A new year means a new list of superfoods that are hyped up for a short period of time, and for anyone looking for the healthiest foods to add to their diet, having a list of more than one superfood can get overwhelming and expensive.
In previous years, foods like kale, cauliflower and Goji berries have been given this title, but this year we’ve seen everything from spices to moringa (again) and even something as simple as eggs.
“I think sometimes the term ‘superfood’ can be a bit misleading,” says registered dietitian Nicole Osinga. “It can exaggerate the healthful properties of food. Of course, a number of foods are healthy, however, we have this image or mythology that certain foods are so highly nutritious and extra special that they’re worth spending a ton of money on.”
Registered dietitian Shahzadi Devje adds obsessing over certain foods draws the attention away from your whole diet.
“In this era of instant gratification, we’re always on the hunt for quick fix solutions,” she tells Global News. “And terms like superfoods appeal to the masses. I am afraid there are no quick-fix solutions here. Enjoy a variety of foods daily, and by all means, mix things up and enjoy the experience of eating.”
Below, our experts go through some of the latest superfood trends of 2018 to see if they are really worth the hype.
Devje says eggs are nutritious, but they shouldn’t be considered a superfood. “They’re relatively low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. People are often concerned about the effect of eating eggs on their cholesterol levels,” she continues.
She adds despite some of the bad press, research still shows an egg a day is not associated with coronary heart disease or stroke in healthy adults, but having more than seven per week could increase your risk.
Osinga, however, says eggs could be a superfood because of their well-rounded nutrition profile. “They are easy to work with and cost-effective. Don’t forget to eat the yolk – the yolk still contains a lot of protein, along with fat-soluble nutrients.”
Southeast Asians in particular have been using ghee for years, Devje says, and it has been touted to have numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, increasing metabolism, and supporting heart health.
“What’s important to note is that most of the data comes from animal studies. However, because of its high saturated fat content, ghee has been accused for causing the increased incidence of heart disease in South Asians.”
Osinga says because ghee is clarified butter, it is sill high in calories and fat. “Although there is mixed research around saturated fat and if it should be labeled as ‘bad’ fat, I would rather see my clients get fat from unsaturated sources, such as nuts, seeds and avocados.”
Moringa, which can be bought in powder form, also has an impressive nutritional profile, Devje says. “[It has] all nine essential amino acids, and it’s also a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and antioxidants.”
She says although it would be a great option to add to your diet, you can also get the same nutritional boost from other everyday fruits and veggies (and save money in the long-run).
Osinga adds more research into the benefits of Morgina need to be done. “While both the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are somewhat interesting … it is hard to recommend this supplement over other options.”
“Cumin is rich in iron, potassium and zinc, and is often considered to have health boosting properties, but so do other herbs and spices in your pantry. Yes, it’s a spice you’d want to have in your cupboard to bring flavour and few nutrients to your recipes, but I wouldn’t obsess over it and award it with ‘superfood’ status,” Devje says.
Osinga adds while it has been said to assist with blood sugar regulation and digestion, we don’t consume enough of it to reap those benefits.
“These fungi are low in calories and fat, and have a high selenium content, which prevents oxidative damage to your body,” Devje says. She adds they are a rich source of vitamin B and have a higher copper content — supporting your immune system.
“With more than 90 per cent water content, adding mushrooms to dishes such as stews can make us feel fuller without boosting calorie content,” Osinga adds. “Mushrooms also have compounds which can boost the immune system and lower cancer risk.”
Devje says some nuts have great nutritional benefits, but this doesn’t mean you need to consume them in oil form.
“There are so many ways you can enjoy nuts ‘as is’ and you don’t have to resort to an expensive nut oil. I would regard nuts as a ‘superfood’ but not necessarily a nut oil because you can derive all the benefits from the actual nut.”
Osinga says walnut oils have a great fatty acid profile and the majority of us could use more omega 3s in our diet.
Watermelon seeds may get just as popular as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, Devje predicts, and for good reason. “Watermelon seeds are packed with protein, B-vitamins, magnesium and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.”
And although you could sprinkle them on salads or add them to oatmeal, you’re going to have to eat a lot to get the full benefits. “We already know that nuts and seeds are good for our health in reasonable amounts. But I wouldn’t call one type of seed a ‘superfood’ over another.”
Osinga says you can get protein and B-vitamins from other seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower.
Sorghum is an ancient grain, said to be one of the top five cereal crops in the world, Devje says. “It’s definitely nutrient-dense and provides protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and fibre.”
Osinga adds it is also a good option for people who have celiac disease.