Super food - marketing or health? Examples and benefits

in #food5 years ago

Today's world is crazy about the food item described as super food. Wherever we look in the press, on the internet or on television, we hear about new products recognized as superfoods. 

There are many examples here: goji berries, noni, shitake mushrooms, chlorella or young barley. Superjections are advertised as an amazing and irreplaceable medicine for all ailments from diabetes to cardiovascular diseases.  

The name "super foods" did not come out of nowhere. After hearing such a phrase in our head, the association immediately appears that such a product must be great! However, just saying that it is a great product is not enough. 

The key question is - "why is this product so great and how is it different from thousands of other products that do not carry such a name ?!"  

Let's start with what is meant by super foods. 

These are unprocessed food products that, thanks to the presence of specific nutrients, have a beneficial effect on the body through nutrition of the brain, bones, skin, hair, nails, and in the long run help to overcome the effects of previous irregularities in diet among others through its detoxification. 

The vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polysaccharides or antioxidants contained in them contribute to optimal health. In addition, in most cases these are natural products, free of hormones, pesticides or chemicals. They can be consumed in an unprocessed form or used to prepare or refine standard dishes. The most popular of them include Goji seeds, cocoa, aloe vera, spirulina or young barley, however, the list is long and is constantly growing.   

As the first of this formulation he used Aaron Moss in the journal Nature Nutrition in 1998. This term was quickly recognized as catchy and used by producers and marketers to increase the sales of their products. When it comes to explaining the concept of super food, there is no single definition that defines exactly what such products should characterize. 

We can meet different developments of this slogan:  

  • food, which in its composition contains unique ingredients valuable for the human body,
  • only natural, unprocessed products.  

Yet another definition can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary as food rich in nutrients, considered to be particularly beneficial to health and well-being. The same applies to the list of products recognized as super food. There is not one list that we can use. 

Super foods should be a supplement to a daily, healthy diet, they can not be a cure for all ailments. Simply adding them to the diet without changing your lifestyle will not help much. You will get more benefits by caring for a daily, varied and properly balanced diet, while avoiding processed food. 

Which products to choose? 

Contrary to what the media create and recommend to producers, super food is not only food from the farthest corners of the world, exotic delicacies that cost a lot. Among them there are those that have been known for a long time on the local market, which is why they are not only much cheaper, but also much better accepted by us. What are these products? 

Goji berries

We can distinguish around 85 species of Goji berries growing in Asia and 15 in Central and North America, however, the differences between them are very small. 

They are a rich source of protein, contain in their composition 19 endogenous amino acids and all exogenous amino acids. In addition, they provide such micronutrients as zinc, iron, copper, calcium, selenium and phosphorus and vitamins B1, B2, B6 and vitamin E

The presence of beta-sitosterol, linoleic acid, sesquiterpen, betaine and tetra terpenoid antioxidants has also been reported. Goji berries have an additional ability to stimulate the secretion of growth hormone, whose production decreases with age.

One of the most important benefits of eating Goji berries is provided with a large amount of antioxidants that protect us against free radicals. They contain more β-carotene than carrots. It has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the thymus and the functions of the immune system. 

Eating Goji berries supports the production of choline, which is important in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, prevents arterial constriction and inhibits the oxidation of cholesterol through increased production of superoxide dismutase. 

In addition, they have the ability to regulate blood sugar levels, detoxify the liver, thanks to the presence of betanin, polysaccharides and antioxidant pigments, as well as support digestion and are recommended for irritable bowel syndrome. Fatty acids such as hexadecanoic, linoleic or myristic stimulate the production of collagen and promote the maintenance of proper hydration of the skin, giving it a healthy look.

Linseed 

Linseed is a product with a rich history - it was known already 8,000 years ago! Considering its valuable properties, it is not surprising that we are eager to eat them to this day. 

Linseed is primarily a valuable source of unsaturated fatty acids. In 60% it consists of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. These are fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory activity, therefore they are used in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as, e.g. cancers, diseases of the cardiovascular system, or neurodegradation diseases. In addition, they are essential for building brain tissue, cell membranes and hormone synthesis.

Linseed is also a treasury of dietary fiber and vitamin E, B vitamins, or minerals such as selenium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and calcium. When talking about the properties of linseed, one can not forget also that 3-9% of its composition are plant slimes that have a protective effect on our digestive tract. 

Spirulina

They are algae found in lakes all over the Earth. It owes its name to the spiral construction. It is one of the simplest and oldest forms of life, constituting the basis of the food chain. Can withstand difficult conditions such as lack of water or high temperature, therefore it retains its nutritional properties even during thermal processing.

What made spirulina one of the super foods? 

It is the source of many valuable nutrients, including chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, nucleic acids DNA and RNA, polysaccharides and antioxidants. It is amazing that such a small organism that is spirulina contains so many valuable substances. It consists of 65-71% of protein, including all 8 essential amino acids (in total there are 18). It is a source of vitamin A, and more specifically β-carotene, vitamins B (B1, B2, B6), E and K, as well as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

It is a very good alternative for vegans and vegetarians, however, it should be remembered that it does not contain vitamin B12, therefore it should be provided in a different form, for example in the form of a dietary supplement. These algae in their composition also contain large amounts of iron, comparable to the amount of this element in red meat. 

Spirulina is also a source of gamma-linolenic acid, which is important for growth and development. In addition, gamma-linolenic acid improves the condition of hair and skin, inhibits the production of inflammatory prostaglandins and reduces allergic reactions. Also, the presence of several bioavailable forms of sulfur has been observed, which supports immunity, accelerates healing or positively affects the condition of hair and skin. 

Young barley, also called green barley or barley grass. 

Its properties are due, among other things, to the fact that it is grown under strictly defined conditions (appropriate soil or harvesting technique) and harvested relatively early thanks to which it retains large amounts of nutrients. 

These include mainly calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, β-carotene, folic acid, pantothenic acid. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E, superoxide dismutase, catalase and chlorophyll. It's quite a lot for one plant. The presence of these compounds is related to the fact that consuming the extract of young barley in the long term can prevent such diseases as obesity, diabetes, circulatory disorders, arthritis, anemia, elevated cholesterol, kidney dysfunction or cancer.

In that case, is it worth eating super foods? 

Worth it. They have many valuable properties, although most of them must be carefully verified. The information we have available to date clearly testifies in their favor. Their use will not only enable the potential prevention of many diseases, including cancer, and will also help to fill up the deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. However, you can not get crazy. Most products belonging to this group, due to their potential action and prevailing fashion for healthy eating, have a fairly high price. Although the ingredients contained in them are found in large quantities, however, they can also be provided in the form of more easily available fruits and vegetables such as paprika or blackcurrants, which are also a rich source of vitamin C, for example. 

Although young barley contains 3 times less vitamins C than peppers, there is a very high probability that we will eat it in a larger amount than young barley, thus causing a similar intake of this nutrient.

The content of vitamin C in 100g of the product: 

  • Goji berries 148 (mg / 100g) 
  • Young barley 457 (mg / 100g) 
  • Red peppers 144 (mg / 100g) 
  • Blackcurrant 183 (mg / 100g) 
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Just give me the dragon fruit, I love them @strongmalina !

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