Superfoods: Hype or beneficial?
You can find superfoods almost on every street corner. They are touted by all kinds of shops as very beneficial. You must be almost crazy if you don’t add superfoods to your daily diet. The Nutrition Center, on the other hand, says that it is a money grab and that you do not need them at all. Are superfoods hype or beneficial?
What exactly is a superfood?
Superfood is an American term that applies to foods with special properties. For example, they must have at least ten unique properties and must contain a high content of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, and protective substances. Officially, superfoods are a specific collection of edible, nutritious plants that cannot be classified as either food or medicine. In any case, they are unprocessed foods.
In my view, there are many more superfoods than the boxes and bags that you can now buy in every store. Superfood also means that your daily diet consists of plenty of healthy, full-fledged building materials. By providing your body with as much full-fledged, unprocessed, healthy food as possible: slow carbohydrates, good proteins, healthy fats, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and protective substances. The advantage of influencing your health with food is that it is not seen as a medicine (unlike powders and pills) and that you will notice improvements very quickly. And that is of course a wonderful reward for eating differently.
There are many more superfoods
If it were up to me, we would greatly expand the list of ‘foods as superfoods. For example, what do you think of the superfood garlic to add to your daily food? It is not without reason that onions and garlic were mandatory for the pyramid builders in Egypt: with so many people together, it was important to keep germs at bay as much as possible.
Also, a germ like the broccoli sprout (brocco sprout) is a superfood, because it still has a protective effect days after you eat it.
Herbs like rosemary, basil, and parsley contain a range of protective substances and natural anti-inflammatories. An increasing number of people are resistant to antibiotics. So it might be a good thing to keep your internal environment in order by using herbs, garlic, and onion on a daily basis.
Traditional herbs like dandelion, birch leaf, nettle, and tricolor violet can easily add to your daily nutrition are added and are fantastic support in the removal of waste.
Also, more and more spices are being rediscovered with so many healthy properties that they deserve the designation ‘super food’. For instance turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander.
Superfoods way too expensive?
As with trendy products, the superfoods in the store are also quite expensive. Still, I think there are many valuable and healthy superfoods that are well worth their price. Perhaps we should view the sense or nonsense of superfoods in light of the following factors that have changed a lot over the past fifty years:
Only (on average) 3% of our food is still unprocessed. Unprocessed food has many advantages over-processed food. Just think of the enzymes, vitamins, and fats that remain intact.
Since the Second World War, there have been major changes in the field of nutrition:
Food is no longer sprayed (unless organic). This means that our body has to detoxify more foreign substances. Moreover, unsprayed food contains much more protective substances than sprayed food.
We now have a lot of xeno-estrogens that are difficult to break down by our liver and can lead to an estrogen surplus. Excess estrogen then accumulates in adipose tissues, reproductive organs, brain and liver, preventing them from performing their function properly. See fun fact Hormone-disrupting substances.
Fats have changed (changed in large part to Trans fats). Unfortunately, trans fats are not able to take over the effect of healthy fats, which we need for all body processes.
Meat and dairy now largely comes from animals that are kept in stables instead of pastures. The result is that their fatty acid pattern has changed considerably (at the expense of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, it now contains a large part of omega 6). In the Netherlands, we eat an average of twenty times too much omega 6 compared to omega 3. This is even partly caused by eating farmed fish. Many people eat fish to get extra omega 3 fatty acids but are not aware that farmed fish is now also a decent source of omega 6. In such an imbalance, these fatty acids are no longer properly converted into the substances GLA, EPA, and DHA, and so-called prostaglandins. These substances regulate a range of processes in our body: from hormones and blood pressure to anti-inflammatory.
In stabled animals, their animal products also contain less protein than before. Just like a person who does not move, animals lose part of their muscle mass (proteins) and gain more fat mass. Proteins are important building and repair materials for all kinds of vital functions in our body.
High fertilizer use and acid rain have contributed to the fact that there are far fewer vitamins, minerals and trace elements in our diet than years ago.
More and more people have started working irregular hours. This has a major influence on hormonal processes, the detoxification of our liver, and our biorhythm. If our liver does not produce enough protective substances at night due to biorhythm disturbances, this has far-reaching consequences for our health.
We have started to consume much more refined products (think flour, salt, and white sugar). Refined products lack most of their vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. These are all substances that are essential for every process in our body and for our health.
We are eating less and less fruits and vegetables. Only A few percent of the Dutch meet the recommended standard of the Nutrition Center. And even these people have very regular shortages of all kinds of vital substances such as vitamins A, D, C, zinc, iodine, folic acid, and selenium.
We use the healing power of herbs and spices much less than other cultures. By using flavor enhancers in many of our foods, we hardly need to add herbs and spices.
Medicines are increasingly used. We’re getting older but not really healthier. Just think how many people use antacids, diuretics, blood pressure inhibitors or contraception. I am of course not saying that people should stop taking their medicines, but they should pay extra attention to their diet. Almost every drug significantly increases the need for vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. If only because your liver has to detoxify much more and needs plenty of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids for this.
Superfood as a helping hand
I think that due to all the major changes in diet, environment, and lifestyle, our bodies could really use a helping hand in many cases. Whether you do this in the form of ready-made superfoods or by adding superfoods such as fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, healthy fats, garlic, onions, healthy proteins, herbs, and spices to every meal. Go for your health by eating nutritious, healthy, and tasty nutrients every day.
The warnings of the Nutrition Center
I think it is right that the Nutrition Center warns that we should not go overboard with the use of superfoods. Super-foods are now really hype and that sometimes leads to exorbitant prices. The skepticism about superfoods (and also supplements) is of course largely motivated by the fact that the Netherlands is a prosperous country, where food is available in abundance. But food is not synonymous with nutrition. A large part of the diseases that plague us are deficiency diseases, as strange as that may sound. It is because our food contains too few essential nutrients. Surely the Nutrition Center couldn’t have missed this?
I, therefore, find it a pity that the Nutrition Center clings so cramp-like to their disc of five and thus discourages the use of superfoods.
“Discover everything and keep the good” is my motto. Old wisdom (also from other and Eastern cultures where some of the superfoods have their origin) is still invaluable. This has benefited our health for thousands of years. It seems that nowadays people think: we should leave everything old behind us and embrace all modern things. That’s why ‘discover everything and keep the good’ is a valuable way of thinking for me. That certainly does not mean that I think we should believe everything that is said about a product. On the other hand, we really don’t have to believe everything that is said about ‘scientific research.
We are so concerned about rising healthcare costs but are only concerned with cutting back on illness. We have more than 5.3 million chronically ill in the Netherlands. An unhealthy lifestyle is seen as the ‘worst enemy of our health. Let’s be happy that there are people who want to invest in their health. Who knows, one day this ancient saying will become the foundation of our medicine:
“The doctor of the future will no longer give drugs, but will interest his patients in caring for the human body, in nutrition and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
Thomas Edison, 1847