They promise to help you become a skinnier, fitter and healthier version of yourself – if only you would consume more of this kind of food every day .
Superfoods are certainly a sexy topic, growing in popularity in recent years, with trendy exotic foods like goji berries and pomegranates becoming easier to find on supermarket shelves far from where they originally were grown.
“They can heal you, prevent diseases and significantly improve our well-being,” promises one book about the 50 best superfoods.
But an exact definition of what qualifies as a superfood doesn’t really exist, says Antje Gahl, who works for a German nutrition society. “In general, superfoods are those that are highly nutritious, especially from the fruits and vegetables category.”
She says superfoods are often rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which could have health-promoting effects. Gahl lists chia seeds, acai berries and pomegranates as classic superfood examples.
More and more, she says, local producers are catching on to the power of the superfood brand and selling domestic items under the label. In Germany, these include blueberries, stinging nettle and rosehip.
The fact that superfoods often come from far-away countries is no coincidence, according to a consumer centre in the German city of Bremen. The combination of exotic and healthy appeals to many people, says Regina Aschmann, who doles out advice for those interested in nutrition.
She stresses that you don’t need to eat superfoods in order to be healthy. “As long as you eat a balanced diet of healthy, locally grown foods, you don’t need exotic superfoods,” she recommends.
Exotic doesn’t mean better
Products from other continents are also grown under different, sometimes more lax, standards, adds Aschmann. “With exotic foods, even if there’s an organic label on it, the risk that such guidelines aren’t actually adhered to is far higher,” she explains.
Promotional ads promising health benefits – for example, that pomegranates help against the symptoms of menopause and prostate cancer – should be viewed with scepticism. “Such ads promise everything under the sun, but not much of it is proven,” she says.
And while superfoods grown abroad can add variety to your diet, they aren’t any more nutritious than home-grown fruits and vegetables. As Aschmann points out, superfoods lose some nutritional value during their long shipping journeys, which also harm the environment.
One lesser-known superfood that doesn’t necessarily travel as far is flaxseed, which can be a cheaper alternative to chia seeds for some. Other superfoods that are more common in Europe include blackcurrants, blueberries, sour cherries, apples, kale and spinach. – dpa