So-called superfoods won’t save you from death

Blueberries

Photo by Flickr user Jennifer C, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Amy Fleming recently penned a great piece for The Guardian that provides a healthy dose of skepticism and science to counteract those over-hyped claims you’ve heard about blueberries, açaí, yuzu, or whatever the latest life-saving fruit is. She begins:

In the early 1990s, a cookbook called Superfoods appeared in the bookshops. It was co-written by the alternative medicine practitioner, Michael Van Straten, who is one of a handful of people said to have coined what has become one of the most spuriously bandied-about marketing terms of our times.

The book revealed Straten’s “four-star superfoods”, which “supply the vital bricks that build your body’s resistance to stress, disease and infection”. The list held few surprises, consisting of, you know, stuff that’s good for you: common fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts. Foods we’re especially keen on eating in January, as an antidote to Christmas excesses. Wouldn’t these foods be more accurately described as simply “food” (as opposed to junk food)? Nevertheless, the notion of superfoods was, and still is appealing. Except this century, the term is now used to assign near-magical powers to overpriced, exotic foodstuffs. It’s promotional potency went into turbo boost when the theories about antioxidants – probably the most successful “the science bit” spiel of all time – hit the public consciousness. Ever since, food sellers have clambered to keep “discovering” novel, unparalleled sources of “extraordinary nutrients”.

Fleming goes on to debunk the superiority of these foods that, while healthful, won’t keep you out of the grave. As she concludes, “the key advice remains the same: eat a varied diet including plenty of colourful vegetables and whole grains.” Amen to that. Check out her full post here.

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