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Superfoods: Fact, fiction and important information
The topic of superfoods has been all over the news. From Oprah to the local health food store, everyone is proclaiming the benefits of superfoods. But, which foods are they and what are the true facts about superfoods?
Superfoods are actually a media coined term and without any confirmation by either the medical, nutritional or dietician community. These are supposed to be foods that naturally contain high quantities of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, antioxidants, manganese and anthocyanins; and yet are low in fat content. These superfoods can help lower cholesterol, Type II diabetes and blood pressure as well as reduce the potential risk of heart disease. They have also been proclaimed to assist the body in fighting off the effects of exposure to radiation.
Any fruit or vegetable with bright coloring is considered to be a superfood. This can run the gamut from raspberries, blueberries, lettuce, avocados, yams, celery, citrus fruits, bee pollen, brown rice and even sea vegetables such as the kelp varieties. Other superfoods that have entered the foray include hemp seed, barley grass, chia seeds, coconut oil, sprouts, chlorella, macca, blue-green algae, natto and yes, even dark chocolate. The problem with the topic of superfoods is – the food product itself needs to be examined before you buy and eat it. If you are going to the grocery store and buying the standard fruits and vegetables they probably contain pesticides. While washing does remove the exterior chemicals, pesticides are sprayed throughout the growing process and are contained inside the food itself. Another topic that has been hotly debated is genetically modified foods, known as GMOs. These are foods strains that have been genetically engineered to fight off diseases and pests that typically invade the food source. There are no long term studies involved in the ingestion of GMOs and therefore ‘food purists’ and naturalists argue that the benefits as a superfood may be offset by potential harm in the future. Another topic to be concerned about is the country that the product comes from. Not all countries have the same growing, harvesting and manufacturing requirements that are found in the U.S. and Canada. These countries may even use chemicals and pesticides that have been banned in North America.
The answer to the above, of course, is to buy organic. Simply buying something that says its organic is not a guarantee. The label must say USDA Certified Organic, to ensure that the grower or supplier is complying with the guidelines established to be a true organic product. Almost all of the grocery stores in America, and most in Canada, carry USDA Certified Organic products.
Since most of us don’t consume the quantities of healthy foods, let alone superfoods, that we need each day, the alternative might be to consider supplements. Not all supplements are equal. Buying a cheap variety at a discount store may offer you a discounted price, but, you get what you pay for. Usually, the cheaper varieties do not contain the higher percentage of the main ingredient and may contain other non-nutritional additives. The best source for supplements is to go to a health food store. The staff are usually well educated on the various brands and benefits and can discuss your specific questions.
If you are the kind of person that wants additional information, there are a number of excellent books on the topic of superfoods. Most nutritionists will emphasize that it’s all about what you eat and the body’s retention ability. Since the body will not retain more than it needs, taking a power house amount of the superfoods will simply be a waste of time and money. Your body will simply eliminate the unnecessary portions. So how do you decide what to buy?
The first intelligent step that you should take is to see both a physician and a nutritionist. Have your blood work done to see if there are any notable problems such as high cholesterol, etc. as well as general blood pressure and any at risk medical conditions such as a potential for Type II diabetes. Work with a nutritionist to establish a baseline guide of the type of superfoods that are best for your diet and medical needs. Always advise all of your health counselors on not only any supplements you are currently taking, but any medication that you are on. In some cases, supplements can offset medication, making this a dangerous road to travel.
A general rule-of-thumb for adding superfoods and superfood supplements to your dietary regiment is to research if there are any drug interactions. It is important to use a reliable source such as Lexi-Comp that has studies of drug interactions and supplements. When you develop a list of the types of safe superfoods you want to add to your diet, you can purchase some as fresh organic and others as supplements.
The types of superfoods that are best for you are completely dependent upon what you specific body requirements are. There is no ‘magic pill’ that contains everything that you want. I know, we are in an immediate gratification society and more accustomed to this type of answer, but, if you accomplish a little due diligence, homework and consult with your health advisors, you should be able to get a streamlined list of your specific needs and take it from there.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.