Superfoods v Super Foods

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I was walking around the Noosa Farmers Markets a few weeks ago and shared a smoothie purchased from one of the stands. I hadn’t realised until after that this was a ‘Superfood Smoothie consisting of a number of items, one of which was Maca Root Powder.

Magazines articles, social media and the like have driven a rise in daily health smoothies which are often made with spirulina powder, frozen acai and other items. I even saw an article in the paper on the weekend about the return of ‘Vintage Superfoods’. Enter the era of the Superfood!

This has me thinking – why are we so focused on spending money on powdered forms of ‘Superfoods’ and potentially ignoring the many wonderful super foods (ie organic, locally grown, seasonal produce) right at our doorsteps?

I’m not against boosting ones diet with appropriate supplementation but I do think that we need to look at this issue closely and do our research properly. There are so many superfoods that have made their way on to shelves recently that we can easily get confused about what we are actually consuming and perhaps get a bit carried away with trying to achieve optimal health through a range of frozen, packaged and powdered products.

For the most part, these products won’t cause any health issues and will actually result in the purported benefits that are listed on the side of the packet. However, for some people with digestive, endocrine or intestinal issues, some of these so called superfoods can cause further issues. This could also be a problem if people are consuming these foods in excess or on a daily basis in place or a variety of seasonal produce.

One of these could potentially be Maca Powder. This powder is derived from a root belonging to the radish family, grown in Peru; it is commonly known as the Peruvian Ginseng. Maca’s reported benefits include increase in energy, sexual function and mood, improved general health and it also provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. This is a great supplement for much of the population who are lacking a little in some minerals and finding their energy levels waning. However, Maca does increase the production of testosterone in the body for both men and women. While men may benefit from this,too much testosterone can cause problematic hormonal changes in women. This would be of particular concern if a female already had a predisposition to higher testosterone levels due to an endocrine system imbalance. Another side effect of Maca can also be an upset stomach and, due to its stimulant properties, it can also disrupt normal sleep patterns. For this reason, I don’t believe that it should be added to smoothies at market stalls – it should be prescribed by a nutrition coach or naturopath who has taken some background information of the person into consideration.

Frozen Acai can be purchased online and this is quite popular due to it being cheaper than in stores. After looking at the nutritional information of an online brand recently, it was clear that a lot of sugar has been added to this product putting it closer to the category of superfood sorbet than superfood supplement. Even if a product is advertised as healthy, it is important to still check the ingredients for extras that we may not want to consume.

There are so many super foods available to us direct from local farmers at markets or just in our regular supermarket. Avocados provide a good dose of healthy fats that are important for our metabolism, endocrine system and general wellbeing. Red meat provides us with high levels of iron that is essential for muscle and brain function and to help increase haemoglobin levels to carry oxygen around the body, thereby supporting basic cellular function. Spinach is a great source of zinc which is beneficial for immune boosting, keeping our skin clear and healthy and it also directly affects strength development as it plays a primary role in anabolic hormone production.

Maca, Chia, Spirulina, Acai, Goji, Noni and many other superfoods can be great supplements. However, every person handles substances differently so we must be cautious when taking any herbs and always check with your health care provider before regularly including these in your diet. It is true that some foods are higher in vitamins and minerals than others, but no single food provides us with everything we need. The best way to achieve optimal health is to eat a variety of good quality (organic where possible), seasonal, locallygrown produce. Enjoy a rainbow diet of fruit and vegetables, grass fed meats, healthy fats and supplement where appropriate and necessary  and you will be well on your way to a more energetic and vibrant you!