Superfoods, life changing or just a myth?

superfood

I know the feeling all too well, waking up way too early on a Monday morning, stretching my arms, yawning shamelessly as I put on my dressing gown and make my way down to the Kitchen. Whilst my bare feet are trying to get accustomed to the cold kitchen tiles I always find myself dreaming of freshly baked croissants and a strong coffee as I opt for the healthier version instead and pour some orange juice into my low-fat, gluten-free, vitamin rich, acai berry smoothie. Brzzzz, the sound of my blender trying to blend all the ‘super’ healthy ingredients makes my Monday morning headache intensify by a tenfold. Then I look at the bright side, It’s not even 9 o’clock and I’ve already ingested myself with more vitamins than the average human being requires on a daily basis. Not much later, by the time I am finally in my first lecture I can already feel my stomach growling due to the hunger. Those superfoods may be known for being ‘healthy’ but they sure don’t fill me up very well.

If you’ve been at all the tiniest bit concerned with your health and diet over the past few years, or just been reading the newspaper or wathching the television, you are likely to know what I am talking about. Superfoods; “will make you live longer,” “will make you lose more weight than ever before,” and will even “cure cancer”. These are the claims that have been prominent on many headlines, however there is not actually that much evidence to support these claims.

One of the biggest issues at hand is the fact that no one is sure of what a superfood really is. As there is a lack in evidence that the products we label as superfoods are truly better for us than the vegetables and fruits that are prescribed to us in a regular balanced diet. In a report on superfoods in 2011, the National Health Service (NHS) mentioned that “There is no official definition of a superfood and the EU has banned the use of the word on product packaging unless the claim is backed up by convincing research.” This supports that fact that prior to this statement, superfoods was more a marketing term used in the media than an actual health description placed on foods. This raises questions on whether superfoods are actually more beneficial to us, or just as beneficial as regular fruits and vegetables.

Mariëlle, a nutrition scientist in the south of the Netherlands, mentioned that to her, as well as others in her profession, the term ‘superfood’ has absolutely no meaning. This is peculiar and noteworthy as these are supposedly the people that understand food the best. Mariëlle mentions that “it’s mainly the newly popularized superfoods such and Goji and Acai berries that are the results of unsupported health-benefit claims”. She highlights that “these foods are labeled as having super powers for a human’s health, allowing companies to sell them at a high price to a continuously increasing customer base, although the fact that they have super powers is not even fully supported. It is nothing more than the result of false advertising and smart marketing”.

False advertising may seem like it does little to no harm, just place some fake labels here, and some exaggerated details there. However, Demi, a third year student at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, feels highly betrayed by the so called ‘media nutritionists’. She states “in my first year of studying, I was challenged by the fact that my mom was no longer there to prepare my meals for me. As I started cooking, I learned more and more about health and the benefits that certain ‘super’ foods have on your health. I began eating healthier, or at least at the time I believed it was, and in turn spent an increasing amount of money on my food”. She was contempt with spending more of her money on superfoods and she was lead to believe that they are extra beneficial to her health. Once learning about the fact that the majority of these claims are exaggerated, or even fake, she became furious. She stated “it is unfair to deceive people to believe that the product that does not deliver what the customer pays for. People need to be informed that their money is not spend on health benefits but rather on a marketing term”.

Unfortunately, unless sufficient evidence will be provided in the near future, superfoods continue to be merely a marketing term, and you will need to continue to eat a balanced diet, not drink or smoke, and do plenty of exercise if you really want to live a long and healthy life. So the next time you’re getting up early on a Monday morning, despite considering to snooze your alarm a thousand more times, you might make the morning a little bit better and opt for that fresh croissant anyways.

 

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