Super you? Busting the ‘superfood’ myths

Are all foods created equal? What exactly are ‘superfoods’ anyway? Is the very concept purely a myth? If you’re struggling to know how much of this and how little of that to add to your diet, you’re in the right place.

We’ve caught up with ex-professional swimmer turned top nutritionist, Joe Welstead of Motion Nutrition, to find out how you can make sure you’re eating right without buying into the wrong ideas…

What exactly are ‘superfoods’?

“Really simply, superfoods are basically really rich nutrient foods,” Joe says. “So any kind of food that’s really high in a certain nutrient (or ideally, several), can be considered a superfood.

But can one food really be ‘better’ than another in such a general, all-encompassing way?

“I think one of the biggest myths or misconceptions,” he adds, “is that you can take one superfood from a health store, and think it’s going to cure everything – and that’s just not the case. Any kind of superfood can be really rich in a particular kind of nutrient, so you might have something that’s really rich in Vitamin C, like Baobab fruit powder (or the Baobab fruit itself which is great for a lot of other things), but having Baobab every day isn’t going to make you super healthy by itself.”

“I think people can fall into the marketing hype that brands push – a lot of things out there are healthy products, but you need to take everything with a little pinch of salt.”

And no, that’s not Joe’s literal advice, by the way.

Which ones should you try?

So which superfoods are actually worth your time? On top of those already mentioned, Joe’s got a few other surefire suggestions that’ll have you firing on all cylinders:

“There are lots of products that are easy to add to your diet,” he says. “Something like Matcha, a ground tea leaf, where you’re consuming the whole tea leaf rather than just putting it into hot water, is great for getting loads and loads of micronutrients. On top of that, you get a strong energy kick without resorting to a super strong hit of caffeine. We use that in our pre-workout products.

“There are a lot of other, generic, health-enhancing superfoods that you can add to your diet if you just want to feel ‘better’ generally. Wheatgrass is a really good one or Spirulinais a powerful one if you can hack the taste. And then there are some more functional things like Cordyceps mushrooms, which can help boost your immune system or your endurance.”

How to do superfoods justice

We’ve busted a few myths and picked out some real, honest-to-goodness superfoods, but what does that all mean for your diet? What does Joe see as the best way to incorporate superfoods without going overboard?

“The first thing to do, which is a really basic thing, is to remember to eat as much real food as possible,” he explains. “A lot of the trendy diets from the past few years – such as Paleo – will probably make you feel really, really good in the first couple of months, and your skin would look better, and you’ll lose weight; but it’s not necessary that specific diet that doing that. A lot of the time, whatever the diet, it’s simply because you’ve automatically eliminated a whole load of processed foods.

“So eating more real foods – whole foods, vegetables, fresh fruit, and unprocessed foods – is a really good place to start. And once you’ve got that right, adding in superfoods is a great way to round out a diet.”

Joe knows things get more complicated, when you’re talking about superfoods in the form of supplements:

“I think sometimes it can be quite difficult to know what to do with them, especially if we’re talking about powdered products. People tend to buy something like Baobab fruit powder, have it once or twice, and then that’s it. They’re not really using it on the regular because thinking about what you’re mixing it with, or what smoothie recipe you’re going to have on a given day, requires work.

“I think there are two parts to success here,” he says. “The first is figuring out what it is you think needs to be added into your diet. Do you need something that’s going to give you an energy kick, or do you need extra protein, or to sleep better? Whichever element it is, look into which superfoods can help with that.

“And once you’ve sorted that out, try and incorporate that particular superfood in a way that is very easy for you to do, because if you make it easy for yourself,” he says in closing, “you’re way more likely to stick to that habit.”

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