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Superfoods – fact or myth?

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We would all love to believe that there is a quick fix out there to repair the damage wreaked by our unhealthy habits. Delicious, easy to prepare superfoods, which can act as both cure and penance. And there are certainly a lot of contenders for the position, with numerous foods being promoted as the miraculous key to good health and vitality. But when it boils down to it, is there any truth behind the claims? To save you time that you probably don’t have to research it all, here’s a quick summary of the reliable information on some of these claims.

Blueberries

Possibly the highest profile superfood, we are all hoping that they really will turn out to have fantastic anti-ageing properties. A few berries in the juicer every morning and ten years younger, right? To start with some common sense, they are fruit, so yes, they are good for you. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants. So you should include them in your diet. But as for the more dramatic claims made on behalf of these delicious little berries, the jury is still out on whether they actually protect against cancer, reduce the risk of heart attacks, prevent dementia or prevent wrinkles. Some of these benefits have been identified in laboratory conditions, or in animals, but it is still far from proven that they can be replicated in humans.

Pomegranates

These are the fashionable choice at the moment, and very pretty they are too, if you can be bothered with the tricky business of parting the seeds from their pods. Again, they are a fruit so they are good for you, as part of a balanced diet. The additional claims made for pomegranates include that they can slow down prostate cancer, lower the risk of heart attacks and reduce the damage done by cholesterol. But in fact, there has not yet been enough reliable research produced in any of these areas to verify these three claims.

Wheatgrass

This is one for the really dedicated. Wheatgrass derives from the common wheat plant. The first step is getting hold of the stuff, in the form of a powder, or a fresh product, available from your health food shop or online. You can also grow it yourself at home. Then you need to make it into a drink, which if you have the fresh grass, involves using a juicer, although you can also cut corners with the powder or buy it ready made in juice form. If you are dealing with fresh wheatgrass, you do have to be very careful indeed and do your research on the subject, because it can develop a mould which is highly toxic.

Assuming that all the palaver hasn’t put you off by now, what are the supposed health benefits of wheatgrass? It has been claimed that a 30ml glass of wheatgrass contains as many nutrients as 1kg of vegetables but in actual fact, this claim simply does not stand up to research. But wheatgrass does contain as much nutritional value as broccoli or spinach, so it is still useful as one of your five a day, though quite honestly, there are lots of easier ways to get the same nutritional benefit.

Wheatgrass has been claimed to help in a huge range of conditions, including blood disorders, ulcerative colitis, and cancer. But you’ve guessed it, once again, although there have been some interesting findings in relation to the potential benefits of wheatgrass, there is not yet any firm, good quality research to back up these claims. All things considered, you might be better off sticking to your veggies.

Chocolate

Well, we can hope. The claims for chocolate as a health food have arisen from the Kuna Indians of Panama, who drink cocoa as their main beverage, and who also have low blood pressure, which in turns reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. And other studies have also suggested that chocolate can slightly reduce blood pressure. But a lot more work is needed to confirm these results. And remember, too, that chocolate in the form we know it includes sugar and fat in the mix, and these are definitely not on anyone’s list of healthy foods. So as things stand right now, and much to everyone’s disappointment, it has to remain a treat rather than a healthy staple.

Chocolate

 

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About Paula Hendry

About Paula Hendry

Paula Hendry is a freelance consultant in the field of social work. She has been a social worker for twenty five years, and specialises in mental health. Paula has two children and writes in her spare time (which is virtually non-existent.)

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