Facts About Super Foods

The lettuce or the peaches are not the same as before. It is a topic of conversation on many tables and a reality that has driven a new generation of dietetics: that of the so-called super foods.

Given the decrease in the quality of the products we consume today and, sometimes, in the face of an unbalanced diet, the arrival of those new products with extra properties is more than welcome: they are high in antioxidants (such as vitamins A, C and E) ) and phytonutrients (chemical substances present in plants that provide color and flavor, as well as protection against ultraviolet radiation and infections), eliminate toxins, contribute to reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer and combat aging.

It is common to hear about the excellence of traditional products in the Mediterranean diet, such as olive oil.

Myth or Reality

Are we faced with medicines capable of curing and shielding against possible ailments or is this a temporary and baseless tendency, a product of the popular interest of the developed world for diet and health?

A simple search in Google on the term “super food” reveals that every 0.13 seconds someone tracks the term on the Internet.

In addition, it returns around 700,000 results.

However, despite its omnipresence, there is not even an official definition.

Is it a trend or fashion; It is not something new. Years ago the scientific community named functional ingredients to nutrients that, without adding calories, preserve health, such as olive oil, nuts or blue fish. Hence comes the name super food, but this does not enjoy the scientific evidence. It is true that they are very healthy products.

The nutritionist of the Biomedical Research Center of the Carlos III Institute, Manuel Monino, agrees with the statement: “There is no superfood as such. Instead, rather than specific products, talk about food super-patterns: there is insufficient evidence of their claimed properties, in fact, most studies have conducted in vitro tests on animals and use very high doses of substances, impossible to achieve with the habitual intake of the food that contains them.

Even so, it is true that some are rich in bioactive substances or in phytochemicals that are in the focus of research, such as flavonoids, carotenes, phenolic compounds… “.

“They are healthy products, but they do not cure, they only preserve health at best”. Warns Irene Breton.

For this expert, the best way to provide the body with everything you need is through a varied diet rich in legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, but without exclusive consumption of a specific product or excluding others, such as eggs or dairy “What contributes to health or takes away the food patterns and not eating something isolated. Some cater to do great business, that ask it to those who marketed the oat bran, exotic juices or Goji berries, the latter considered by many a super food when they are not different from our raisins, “.

In Spain, we spend more than 2,000 million euros on miracle products, which sometimes includes extracts from supposedly prodigious foods. According to Nieves Palacios, specialist in Endocrinology and Sports Medicine, when making a menu we can not forget fruits, nuts and vegetables every day and vegetables and fish two or three times a week.

In 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study of the Carlos III Institute of Madrid in patients with cardiovascular risk that proved that a diet rich in such foods and low in soft drinks, fatty meats and sweets reduced up to 30% the probability of heart attacks. “The concept” super “has become popular in the media, not among scientists,” he adds.

Exotic and traditional

What does seem clear is that incorporating these foods into a balanced diet is beneficial both physically and emotionally. “It produces emotional well-being and increases self-esteem, by being aware that we are taking care of our body,” says Itxasne Tome, a psychologist at the Ravenna Clinic.

But what to buy?

The acclaimed of all the life or those of extravagant name exalted by journalists and bloggers? Paula Rosso, nutritionist at the Lajo Plaza medical center, do not bet on both options.

“Some traditions return when they discover their active ingredients scientifically: for example Omega-3 acids and chia fiber, protectors of the cardiovascular system, or Goji berries, excellent antioxidant, although it has been discovered that some commercial presentations incorporated high doses of heavy metals, hence they sell less.

In any case, Mediterranean foods are also a source of vitamins and the basis of our diet, “adds the nutritionist. And as important as what to take is the way to do it.

“This type of food must be consumed raw or with the least possible cooking and take it very fresh so that it keeps its properties intact and makes it easier for the body to absorb it,” says Dr. Rosso. And nothing to gorge on one and marginalise all others.

“There is evidence that fruits and vegetables fight cancer, but in the form of supplements – that is, isolating their nutrients outside – they do not produce the same effects. Including large doses of a new food can sometimes mean displacing others of greater nutritional value and thus contribute to the imbalance, “says Manuel Monino.