One of the reasons people think a healthy diet is more expensive, is they believe you need to eat superfoods. These are foods that have exceptional nutrient density and should, the theory goes, be exceptionally good for you. Many superfoods also come with a whole host of health claims – they may clear up acne, help with weight loss, improve immunity, even prevent cancer! Problem is, most of these foods have little evidence to back up their claims. And you can get all the nutrients you need from common fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. In other words, you don’t need superfoods to be healthy!
The word superfood is strictly a marketing term and has no scientific meaning. You’ll notice this term is often applied to more exotic foods which are not native to the UK – things like Acai berries or Maca powder. Of course, the combination of exotic and long travel distance means shops can charge a premium for these foods. What they don’t tell you, is that you can get most of the same benefits from everyday foods. For example, Goji berries are said to be great sources of vitamin A and C, with 53mg of vitamin C per 100g. Yet the same amount of strawberries has 58mg of vitamin C.
You are also paying those high prices for the superpowers of superfoods. In addition to being high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, many superfoods have extra health claims attached. Acai berries prevent cancer, matcha green tea powder can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight, bee pollen speeds up wound healing. Often these claims are based on traditional medicine or anecdotes from devotees. There may be or one or two small studies, usually in rodents given large quantities of the superfood (more than any normal person would eat), with no control group. It is very rare to find a large, well designed, placebo-controlled study, in humans, on the effects of any superfood.
Some “superfoods” do make the transition from exotic import to mainstream supermarket staple. Ten years ago no one had heard of chia seeds, yet you can now buy Tesco own brand chia seeds for less than it costs to buy walnuts. So some superfoods can be great additions to your diet – but only after you’ve got the basics right. Adding some chia seeds to your diet will notmake up for a burger and pizza habit.
Fundamentally, most superfoods are a waste of money. You can get all the same nutrients and health benefits by eating a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. You simply don’t need superfoods to have a healthy diet!