Superfoods… Fad, Fact or Fiction?

Are Superfoods some mysterious, amazing or secret product that will prolong your life or are they a clever marketing ploy by the food and manufacturing industry?

There’s a lot of chatter on social media, blogs, websites, books, supplements… all about superfoods. Due to the welcome arrival of spring, I decided September is a great time to investigate superfoods to find out if they really can make us live longer, healthier and happier lives.

What are Superfoods?

If you google the word ‘superfood’ you’re more likely to come across statements such as: “Nutrient powerhouses!” “Packed with antioxidants!” “Reduce the risk of chronic disease!” and less likely to find an actual medical or scientific definition… and that’s probably because there isn’t one. The closest we could find to a definition that was reasonably consistent was the Oxford Dictionary definition: “Superfood: noun, a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’ .

So, what is ‘a nutrient-rich food’?

Broadly speaking, nutrients is the stuff our body needs on a daily basis to keep us moving, thinking, smiling and looking great! Scientifically speaking, nutrients generate the energy to support our metabolism, they regulate our body functions and they supply materials for repair, growth and maintenance of body tissue. They’re divided up into macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Therefore, a nutrient-rich (or nutrient dense) food is basically a term used to identify the ratio of nutrients to calories (energy) in a particular food or substance. For example, a fresh apple contains about 68 calories but it’s also high in fibre (which will fill you up and keep your digestive tract healthy) and it contains potassium and vitamins C and K. In terms of being nutrient-dense, you get a lot of bang for your buck with an apple: low in calories, high in nutrients… just like all fruit, vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy.

So, nutrient-dense foods are low in calories but high in nutrients, like the apple and they are opposite to energy-dense foods which are high in calories and low in nutrients, like a Kit Kat.
A Kit Kat (just the little 2 Finger one J) has 105 calories, zero fibre, zero vitamins and it’s high in sugar and saturated fat. Kit Kats, like alcohol, chocolate, cakes and biscuits taste amazing and can bring a smile to your face, but they won’t contrite much to the energy your body needs to fuel itself.

A superfood by any other name…

We now know that the term ‘superfood’ has no scientific definition, but has an accepted definition of ‘nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’. We also now know that ‘nutrient-rich’ foods are low in calories and high in nutrients such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains etc. Does that mean that superfoods are just regular, boring old wholesome foods that humans have been eating for centuries?

Seems pretty straightforward so far, but we want to go a bit deeper. So join me next week for “Superfoods… Fad, Fact or Fiction? (Part 2)” where we find out what the experts say about superfoods.

Gubinge - A Home Grown Superhero

Gubinge_fruit_fresh.jpg

Everybody needs a little Gubinge in their life.  G-what you're asking? Gubinge, otherwise known as Kakadu Plum is the Aussie King of Superfoods. Here's the low down.

Gubinge is one of Northern Australia’s best kept secrets: a native bush fruit with extraordinary levels of vitamin C. For generations, gubinge has been recognised for its medicinal value by Aboriginal communities. 

Vitamin C Heavyweight Champion

These humble nuggets of fruit are said to be the world's richest natural source of vitamin C. Now, after centuries of growing virtually unnoticed to the outside world, the secret is out. Tests have confirmed what indigenous Australians have suspected for centuries that the typical vitamin C that we find in the raw plums is about 1.5 per cent by weight. To put that in some perspective, that's roughly about 500 to 1,000 times higher than you would get in a normal orange.

Environmental Stress = Highly Nutritious

In the Kimberleys, they do not irrigate the Gubinge or cultivate it using typical commercial horticultural techniques. Essentially, those precious vital phytonutrients (the antioxidants within the plant) allow the plant to survive the harsh conditions and make the plant more resilient. Like some of the superfoods grown high in the Andes, the level of environmental stress present in its natural environment makes the plant stronger and more densely rich in antioxidants. It's these nutrients that get passed onto you when you start to include it in your diet which do all kinds of wonderful things to your health.

Here is what is amazing: to make Gubinge powder they take the whole frozen fruit, dehydrate it at 40ºC for 16 hours and then mill it into a powder, so all they have done is take away the water: everything else is there in the powder.

So basically you take the Gubinge powder and your body can use every skerrick because it is a complete, whole food.  And we now know that whole foods are the way to go because they are the complete package.  Mucking around with foods (think skim milk or low fat foods) makes them lack vital nutrients and offer no value to our diet.  In fact, they can have quite the opposite effect of making us sick.

Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?  Gubinge is for YOU.

Including a superfood like Gubinge in your diet can make an amazing difference to your overall health which directly boosts your immunity, energy and your body's ability to fight off illness and disease and because it is local to our environment – it is perfect for those of us living in Australia.  We are a product of our environment and local food and produce is most assimilated by our bodies.  

You'll find gunbinge (and other superfoods) in many of our Loving Earth products now available at Live Well.