Superfood - a term that is now on everyone's lips. But what is behind it? Translated literally, the word means superfood. But are superfoods really that special or is this just another modern marketing term? In the following lines, the supposed all-rounders are examined in more detail, examples and their effects are given.
Superfoods are nothing new, only the name is new. Foods that are particularly healthy, that are good for our body and support it in its self-healing have always existed. Only these foods have often been forgotten in the hectic and fast-paced times. Many people prefer to eat a chocolate bar instead of eating a bowl of blueberries, for example. The latter belong to the superfoods and would simply be healthy, while the opposite can be said of the chocolate bar.
Superfoods are plant-based foods that contain a large amount of certain nutrients. This term should only be used if the products are very nutritious, wholesome and natural - and of course are also organically grown. In addition, these special foods usually contain a large amount of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fatty acids and phytochemicals. All in all, superfoods are very healthy and, if consumed regularly, can strengthen the immune system, bind free radicals and thus counteract a wide variety of diseases. However, a healthy, basic and wholesome diet should not be forgotten.
Healthy criticism and caution
The name Superfood alone sounds great, innovative and interesting. But does a person need such great food at all, isn't a normal diet enough? And are these superfoods so great at all, or is it just an advertising trick or a flash in the pan that nobody will be talking about soon?
In any case, a healthy, balanced diet that contains a large amount of fruits, vegetables and a small amount of meat and sausages is important for everyone. Certain foods in the form of superfoods are not absolutely necessary. However, this does not mean that they are not necessary. You can certainly make a contribution to healthy eating.
Food is examined, tested in the laboratory and its nutrient content is determined. But in reality, many things play together in the human body. Individual foods are not consumed in isolation, but are consumed in combination with other foods. Is the advertised high level of nutrients still the same? What must also be considered is storage and preparation. Many healthy substances are often destroyed in the event of a longer or incorrect storage period or incorrect preparation. This should also be taken into account with superfoods.
It was mentioned at the beginning that the superfoods contain a large amount of antioxidants. What is it and what are they used for?
In every cell of our human body there are intermediate products of metabolism, also called free radicals. These are highly reactive, aggressive oxygen compounds. They are able to take electrons from other atoms or molecules. They react with these, whereby new radicals are formed again. A chain reaction arises, called oxidative stress - a cause of various diseases. Antioxidants are just right here. This is because they are able to neutralize these oxygen radicals.
Imagine you cut an apple and leave it there for a few minutes - the interfaces turn brown. If you drizzle it with a little lemon juice, this will not happen. In this example, the formation of free radicals is the browning of the apple and the lemon juice represents an antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential for our health. These are contained in superfood products.
In the previous two paragraphs, you learned about free radicals and the importance of antioxidants. The ORAC value expresses the antioxidative reactivity of a food. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity and is expressed in µmol. The higher the value, the greater the antioxidant effect. A basic supply of more than 5,000 to 7,000 ORAC units is recommended by experts.
The superfoods are divided into three color groups:
- For first group belong to the green superfoods, namely leaves and grasses.
- The second group includes all strong and bright colors, i.e. berries and fruits.
- To the third groups include strong roots and seeds.
Furthermore, these foods are still differentiated into domestic and exotic. The locals have the advantage over the exotic that they are fresher and ecologically more sensible. In addition, our body is more used to the homely and may be able to absorb and process it better. The effects of superfoods usually only last for a short time and can usually be replenished more quickly with local foods.
What effect do superfoods have? This question is not so easy to answer because the effects vary depending on the food. In general, however, it can be said that all contain a high proportion of antioxidations, which strengthens the immune system and detoxifies the body. This alone can lead to a general feeling of well-being.
As a rule, these "special" foods also contain a lot of secondary plant substances, which supports their positive health effects.
Examples of superfoods
The amount of superfoods is so large that only a few examples can be dealt with here.
Leaves and grasses
The green foods all have a high chlorophyll content. This has a detoxifying and blood purifying effect. They contain an easily usable, high-quality protein, a lot of fiber, vital substances and many enzymes. The fiber and also the enzymes have a positive effect on the human intestine and contribute to good digestion.
Examples are wild garlic, dandelion, spinach, nettle, parsley, basil, barley grass, spirulina algae, chlorella algae and moringa.
Berries and fruits
The foods in this group mainly contain many free radical scavengers and vitamins. They strengthen the immune system, protect against free radicals and thus against cell damage and premature aging.
Examples are acai berries, goji berries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, aronia berries, papaya, dates and pomegranates.
Roots and seeds
These superfoods mainly contain high-quality proteins and minerals. The protein is easily digestible and provides quick energy. This is important for strength and endurance. Athletes need it to build muscle. These superfoods also strengthen the immune system and protect something from sore muscles.
Examples are flax, hemp and chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, grape seeds, turmeric and ginger. This group also includes nuts such as almonds, walnuts and coconuts.
Exotic representatives of the "special" foods include maca (Peru ginseng), acai berries, goji berries, raw cocoa, lucuma, matcha tea, chia seeds and turmeric.
A closer look at three exotic foods
1. Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma)
This fruit is also called the "gold of the Inca" due to its yolk yellow color. Lucuma is originally from South America. The tree on which Lucuma grows can reach heights of up to 15 meters and it thrives even under extremely dry conditions. Lucuma tastes sweet like a mixture of mango and apricot refined with a little caramel. This makes it suitable as a healthy sweetener with an extremely low glycemic index. The fruit powder is particularly tasty for refining desserts, as an additive in quark dishes, porridge and smoothies. Unfortunately, this is not suitable for sweetening coffee or tea because Lucuma does not dissolve.
Those who sweeten with Lucuma avoid fluctuations in blood sugar. The fruit contains an enzyme that inhibits the rapid breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine, so that they break down more slowly. This is not only beneficial for diabetics. Fluctuations in blood sugar are unhealthy in the long run, even for non-diabetics.
The powder also contains a large amount of polyphenol and beta-carotene. Polyphenol is an antioxidant and beta-carotene is good for the skin, offers natural sun protection and makes sunscreens work better. The skin does not age as quickly.
2. Acai berry
The acai berry comes from South America. It has been used there for centuries. At first, it became known primarily in the United States, where it is touted as a secret weapon against obesity. The fruits are processed quickly after harvesting, otherwise they will spoil. They are available here in the form of powder, juice or capsules.
The berry is not sweet, the taste is described as slightly greasy, earthy and somewhat astringent. Therefore, the juice is usually offered mixed with other juices. If the fruit grows free of chemicals and pesticides, it lives up to the term superfood. It contains essential amino acids, polyphenols, B vitamins, vitamins C, E and D, flavonoids, potassium, iron, fiber and essential fatty acids. The calcium and the vitamin D content must be emphasized here. Both are quite high for a fruit. So the berry is especially recommended for vegans.
Acai berries are also said to accelerate weight loss on a diet because they are supposed to boost metabolism. Athletes appreciate the berry as a source of energy. It can also be found in cosmetics - in creams and peelings.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds come from Mexico and belong to the genus of sage. The Mayans and the Aztecs already knew about the healthy effects of these nutritious and strengthening seeds. They contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the correct ratio, namely three to one. The seeds are gluten-free, colon cleansing and help with heartburn. They contain a large amount of fiber, but few calories. They keep you full, but have a low glycemic index, which has a positive effect on blood sugar. The seeds also have a slightly hypotensive effect due to the fatty acids they contain (so be careful with low blood pressure).
Chia pudding is known for its use: the seeds are mixed with a little liquid (water, soy milk, rice milk, etc.) and then more and more are added (4 to 5 tablespoons of seeds need about ½ liter of liquid). The whole thing becomes jelly-like and gets the consistency of a pudding. After about an hour, the pudding is ready. But it is also possible to leave it standing overnight in the fridge. It is important to drink enough - be careful with constipation. Chia seeds should not be consumed when taking blood thinners.
Why always go for exotic and expensive superfoods when the local superfoods are so close and healthy. In addition, these can be eaten fresh, which is rarely the case with exotic foods. Domestic superfoods include, just to name a few, dark berries such as blueberries, black currants and blackberries. They contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Flax seeds are also worth mentioning, which can compete well with the chia seeds. Green super foods include spinach, broccoli, kale and lamb's lettuce. They have a positive effect on the intestinal flora and are detoxifying.
The nettle is also a superfood. It is often confused with weeds, but it is with nieces. It is an excellent vegetable protein source, contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and of course antioxidants.
Lamb's lettuce, as inconspicuous as it may be, has a very high iron content and belongs to the valerian family, which makes it a nerve food. Last but not least, kale should definitely be mentioned. It contains vitamins, phytochemicals, fiber, minerals, proteins and a high proportion of iron.
To sum up, superfoods are actually nothing new. They were only forgotten by the fast, stressful time in which, unfortunately, healthy eating is not so important to many. Superfoods enrich the menu and contribute to health, but a healthy, balanced diet remains the basis for it. If you would like to try the exotic superfoods, you should definitely pay attention to their origin, purity and manufacturing process. (sw)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Schmid, Franziska: Local Superfoods: Recipes with the best local vital substance packages, TRIAS, 2015
- Daugherty, Bethany: "Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet", in: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 43 Issue 3, 2011, jneb.org
- van den Driessche, José J .; Plat, Jogchum; Mensink, Ronald P .: "Effects of superfoods on risk factors of metabolic syndrome: a systematic review of human intervention trials", in: Food & Function, Issue 4, 2018, Royal Society of Chemistry
- Rias-Bucher, Barbara: Domestic superfoods: Natural foods and their positive effects / Healthy food from the market and from our own cultivation / Over 90 recipes with regional ingredients, Mankau Verlag, 2015
- Superfood: www.lexico.com (access: June 29, 2018), Lexico: Superfood
- Show; Alexander G. et al .: "Phytochemical and nutrient composition of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (Acai)", in: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54 (22), 2006, ACS Publications
- Udani, Jay K. et al .: "Effects of Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) Berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study", in: Nutrition Journal, 10 (45), 2011, NCBI