Food & Wine October 30, 2017

Superfood Madness

All plant-based wholefoods are superfoods. They all provide us with a wide array of nutrients. But, when it comes to what you should be eating in your diet, I like to keep things traditional. I encourage people to eat a simple wholefood diet – local and organic where possible. To me, there is nothing better. So, when something new comes ‘out of the wood-work’ claiming to be the ultimate health food – I get suspicious! It always pays to look at both the positives and the negatives of any emerging health-food trend so you can make a well-informed decision. Here are some of the superfoods that I believe have been over-rated in the media.


 

Chia seeds

The chia seed is prized for the fibre, protein, oil, minerals, and antioxidants it possesses. To put it into perspective, when compared to quinoa seeds (which are essentially the same size), it packs more of a punch on most nutritional fronts.  However, because of the nature of this particular seed, it cannot be consumed in any great quantity.  Therefore, in my opinion, its nutritional value is of limited use. If you sprinkle a teaspoon of these seeds into your smoothie or over your salad it won’t add much in the way of protein (approx. one gram) or other nutrients. This hardly seems worth it considering they don’t add much in the way of flavour.  To curb your appetite (if you are eating too much) or to regulate your bowel activity, I recommend people eat flaxseeds, slippery elm, psyllium, oat bran, seaweed, legumes, apples, cabbage, onion, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

 

Green Smoothies

Having a green smoothie for breakfast seems like a wonderful idea. You simply throw your ‘5-plus A Day’ into a blender and drink your fruit and veggie quota before the day has even begun. However, on further inspection, this type of smoothie may not be as beneficial to your health as expected. This is especially true if you consume them frequently.

When you drink your food instead of chewing it, you bypass a very important part of the digestive process! If you don’t chew your food — and chew it well — your digestive process is incomplete and therefore hinders the breakdown and absorption of your food. Your digestion is then further compromised as smoothies contain cold, raw produce which require a robust digestive system to be broken down. This can lead to digestive issues including burping, bloating, pain, flatulence, constipation and or/diarrhoea. Also, the regular use of raw vegetables like kale or spinach in a green smoothie can lead to iodine deficiency and thyroid conditions. This is because these types of vegetables (eaten raw) block the uptake of iodine. I recommend that people eat a good variety of produce — and wholefood not blended food.

 

Kombucha

Kombucha is very popular amongst health trendsetters — and their followers. This beverage is a slightly sweet, subtly tart, fizzy, fermented tea. It is made using tea leaves (dried Camellia sinensis), table sugar, and water. A symbiotic colony Of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) is used to aid the fermentation process. If you google kombucha, you’re either going to get people raving about this effervescent beverage, or you’ll get people saying there is no evidence to substantiate any of its purported health claims. So, what do we know for sure about this beverage? It definitely contains: caffeine, sugar, water, fruit juice or ginger, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. No wonder people love it!

I only recommend kombucha as a treat. If people want to experience the medicinal properties of tea leaves, then I encourage them to pour hot water on them! If people are looking to encourage good bacteria in their gut, then I firstly recommend people focus on consuming a varied plant-based diet. I then encourage them to eat fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, sour cream, sourdough, tempeh, tofu, vinegar, and yoghurt.

 


Words: Lisa Fitzgibbon

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