blueberries

Ask a nutritionist: “Are ‘superfoods’ really better for you?”

Welcome to our new segment where each fortnight we ask our panel of qualified and respected nutritionists a question that has been puzzling you.

This week it is:

“Are ‘superfoods’ really better for you, or is it simply clever marketing?”

If you have a question for our expert panel to answer, please email [email protected]

Brie-Salagaras-nutritionist

Brie Salagaras – Compleat Nutrition

With all the hype about ‘superfoods’ magically making you healthy, it’s hard to decipher fact from fiction. Firstly, superfoods are foods that are dense in vitamins, minerals and other active ingredients that are beneficial for your health.

Evidence has shown that these foods help boost your immune system, protect your heart, decrease your risk of cancer, improve digestion and the lower risk of inflammatory disease. I recommend we eat a balanced diet while incorporating them wherever possible. The Australian Guide to Healthy eating recommends a wide variety of nutritious foods from each of the five food groups, so you could simply incorporate these superfoods into your daily recommended servings:

  • 5-6 serves of breads and cereals, i.e. oats, quinoa or brown rice.
  • 2 serves of fruit, i.e. blueberries or strawberries.
  • 2-3 serves of dairy, i.e. yoghurt or a similar dairy probiotic.
  • 5 serves of vegetables, i.e. spinach or broccoli or any multitude of colours.
  • 2-3 serves of meat or meat alternatives, i.e. salmon or legumes.

Although superfoods are good for our health, it’s important to recognise that while certain foods are linked to health benefits, they are not going to magically cure us of all infirmities or illnesses.

About Brie Salagaras

Compleat Nutrition

Brie has studied a Bachelor of Health and Exercise Science, Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certificate of Diabetes Education. She is currently completing another masters degree in Exercise Physiology Chronic Disease Rehabilitation. Brie is a strong advocate for a holistic approach to a healthy living and incorporating both a healthy diet and exercise into each and every day.

Hannah-Gentile-nutritionist

Hannah Gentile - Eat Well Australia

The answer here depends on your definition of ‘superfoods’. I consider a superfood to be something which is nutrient dense with positive benefits for health and wellbeing. The reality is most fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy are superfoods.

They contain many vitamins and minerals as well as essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. These are substances which the body cannot produce and must obtain from food. They are nutrients necessary for a healthy body and, ultimately, for our survival. So in that sense, yes, superfoods are better for you. However, the term superfood is not a medical one.

It is a word used by marketing agencies to sell certain products. If you are buying a food in packaging that does not resemble a natural food source it is probably too highly processed for beneficial nutrients to be at a level useful to the body.

Buying superfoods fresh and unprocessed is the best way to gain their nutrient value, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and eggs. Purchasing an energy bar or container of fruit juice is never going to provide you with the same nutrients as you would get from the real deal!

About Hannah Gentile

Eat Well Australia

Hannah Gentile has a Masters of Nutrition from Deakin University. She has spent the past 10 years working in the fields of behavioural science, health, and nutrition with women and children across New Zealand and Australia. Hannah decided to focus her nutritional background on women and children after experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. Addressing the need for good quality information, especially for mothers, Hannah is determined to provide a service women can turn to during the most important stages of their life.

Mitch-Smith-nutritionist

Mitch Smith – Health Management

Every day we’re bombarded with statements in the media such as: ‘The top 10 superfoods your diet should not be without!’; but what is a superfood? And how on Earth did it get to be so super? If you Google the word ‘superfood’, you will get 5,790,000 results!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply eat a truck load of these so-called ‘superfoods’, then rip off our shirts to unveil our Superman suit and rescue hundreds of people from a burning building? Well, maybe that’s just me after I’ve read the packaging!

But you can understand how it can be overwhelming and confusing to the average person who just wants to eat healthy! A ‘superfood’ is a term used to describe a food that is exceptionally high in nutrients and gives you more bang for your buck. However, it is important not to just rely on these ‘oh so super’ foods alone, as a healthy diet requires a wide variety of foods from all food groups.

So, if you like chia seeds, goji or acai berries, kale or spinach, go ahead and include them in your diet as they are jam-packed full of nutrients. But just be aware that they are not going to cure cancer, give you super human strength, and are unlikely to empower you to rescue hundreds of people from a burning building.

About Mitch Smith

Health Management

As an accredited dietitian and accredited sports dietitian; it’s Mitch’s mission to debunk as many nutrition myths as possible. He works with elite professional athletes from a range of sports such as triathlon, body building and football, as well as the Cairns Taipans NBL team (don’t hold that against him!). Mitch has a passion for helping men lose weight and get fit and healthy. He practises what he preaches and translates complicated nutritional jargon into easy-to-understand advice. Mitch has just completed his first Half Ironman in Cairns.

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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