What’s So Super About Superfoods?

We’ve all seen the adverts promoting how great superfoods are for us – everything from slowing aging to promoting weight loss.  The marketing guru’s love to position these foods as a must have if you want to look good and have super health!   In my previous career I worked as a marketing manager for the big corporates and so I know all too well the tricks of the trade when it comes to selling a product.   With nutrition at the forefront of my daily life over the last number of years I thought I would take some time to share my views on the topic.

So what are Superfoods?

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Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods, thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. Blueberries, wheatgrass, goji berries, kelp, salmon, kale and acai berries are just a few examples of these types of foods.

However, it’s not an official term and there are no set criteria for determining what is and what is not a superfood.

 

The first step – reduce the processed foods

Don’t be fooled into thinking that these foods branded “super” will protect you from chronic diseases and health problems.  Eating one or two of these nutrient dense foods on top of a poor diet is not the answer.

Eating too much of one type of food may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.  From my clinical nutrition experience I’ve noticed that many people in Ireland, don’t get enough dietary fibre, and minerals like magnesium, found in a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

The aim should be to include these  “Super” foods into a healthy diet that’s balanced with wholefoods like protein from meat, fish, beans & lentils and dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and good healthy fats.

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Choose Real Wholefoods

As a Nutritional Therapist my aim first and foremost is to encourage everyone to eat a healthy balanced diet.  Unfortunately in today’s fast paced society, the first choice of food is often convenient and processed.  We want something quick, and food choices are often made on “auto pilot” mode, filling ones trolley with the same type of foods and not aware that nutritious wholesome foods really do fuel our cells to function at their best.  Processed foods (e.g. cereals, jarred & packet sauces, breads, pizza, micro waved meals, packaged sliced meats, soft drinks) are high in sugar, salt and chemicals to preserve them.  In my one to one consultations and educational talks I highlight the negative effects these foods are having on our health and the benefits that everyone will get by switching to real wholesome foods.

The second step – top up on nutrient dense foods

Ok so you’ve a balanced diet, with no processed foods and you want to make sure all of your body systems are working optimally, you want to recover from a health condition or manage an existing one better or maybe you just want to pack in as much nutrients as your body can absorb to help prevent disease.  Then this is the time to top up with more nutrient dense foods or so called “Super” foods as the marketing guys like to call them.

As mentioned earlier, there are no standard criteria or approved list of super foods so it’s really down to learning what nutrients you need to pack in more of.  For example if you suffer from low moods you might want to increase your intake Omega 3 fats by increasing oily fish (like salmon, mackerel or herring) and adding chia seeds or ground flaxseeds to your porridge or yoghurt.   This is where you might need the support of a nutritional therapist to advice you on specific nutrients that you need more of to help you reach optimal health.

Lifestyle factors like binge drinking on alcohol, smoking, ongoing stress, or drinking large amounts of caffeine can rob our bodies of certain nutrients.  For example smokers need higher amounts of Vitamin C.  And ongoing stress depletes many B vitamins that are essential for energy.

Word of caution for those on medication

Healthy foods can cause problems with some people.  For example if you are taking certain medications e.g. blood thinners and are on “Warfarin” you cannot suddenly start loading yourself up with lots of green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts) that are high in Vitamin K.  Foods that are high in vitamin K can affect the way warfarin works in your body. Vitamin K helps your blood clot and works against warfarin. The more vitamin K-rich foods you eat, the lower the levels of warfarin in your body. This means your INR reading will be lower, and you will be more likely to form a blood clot.

Also some medications e.g. oral contraceptive pills lower the absorption of B vitamins (B2, B6, B12 and folic acid)  so you want to ensure you are topping up with lots of wholegrains, nuts, seeds, green vegetables to get those extra B’s.

We are all unique! So in a nut shell, it’s about getting back to basics and cooking smart with a variety of real simple nutritious foods.  Of course each and every one of us is biochemically different, and so you may have extra nutrient requirements based on your lifestyle, medical and health  history. This is where the support from a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist will help you to reach optimal health.  If you are interested in a personalised consultation I would be delighted to help you, just give me a call on 056 7780658 or 087 1266525 or email caroline@discovernutrition.ie

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