The facts about superfoods

Story Highlights

  • The idea of “superfoods” has taken hold and it’s often hard to separate the hype from the facts.
  • Are all the superfoods as great as they claim to be?
  • Are you wasting money for proven health benefits?

 

We all know that some foods are healthier than others. However, recently idea of “superfoods” has taken hold and it’s often hard to separate the hype from the facts. Here we’ll take a look at some of these so-called superfoods and see if they are as super as they claim to be.

Acai

Derived from the acai palm tree native to South America, acai is can be eaten either raw or served as a juice and has up to four times more antioxidants than non-berry fruits and 10 times more than vegetables. Lab studies in animals have found acai can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer. It can also help reduce inflammation. There is no scientific evidence based on human studies supporting the use of acai for specific health-related purposes. In one study, rats given acai juice experienced no weight loss and independent studies proving that acai promotes rapid weight loss have not been published.

Blueberries

Valued for their high levels of antioxidants, it’s claimed that blueberries can help protect against heart disease and some cancers and improve your memory. A 2012 study of 93,600 women found that those who ate three or more serves of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack than those who ate berries once a month or less. Note, the study could not definitively prove that the berries caused the lower risk.

As for memory, a few studies have found a link between eating blueberries and a slower rate of cognitive decline and improved memory function.

Goji berries

Used in Chinese medicine for more than 6,000 years, goji berries are said to boost the immune system and stimulate brain activity, protect against heart disease and cancer, and improve life expectancy. There is no conclusive evidence that goji berries do any of these things. Since they are fairly expensive, why not stick to eating a range of fruit and vegetables rather than spend your money on this one berry with no proven health benefits.

Garlic

Throughout the ages garlic has had a variety of uses—food, money, medicine, aphrodisiac, vampire repellent. Recent evidence suggests that aged garlic extract may be effective against high blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and dementia. Although the evidence is not entirely conclusive, dietitians say that garlic is useful in cooking as an alternative to salt to add flavour.

Chocolate

Or to be more precise, cocoa extracts. The cocoa bean is botanically classified as berry-like1. While the jury is still out on whether cocoa products significantly reduce blood pressure, protect against bowel cancer, or reduce stress, it’s fair to say that, compared with other fruit powders, including acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate juice, cocoa powder and dark chocolate have equivalent or greater levels of antioxidants. But don’t get too excited—when it’s formulated into chocolate, cocoa powder is not as healthy as a berry. Although some of the good stuff ends up in the final product, so does a lot of sugar. However, including a sprinkle of raw cacao into a smoothie or munching on a small-amount of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate can make things test better and potentially help cardiovascular health.