Are Superfoods all that Super?
‘Superfoods’ are all the rage, but are they the miracle-workers they are often claimed to be?
I’ve picked the brains of Alice Clarke, a Registered Associate Nutritionist and Founder of ARC Nutrition to clarify the confusion around what makes a food ‘super’. Do we really need to incorporate a shake into our daily routine? And should we be bulk ordering goji berries?
Alice does some myth-busting and shares realistic tips to help us make simple, sustainable changes for the better.
‘Superfoods’ have become very popular but what makes a food ‘super’ and do we need to buy into the hype?
The term ‘Superfood’ was coined by marketing companies as an attempt to confer the perceived health benefits from specific foods. However, it is not a health term and is very rarely used by healthcare professionals in any capacity. No food can be marketed as superior to another – all foods consumed as part of a balanced diet provide a wide range of beneficial nutrients.
The research behind the health benefits suggested by these ‘superfoods’ is vague, to say the least. It is more important to focus on consuming a varied and balanced diet containing all the things we enjoy, to obtain all the nutrients required to live a healthy life.
What are protein shakes and why is there such a buzz around them?
Protein powders and shakes are an easy, more convenient way to increase protein intake. Protein is probably the only macro-nutrient (a nutrient we need in large quantities for energy) that hasn’t been dragged through the dirt by the ‘diet culture’ industry. The importance of protein, particularly for those training a lot, is to ensure effective and efficient muscle repair and growth.
It is optimal to begin refuelling your body in the first few hours after completing a training session if you don’t have time for a proper meal. The most common time to consume a shake is in the few hours post-workout to begin the muscle repair process.
” It is more important to focus on consuming a varied and balanced diet containing all the things we enjoy, to obtain all the nutrients required to live a healthy life.”
So, are protein shakes just for honed athletes?
Depending on the circumstances, protein shakes can potentially benefit all of us. For example, the rise of plant-based protein products means that vegetarians or vegans can more easily get protein into their diets.
However, the majority of meat-eaters with balanced diets will get enough protein through dietary intake alone to maintain effective muscle repair.
Consumption of protein shakes rarely have any direct negative effects on the individuals consuming them. However, it is likely that many people are consuming protein powders and supplements unnecessarily and will already be receiving enough protein through dietary intake alone, without the need to supplement.
The advice in the media about what to eat to ‘live your best life’ can be quite overwhelming, what would your advice be to those looking to lead a healthy, but maintainable, lifestyle?
As you have said, there is a lot of information out there that can be quite conflicting. The key to ‘living your best life’ is to make changes that are simple and sustainable – and this will be different for everyone.
Some key, yet simple changes to implement that are generally relevant to most of us include:
Increase the amount of dietary fibre you eat. Think more wholegrain carbohydrates and root vegetables. Fibre plays a key role in maintaining gut health which improves not only digestion, but our immune system, heart health, brain function, mood and even sleep!
Don’t banish foods that you enjoy! It will only increase your cravings for them. All foods have a place in a healthy, balanced diet; from courgettes to cookies!
Consider the bigger picture. Your nutrition is more than just a specific meal or snack. You may have heard people say that one ‘unhealthy’ meal won’t cause you to gain weight, just like one ‘healthy’ meal won’t make you lose weight. The impact of nutrition on our bodies comes from much more than just one meal, so try and focus on improving your eating over days and weeks rather than getting bogged down by the components of one meal.
If you are looking for more support on how to banish feelings of food guilt and shame from your life for good, make sure to seek the support of a Registered Nutritionist or Dietician.
Alice Clarke is a Registered Associate Nutritionist and Founder of ARC Nutrition, to find out more visit www.arcnutrition.co.uk.
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