Fit Food: Superfoods – What Have They Done For You Lately?

superfoodsWhat would a column about Fit Food be without talking about the ubiquitous “superfoods”? From acai berries to green tea to Turmeric, superfoods are touted as having special health benefits like fighting cancer or speeding up our metabolisms. But do they actually work?

For the past several years antioxidant has been a buzzword in the nutrition world, especially related to cancer. It is widely believed that free radicals (unstable atoms within our bodies) are the cause of disease, aging, and cancer. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals by stabilizing them, prevent further molecular damage. Studies were done that showed certain foods high in antioxidants did in fact improve health.1,2 The problem with these studies is that they were done in a lab, with cancer cells and isolated antioxidants in a petri dish. Our bodies and food are much more complex than that and just because we can isolate some polyphenols from a blueberry and it kills a cancer cell in a test tube doesn’t necessarily mean that if we eat a ton of blueberries that we will never get cancer. And this is exactly what new research is showing.

Dr. James Watson, a Nobel prize-winning scientist who helped discover DNA, is now saying that free radicals may actually help to fight cancer and by eliminating them by overdosing on antioxidants we are actually doing ourselves harm.3

rainbow-vegetables-and-fruitSo the issue here is too much of a good thing. Eating a colourful, varied diet will provide you with ample nutrients and antioxidants to maintain health and vitality. Problems arise when we start to think that if some vitamins are good for us then more must be better. This is the case with the wide variety of supplements and antioxidant products available on the market. If something is enriched with the latest superfood or has a flashy label with health claims it’s probably too good to be true. As is always the case, the best solution is just to cut out the junk from your diet and just eat clean.

Happy Lifting!

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1. Berry fruits: compositional elements, biochemical activities, and the impact of their intake on human health, performance, and disease.
Seeram NP.
J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):627-9. doi: 10.1021/jf071988k. Epub 2008 Jan 23.

2. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):630-5. doi: 10.1021/jf072504n. Epub 2008 Jan 23.

3. Perspective: Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers. Open Biol.. 2013 3:120144; doi:10.1098/rsob.120144 (published 9 January 2013) 2046-2441

3 comments for “Fit Food: Superfoods – What Have They Done For You Lately?

  1. Stacie W
    April 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

    The way that most of what I’ve read about superfoods makes it sound like they are miracle foods that need to be put above all others. It makes more sense as you say to just make them part of your diet like the other great unsuperfoods.

  2. April 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Great post Dara. It’s true that by focusing on 3-4 superfoods we can neglect the benefits that all of the other foods have to offer. Good advice to eat a colorful variety in order to make sure we are covering all of what we need to.

    The point about free radicals really piqued my interest. It seems that we can eat too clean if we aren’t careful. It reminded me of something I read about the Black Death that killed more than 25 million people in the 14th century. Those who lived in cities were less affected than those living in the country. Why? Because those living in cities had been exposed to disease, pollution, and other factors like contaminated water. This served to enhance the immune systems of the city dweller and as a result they weathered the plague much better than those who in theory were ‘healthier’.

    It is apparently possible that we can be too clean, and to our detriment.

    • daracoxpt
      April 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks Matt! I found the point about free radicals interesting too. Our bodies need to be kept in such a careful balance and if we throw it off in either direction it cause problems!

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