Summertime: synonymous with strawberries. For some maybe.
For others, the simple strawberry is now scorned upon. These people spit on my strawberries, and instead can talk of nothing but the glorious goji berry. I mention vegetable oil in their company, it’s like I’ve blasphemed. Coconut oil is the holy grail.
This, readers, is folly. It’s farcical. It’s food fads. And expensive ones at that.
A lot of these foods are marketed as ‘superfoods’. However, the term "superfood" actually has no regulatory approval and no accepted definition - it is marketing lingo. Frustratingly, it’s quite powerful marketing lingo, having a strong effect on consumers. YouGov tells us that 61% of us (suckers…myself very much included) have bought something because it is labelled "superfood".
Given all the hype around these wonder foods, the BBC recently commissioned a group of scientists to take some of these super expensive super foods and assess their relative ‘goodness’ against that of the cheaper alternatives. Guess what’s coming? Yep, it doesn’t take a psychic…the ‘poor relatives’ were not out-performed by the fancier fare. In fact, strawberries (£0.40/100g) have every bit as much vitamin C as goji berries (£2.20/100g). Sesame seeds (£0.44/100g) boast double the amount of iron plus larger quantities of calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 than chia seeds (£2.24/100g). Rapeseed oil (£0.70/100g) boasts much larger quantities of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (which is the best type of fat for heart health) than coconut oil (£1.99/100g). And the list goes on…
No one is questioning the fact that superfoods have health benefits, they most definitely do, but the conclusion being drawn is that cheaper alternatives do too, and we should perhaps celebrate these a bit more...”don’t let the great be the devil of the good”. These everyday foods are definitely kinder on the wallet than fashionable alternatives, and they still pack a nutritional punch.
Working alphabetically through my list…
Apples: there could be some truth to the old adage about apples - one a day keeps the Doctor away. Researchers at the University of Western Australia tracked 1,456 women aged 70-85 for 15 years, and found that those who ate approximately 1 apple a day had a 35% reduced risk of dying early compared with those who consumed the equivalent of 1 apple a month. The findings correlate with another study earlier this year which suggested that apples are better than statins for preventing strokes and heart attacks.***
Bananas: first and foremost, a great source of potassium which helps to protect your heart - multiple studies* associate them with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. But bananas can also give you that happy vibe – they contain tryptophan, a substance which quickly converts into the feel good hormone, serotonin, on consumption. A possible pre-party pick-me-up, for the more innocent amongst us!
Blackberries: About as cheap as you get if you pick them yourself – but also cheaper if bought frozen.
The dark blue colour ensures blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, which are well-known for lowering the risk of a number of cancers.
Also high in antioxidants so it packs a punch in fighting free radicals. Its high vitamin K content gives it great anti-inflammatory properties. It’s high in fiber and packed full of vitamins (incl. folic acid, a must for ladies with bumps).
I could work my way through the whole alphabet, but I think you’re probably getting the idea…
Rather than focusing on ‘super foods’, focus instead on having a super balanced diet, one that simply contains a range of every day foods. Save your hard-earned cash. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive eating. It’s not for the privileged few.
Nutrition, like power and politics, should be democratized.
*Dr Hodgson, University of Western Australia, 2016.
**2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
***The Week, 16 April 2016
I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, and make no claims to the contrary. What is written on this site should not be taken as fact or advice. It is merely an opinion blog.