Beware the super label

Xanthe Clay

HUGE claims are made for chia, kale, goji berries and the like – but does their supposed super-goodness stand up to scientific scrutiny? The question is posed as another week passes and another in-vogue fruit or vegetable is being eaten by the “it-crowd”.

Right now, if you want to be ahead of the curve, get hold of moringa – the latest superfood on the block. A green powder made from the leaves of a tree native to Africa and Asia, it is reported to have twice the vitamin A of carrots and twice the protein of yogurt to boost the immune system and improve your circulation and skin – and do the ironing. OK, not the last one.

Madonna loves coconut water, Michelle Obama rates sweet potatoes, and Gwyneth Paltrow can’t get enough of quinoa.

Pop singers, film stars and socialites adopt each new fad with the fervour of a new celebrity best friend – one that will guarantee eternal health and well- being.

But are these foodstuffs really worth the fuss?

Susan Jebb, new professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, is sceptical.

“Evidence that any one food has specific effects on long-term health is lacking and usually more to do with PR and celebrity endorsement than scientific evidence of the kind that would be required if a drug was to make such claims,” Jebb says.

Superfoods, on the other hand, are generally not unhealthy, even if they aren’t as marvellous as the hype suggests.

There seems to be nothing wrong with encouraging people to eat them. After all, it makes a change from the onslaught of advertising encouraging us to eat junk, and might even encourage people to try a new food.

Jebb agrees, but with reservations. “It can undermine the concept of dietary variety – one type of food alone will not keep you healthy, we need a wide mix.”

They are often expensive, she says, and at a time when many are struggling to balance the household budget.

Rather than buying pricey pomegranates and blueberries, “people may be better off spending the same on twice as much of cheaper foods”.

But according to doctor and science journalist Michael Mosley, there are exceptions – berries in particular.

“I do think there is some evidence that blackberries and blueberries are good for the brain, and they are really low calorie,” he says. But he agrees that many superfoods are generally overrated.

“The most important thing is a rainbow diet – lots of different colours on your plate so you are getting lots of different phytonutrients.

“It’s also crucial that the food be as fresh as possible, since the vitamin and mineral content tends to fall with storage.”

The verdict? Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Fresh food is super food. And if you like the latest superfood, go for it.

It’s not roquette science. – The Telegraph

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