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Food Hygiene Certificate Blog

True or false: Superfood myths

Here we take a look at critically-acclaimed ‘superfoods’ in an attempt to distinguish how good they are actually are for your body.

Maintaining a healthy diet is something we all know we should be doing. Drinking lots of water, eating your 5-a-day and making sure you regularly exercise sounds pretty straightforward, but in reality, we often let these factors slip.

Consuming superfoods, as well as your everyday fruit and veg, is a great way to boost your immune system and general health, as they are highly nutrient-rich.

Avocados, spinach and lentils are some of the more well-known superfoods, full of protein, vitamin K and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). However, in recent years the list of these ‘so-called’ superfoods has grown substantially, with many health claims being made about a range of foods. But how accurate are these claims, and is there actually any evidence behind them?

We look to discover the truth behind superfood myths.

Healthy juices

Many of us lead a very busy lifestyle, so finding the time to buy and cook healthy dishes from scratch can often seem impossible when faced with the convenience of grabbing a three minute microwavable meal, or opting for a quick oven dish. But even if the food we eat isn’t as healthy as it could be, drinking healthy smoothies or teas could be a quick and easy solution.

Green tea, for example, contains B vitamins, folate and antioxidants and many people drink it because they believe it helps them lose weight. However, reviews and studies on green tea show no evidence that it is linked to weight loss.

Health enthusiasts have also argued that the drink reduces cholesterol and prevents cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), there is no evidence of this.

On the other hand, wheatgrass is more beneficial, containing chlorophyll, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, calcium and magnesium. However, although there is no doubting that a wheatgrass tonic is good for you, the NHS claims that the nutrient content of the juice is pretty much equivalent to that of common vegetables like broccoli or spinach.

Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, commented: "There is no sound evidence to support the claim that wheatgrass is better than other fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrition.

"Although it contributes towards your recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, a single shot of wheatgrass doesn't count as one of your 5-a-day. But if you're a big fan, you could combine a shot with a fruit or veg smoothie."

Blueberries or beetroot juice?

Blueberry fans believe that the fruit helps protect against heart disease, some cancers and is even believed to improve memory. Nutritionists claim that with its high level of antioxidants, if a person wants to make only one change to their diet, it should be to include blueberries.

Research surrounding claims of cancer prevention and improved memory hold little verification and remove blueberries from the superfood category. Yet nevertheless, blueberries are tasty choice of fruit and will count as one of your 5-a-day. They are proven to be low in calories while high in nutrients, including phenolic compounds.

But are blueberries healthier than beetroot juice? Historically, beetroot has been used medicinally for a number of illnesses, including fevers, constipation and general skin problems. In recent years, health claims say that beetroot can prevent dementia, boost exercise performance and decrease blood pressure.

Research has been conducted that concluded that beetroot juice was associated with a modest reduction in blood pressure. However, according to BDA, additional long-term trials would be required in those at larger risk of heart disease before beetroot can be fully classified as clinically useful.

Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and have more recently proven extremely popular superfoods among celebrities and models. But with such a high cost, is there truth behind the hype?

Evidence here comes from scientific studies that use purified extracts of the fruit at a higher concentration than the product actually contains. Actual comprehensive evidence remains to be seen and experts recommend that we stick to eating a range of fruits and veg rather than spending on one item with no proven health benefits.


Healthy chocolate?

Of course, eating large amounts of chocolate is never going to be good for your health. Despite this, some types of chocolate in moderation are believed to be good for you. Deriving from the Kuna Indians of Panama, cocoa is known to reduce blood pressure that in turn causes heart disease and stroke.

Dark chocolate specifically contains high levels of cocoa. Cocoa is a good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc and also contains the antioxidants catechins and procyanidins. Bearing this in mind, Ms Hornby believes it is important to remember that studies on health benefits of chocolate often focus on cocoa extracts, rather than chocolate itself.








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