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Healthy Life: Superfood or just a fad?

by Dianna Richardson, For the News Tribune | July 28, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. | Updated July 28, 2021 at 3:16 p.m.
Dr. Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.

A trip to the grocery store will result in discovery of multiple items ranging from fruits, veggies, spices, greens and protein powders all claiming to be a "superfood." What does this truly mean?

Savvy marketers have used the term to describe foods rich in nutrients and known to offer significant health benefits. Companies make millions on labeling these products as superfoods. Globally, superfoods were estimated to be a $138 billion market as of 2018. But do they really live up to the hype?

There is no set definition of the word "superfoods" or regulations surrounding the use of the term on packaging labels. Because of this, there is no guarantee a product with the superfood label offers any special health benefits or contains certain nutrients. Consumers are spending money in belief of healthier options, which aren't necessarily true. Sadly, in most cases, simply purchasing whole foods (at a much cheaper price) would offer the same level of nutrition. Furthermore, many superfood products contain proprietary blends and do not disclose how much of each ingredient - vitamins, minerals and antioxidants - a serving contains.

The problem remains many foods being promoted as superfoods have no greater health benefit than other similar foods. Here are some examples. While blueberries receive superfood claim, all berries are linked to improved vascular function, reduced heart disease and much more. It is the same with kale. All cruciferous vegetables, all leafy greens are high in antioxidants, anti- inflammatories and potential anti- tumor properties.

In fact, studies have examined vegetables for nutrient concentration and found watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, chicory, romaine, mustard greens, and endive all contained higher levels of 17 nutrients - including potassium, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C - than kale.

Even though so much attention is given to specific foods, such as superfoods, humans cannot survive on any one food. We eat a varied diet containing a variety of foods - containing a wide range of nutrients. For this reason, the totality of the diet, not the inclusion of a single food, is what matters when discussing health.

If your diet contains some superfoods but mostly consists of ultra-processed foods - fast food and foods high in added sugar - the benefits from superfoods are likely to be outweighed by the potential negative effects of the ultra-processed foods.

Diet is only one piece of the large puzzle that makes up overall health. Other factors include physical activity, sleep, stress and genetics.

Eating nutritious, balanced, diet rich in vegetables and fruits (whether they carry the superfood label or not) is one of the best ways to promote health while reducing the risk of various health conditions. The value of a good night's sleep, stress management and physical activity cannot be overstated. At a time when your grocery dollar must stretch further, take a moment to consider the many healthy options available rather than current marketing trends. Your health will thank you!

Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for more than 30 years. Core to her practice remains use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master's degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH CRANBERRIES

Makes: 4 servings

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide Brussels sprouts between two greased baking pans. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in cranberries.

Print Headline: Healthy Life: Superfood or just a fad?

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