Mild Mannered Foodstuffs
Have you heard about Super Foods? They are just like other foods, except they are SUPER! Many come from far-away places like tropical South America and the mysterious Middle East and have exotic names like chia seed and kefir! Others lurk in your fridge right now, like blueberries or kale! They have all kinds of very good things in them that are very good for you!
So what, exactly, is a super food? I don’t know. I have a degree in Nutrition/Food Science, not marketing. That’s right- the term “super food” was created by people who want to sell you pomegranate-goji berry-salmon smoothies, not by nutrition or medical science professionals. So is the whole super food thing a bunch of organic, fair-trade, nitrate-and-nitrite-free bologna?
Sort of. The scientific community has, indeed, responded to the commercial community and taken an analytical look at the super food trend. Here are some easy reading articles which spell it all out better than I ever could.
- The European Food Information Council made this statement back in 2012.
- The National Health Service of the United Kingdom Said this in 2013.
- Not every commercial outlet is buying the super food thing! Live Science posted this critical article in 2013.
- Speaking of criticism, this 2013 article from Science –Based Medicine rails against a certain famous medical professional’s position on some allegedly super functional edibles.
The long and short of it is this: some foods have high levels of nutrients (like fiber, antioxidants, or omega-3 fatty acids) and a relatively low number of calories per serving. These nutrients have been shown to prevent diseases. However, most of the supportive scientific evidence comes from experiments using concentrations of these “super” nutrients that are difficult or impossible to achieve through diet.
So what’s a DIYeter to do? Should we swear off spirulina and retire our quinoa recipes? My view
(and there are others) is that you should eat the foods you like. If you like flax seeds then by all means keep enjoying them. However, don’t assume eating one or two special foods each day will fix an otherwise under-nourishing diet. Getting all the stuff your body needs requires variety, but does not require eating kale. This is a good thing because in my opinion (and there are others) kale tastes yucky.
How, then, do we get the variety we need? Thankfully, the research has been done, and it is on the internet. Here’s the site that explains what a typical American’s overall diet should look like. If you were ever really confused by the old food pyramids, the USDA’s new My Plate Model will make you very happy. There’s plenty of room on that plate for garlic, cranberries, sardines, soy beans, and even kale if you like them. So eat up! Follow the guide for serving size and number and you’ll get what you need.
If your DIYet has been blended with the food ways of a culture other than “typical American”, take a look at the USDA’s listing of ethnic / cultural food guides. Canada has a food rainbow, Japan has a top. They are all ways of saying the same thing- eat lots of different stuff!
So, citizens, when you hear about the latest berry, grain, or leafy food that can boost your metabolism, prevent disease, and make you look like a movie star- don’t believe it. Maybe try that berry if you want to, but remember that it takes a Justice League of foods to make a healthy you!