Shredding ‘fad food’ hype

PERHAPS it is time to separate the wheatgrass from the chia by looking at individual “superfoods”.

WHEATGRASS: Hype factor: High.

Generally taken as a tiny shot of bitter dark-green juice, this is the most macho of health drinks. It’s not bad for you, but there’s no scientific evidence for claims that it improves red blood cell production and circulation.

Pound-for-pound, its nutrient content is about the same as that of spinach, but because it is juiced there’s no fibre. I’d take eggs Florentine any day.

GOJI BERRIES: Hype factor: High.

What’s the point? Reports that these protect against heart disease and cancer, as well as boosting immunity and brain activity, get short shrift on the NHS website: “Most of the research into these conditions is small-scale, of poor quality and performed in laboratories using purified and highly concentrated extracts of the goji berry.” Expensive – and not very nice.

CHIA: Hype factor: Medium high.

These seeds are from a mint-like plant that grows in Latin America, which has only recently been available elsewhere but is much loved by Hollywood A-listers.

Weight for weight, chia has up to eight times more omega-3 than salmon, say advocates. But it’s a less useful kind of omega-3 than that in oily fish, and who’d eat a salmon-fillet-sized portion of these? Stick to sardines on toast.

QUINOA: Hype factor: Medium.

A seed that thinks it’s a grain, quinoa can be used like couscous. It is higher in protein and lower in carbs than traditional “starches”.

More to the point, it is good to eat provided you rinse it well before cooking to get rid of the bitter residue. Best of all, it’s a great gluten-free alternative. But concerns have been raised that the craze in the developed world has put the traditional market in Latin America under strain.

KALE:Hype factor: Low.

Not well-suited to the South African climate, its dark green leaves are loaded with vitamins, calcium and iron. Granted, iron from vegetables is not as easily assimilated as iron from meat, and badly cooked it tastes like cattle food.

But kale can be delicious. Buy the whole plumelike leaves so that it is easy to strip out the tough stems.

Toss the leaves in olive oil and salt, spread on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or so at 200ºC to make kale crisps. Or substitute for cavolo nero in Italian recipes. – The Telegraph

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