As regular readers of my blog will know I don’t believe 99% of the things I read online about food. I think all natural food is superfood and each food has its own special blend of goodness. Even the things supposedly bad for you, like sugar. Last week while I was waiting for my period to arrive I was a shaking, bad tempered wreck. If I ate something sugary every couple of hours I felt fine – no more shaking and no more evil mood. But I believe in moderation in all things. Eat too much of any one food and it’s not healthy, even if the food per se is ‘healthy’ – eat too many carrots, for example, and you can turn your skin orange!
There has been a cracking little programme recently on Channel 4 about superfoods. The reporter actually tried them all herself and the effects on her body were scientifically measured. The results were surprising.
Foods which stood up to their claims include:
- Oily fish. Really does stop plaque formation in arteries and helps avoid the risk of stroke. Recommended serving: 2-3 times per week. Omega 3 oil is also found in good supply in dairy products, walnuts, tofu, beans and even meat, however, so fish isn’t your only source.
- Broccoli. Really does help fight cancer.
- Quinoa. Is miles better for your blood sugar levels than ordinary white rice and contains more nutrients including protein which is absent from other forms of carbohydrate.
- Orange coloured sweet potato. Contains loads more nutrients than white potato including Vitamin A (2,000 times more) and Vitamin C (double).
- Grapefruit. Really does help the body break down fat cells without dieting or exercising. But there’s a catch. You’d need to eat 40 grapefruit in one sitting for it to work, which equates to 5,000 calories!
- Blackcurrants. Are massively high in antioxidants. The research tested 4 berries for their antioxidant properties. Blueberries came last! Second last were strawberries. Then raspberries. But blackcurrants were top, containing 6 to 8 times more antioxidants than blueberries.
- Xylitol. Does not rot your teeth like sugar does. But that’s all I’m going to say on its positive effects. I would no more advocate eating xylitol, which is processed by mixing it with man made chemicals, than I would advocate eating E numbers and it can give you the runs.
- Kale. Apparently contains compounds which are good for your eyesight, in particular macular degeneration, though the details were a bit sketchy and no-one could really say how it worked.
Foods which don’t stand up to their claims include:
- Wheatgrass. It is physically impossible for this to increase the oxygen carried by your red blood cells as is claimed by many of its advocates.
- Kefir. Although 40% of kefir survives the digestive process there was no change in the reporter’s intestinal gut microbes. It is illegal in Europe to make claims that kefir alters gut flora as there is no evidence, as yet, to support the claim. This applies to other probiotics too.
- Spirulena. No evidence that it helps with disease of any kind, including fatigue. It contains protein and nutrients but if you’re eating a well balanced diet you shouldn’t need this as a supplement.
- Charcoal. Does not detox the body or absorb alcohol. It only survives in the small intestine and does not pass into the bloodstream and therefore can’t travel to the rest of the body. Medical grade charcoal (made, in case you were wondering, from burning coconut shells at extremely high temperatures) used in hospitals to absorb drugs after an overdose only works in the first hour of ingesting the drug, because once the drug has passed through the small intestine charcoal has no effect. And you have to drink 500ml of the stuff, not the tiny shot you get in a juice bar. There is evidence charcoal can help make your farts smell better, and help with gas and therefore bloating, but that is all.
I even take issue with some of the positive claims for foods. For example, the fact that white rice raises blood sugar makes rice sound like it’s ‘bad’ for you. Is there any evidence that Chinese people, who have lived predominantly off rice for centuries, have higher levels of diabetes than other people? My guess would be not. And according to the programme, the sweet potatoes grown in certain parts of Africa are so lacking in nutrients they are causing the children who eat them to be malnourished – not all sweet potatoes are the same it seems.
The programme admits that we are in our infancy in understanding how any food affects our bodies. And as past evidence has shown our governments, for all their research (which is often funded by the food industry), still get it wrong. For two decades we were told fat, for example, was the Devil (as we are now being told sugar is the Devil) but, ooops, turns out that wasn’t quite true. Live on a diet of nothing but fat and you’re in trouble, but then live on a diet of nothing but fruit and veg and you’re in trouble too. A natural, balanced diet containing a range of foods has sustained us since the dawn of time – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.