When it comes to food, I’m a lazy person. I like to eat by all means, but when I’m at university, the irresistible pull of my reading and workload often mean I don’t spend enough time making sure I eat right and bag myself a decent diet and healthy lifestyle. I’m sure that situation will resonate with lots of students, so wouldn’t it be fantastic to find certain foods that I could rely on and save myself time and money while, at the same time, staying healthy? So-called ‘superfoods’ are supposedly, according to the Oxford Dictionary Definition: “nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being” but the value of such foods is fraught with issues.
Examples of these ‘superfoods’ could arguably be blueberries, garlic and green tea to name a few, all because it is thought by some that they contain a variety of the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy diet. But, the very concept of superfoods could be potentially troubling for dieticians because it is thought that people might be tempted to use the consumption of such foods to replace other important foods that might not fall into the category of ‘super’, or use superfoods to make up for unhealthy lifestyles like binge drinking and the eating of excessively fatty foods.
Alison Hornby from the British Dietetic Association argues, “no food, including those labelled ‘superfoods’ can compensate for unhealthy eating. If people mistakenly believe then can ‘undo’ the damage caused by unhealthy foods by eating a superfood, they may continue making routine choices that are healthy and increase their risk of long-term illness.” So it would appear that that handful of blueberries might not exactly make up for that large Dominos pizza washed down by a few too many VKs from the night before.
Moreover, and rather worryingly, the term ‘superfood’ doesn’t actually come from the heath industry at all, but the food industry: ‘superfood’ is a term that is designed to be plastered onto the packaging of allegedly ‘healthy’ food in order to sell higher volumes. The interest of the food industry lies in the profit of their products, which might not necessarily be complementary to your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
“No food, including those labelled ‘superfoods’ can
compensate for unhealthy eating…”
A couple of years ago, I attended the gym regularly, using protein shakes as part of my lifestyle. However, protein shakes, like superfoods, shouldn’t replace the consumption of protein from natural sources such as white meat or eggs. Protein powder is a supplement, of which there is a wide variety in the health-food industry ranging from weight-gain powders to your trusty Vitamin C caplet. But, protein powder should be used as a supplement, or in other words, should only be supplementary to a balanced diet. Superfoods and protein shakes might be a hit amongst the Exeter population whether you’re losing weight or doing your darnedest to pack it on, but using them as a replacement or as a way of making up for poor diet choices should be avoided.
So it’s bad news for me and other similarly lazy students out there: there isn’t one easy fix to guarantee you a healthy diet, but when it comes to healthy eating there never really is is there? According to NHS Choices “Dieticians avoid the term ‘superfood’ and prefer to talk of ‘super diets’, where the emphasis is on a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods.” So, don’t be taken in by the latest crazes and health-food industry marketing, it’s the same old balance of a wide variety of nutritious food, rather than a few especially good foods that will be your key to a healthier diet.