We should be focusing on superfood and not superfoods …….
Eating blueberries or seaweed every day won’t make you live to be a hundred years old. But including a variety of colour in your diet and having a rich selection of nourishing foods will go a long way to contributing to healthy ageing.
A super food is defined as a food that provides a high density of nutrients. Sometimes concentrations of a particular nutrient can be very high or very uncommon in Nature. Take blueberries or pomegranates for example, which are high in a flavonoid called anthocyanin. This accounts for their vibrant blue, purple and red hues. Anthocyanins have been used historically to treat conditions as diverse as high blood pressure, liver detoxification, dysentery and diarrhoea, urinary problems including kidney stones and urinary tract infections, and even the common cold. They have even been known to yield improvements to vision and blood circulation.
But does this mean you should be consuming them on a daily basis? We do not know, for example, whether these apparent health benefits stem from anthocyanins alone, or the way they interact with other plant compounds. There is a tendency to ‘big up’ single ingredients in a mix of foods as having that incredible star quality but this may not always be the case.
Antioxidants are a good example of why we should not focus on individual benefits. They are chemical properties of fruits and vegetables that are known to support the anti-ageing process by protecting us against free radical attack. Because of this knowledge, the market became flooded with individual supplements claiming to halt the ageing process. Unfortunately this misinterpreted the way they work. Giving them in large doses in isolation might even prevent our own cell protection from kicking in. Each antioxidant does have unique health-promoting capabilities. But they evolved within the whole fruit or vegetable and are a part of an elaborate network. No single substance can do the work of the whole crowd.
So more and more science is showing us that the super power of certain ingredients in different food comes from the way they interact with other nutrients in the foods we are eating. It is hugely important to have a diet that is rich and diverse and not put the same foods in trolley when you visit the supermarket each week.