Super Foods: Super Healthy or Super Silly?

One of the first books I did a report on during my undergraduate nutrition program was “Super Foods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life” by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews.  I think I liked the book at the time, but I honestly don’t remember what I said in the report, and unfortunately it’s on a floppy disk somewhere so I can’t access it anymore (yes, college was that long ago for me!).  The 14 “super foods” were beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt.  You may be surprised by some of those, but bear in mind the book was written in 2004.  Since then many other foods have been labeled super foods. Remember Acai?  It got booted by Chia.  And these days you hear more about kale than spinach.  The ever changing list of super foods is, to me, proof that there really are no magical super foods.  Sure kale is good for you.  Spinach is good for you too. I’d say the most “super” one is the one you like the most, because if you enjoy what you are eating you’ll be more likely to keep it in your diet long term, and thus reap the health benefits.  Choking down a vegetable (or whatever the health food du jour is) that you find disgusting is not the best path to true health.  That’s why it is unlikely that I will never force myself to eat a mushroom (sorry mom).  Maybe I’ll miss out on a few nutrients, but I’m pretty sure I can get them in less vile forms.  That’s the thing about super foods-maybe they have more of a particular nutrient than other foods, but they aren’t they only food with that nutrient.  And by focusing too much on incorporating one holy grail of foods, you’ll likely end up leaving out many others or possibly even exceeding your energy needs by eating too much of the super food.  So let’s all stop worrying about incorporating a few key “super” foods.  What shall we focus on then?  Glad you asked. Below is my top list of nutrition rules for dummies (although not really dummies, it’s for everyone!)

vegetables

Nutrition For Dummies:

  • Choose from a wide variety of foods. Different foods= different nutrients. Try not to eliminate any food group , unless you have a legitimate allergy or sensitivity to it.
  • Bright colors = lots of nutrients and antioxidants.  This is assuming that the bright colors are natural, like in fruits and vegetables, and not the result of added food dyes.
  • Choose foods that don’t come in a package more often than not.  Less processed foods tend to have more nutrients, so make sure the base of your diet is from whole foods.  The closer a food is to its natural form, the better.  The less ingredients, then better.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you are satisfied (not stuffed!).
  • Mind your portions. Don’t measure your food but just be aware of serving sizes.  Portions at restaurants these days are pretty out of control.  For example, a standard serving of meat is 3 oz, which is the size of the palm of your hand.
  • Hydrate.  Your body is mostly water so be sure to keep it supplied! Generally, aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces per day.
  • Balance and moderation.  Yup, I said it again.  Allow yourself moderate portions of less than healthy foods you enjoy.  Denial often leads to over eating down the road.

 

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