health benefits of antio idants is far from conclusi"e and there is e"idence that antio idant supplements may be harmful *0!), '.12$b-. 3hile the miracle food remains a fantasy, it's pretty well established that obesity and alcohol are the two most common causes of ma4or long-term illness and an increased risk of premature death.

Importance of a balanced diet
!iet plays an important role in our health, but there is concern that too much focus on indi"idual foods may encourage unhealthy eating.

+ll these foods are useful as part of a balanced diet. 3hen it comes to a healthy balanced diet.# 3e'"e teamed up with the B!+ to look at the best a"ailable research to see if the health claims of 29 popular #superfoods# add up. a dietitian and spokesperson for the British !ietetic +ssociation *B!+-. to ensure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs. oli"e oil and legumes. and less meat and dairy foods than the typical 3estern diet. as described by the Eatwell plate.#5o food. )ocusing on getting your fi"e portions of fruit and "egetables a day is a perfect way to start. they may continue making routine choices that are unhealthy and increase their risk of long-term illness. rich in fruit and "egetables and wholegrain foods. #8ou should eat a "ariety of foods.# e plains +lison /ornby. #6f people mistakenly belie"e they can 'undo' the damage caused by unhealthy foods by eating a superfood.# '5o food. #+ll unprocessed food from the ma4or food groups could be considered 'super'. including those labelled 'superfoods'. it's best not to concentrate on any one food in the hope it will work miracles. can compensate for unhealthy eating' Alison Hornb !ietitians a"oid the term superfood and prefer to talk of #super diets#. including those labelled 'superfoods'. /ornby says7 #3hen it comes to keeping healthy. This diet includes plenty of fruit and "egetables. . can compensate for unhealthy eating.lick on the foods listed below to see the e"idence7 • • • • • • • • • • blueberries go4i berries chocolate oily fish wheatgrass pomegranate 4uice green tea broccoli garlic beetroot . there is "ery good e"idence that the $editerranean diet can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and increase life e pectancy. where the emphasis is on a healthy balanced diet.

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