There are so many myths about food; created intentionally or accidentally. It can be hard to know what is really good for you and what is actually ‘bad’. There are a few obvious ones, fat, sugar and chocolate. Hang on though! One of those bad food myths has already been broken. Even Cadburys ‘Old Gold’ chocolate bars now have a big “Antioxidant” sticker on them. Do we really know what antioxidants are, what types are in chocolate and weather a bar of Old Gold is good for us? Then there’s advertising saying to eat fish for its omega 3s and 6s. Omegas are fats, didn’t you know. Taking honey when you have a cold… almost pure sugar! Over the next three weeks we’re going to take a look at the three big ‘bads’: why they can be unhealthy and how they can be nourishing. Today we are going to talk about super-foods(i).
It would be easy to give you a list of super-foods: beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and live yogurt(ii). Like all things in life, it is more complicated than you would like. Genetically engineered, no longer able to reproduce naturally, artificially inseminated, large-breasted, antibiotic fed turkey is not a super-food. Organic, free range, naturally reared, loved and looked after turkey meat will have all the benefits it is purported to. Dead yogurt, full of refined sugars and colour ‘numbers’, artificially flavoured and advertised as healthily low fat is deceptive. Natural tub set yogurt, alive with ‘ABC cultures’, minimally processed and made preferably from un-homogenised milk, will give you such a good bacteria boost that even some lactose/dairy intolerant consumers can eat it.
The problem, as always, is over processing. We have so far removed foods from their natural state, that even fresh oranges, tomatoes and blueberries will have a fraction of the possible nutrients they have the potential for. Poisonous pesticide and herbicide residues aside, fresh produce is often kept in cool store houses for up to a year before it is even shipped to our supermarket distributors. Berries, thankfully, cannot be kept for as long and so fresh berries really are an antioxidant boost. Even snap frozen are good, but remember vitamin C is very volatile and dissipates quickly. Vitamin C is also essential for maximum absorption of antioxidants; whilst dairy products inhibit our digestion of antioxidants. So, think fresh or frozen blueberries with a little fresh orange or lemon juice, and maybe some walnuts for protein – this is ideal. However, having them on your morning yogurt or in a bowl of dairy milk with cereal, will not benefit as much as it tastes good.
Another way to look at super-foods is to consider the ‘super’ component. Such as Omega oils, antioxidants which fight free radicals, soluble and non soluble fibre, calcium for bones, good bacteria and even whole sugars and some of the ‘drug like’ compounds that make us ‘feel good’. With fruit and vegetables the basic rule for finding antioxidants is this: the more colour the healthier. This not only relates to blueberries weighing in with better odds than carrots. The more vibrant the actual carrot you buy, the more free radical fighting aid you will give your body. Farmers markets and speciality or local greengrocers may stock seasonally, red carrots, vibrant yellow beetroots, purple asparagus and all manner of veges to brighten your plates and days. The second rule is to eat it as ‘alive’ as possible. Minimum storage time, flash cooking at moderate temperatures and fresh herbs at the end will give an extra boost. You would not do well hanging around in a cool room wrapped in plastic for a week. So don’t subject your vegetables to that either. You are what you eat. Eat fresh and you will look and feel fresh.
Every nation, rain forest and island seems to want to get into the super-foods market. Acaci berries, gogi or cactus powder bombards us. Yes, many of these are highly beneficial, when fresh. Dehydrated, juiced and pasteurised, or otherwise preserved, packaged, then sent across the globe super-foods will lose some of their superpowers. Locally grown, heirloom varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables which have not contributed to carbon mileage or over packaging are better both for us and the environment. If you are eating fresh, healthy, live fruits and vegetables daily then you will not find a need to consume processed ‘medicine’ foods.
Next week we will look in more depth at good fats.
(i) http://www.healthchecksystems.com/hfoods.htm and http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/food_matters/superfoods.shtml and http://whfoods.org and
(ii) Super-foods Everyone Needs, Experts say dozens of easy-to-find ‘super-foods’ can help ward off heart disease, cancer, cholesterol, and more, By Susan Seliger, http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/superfoods-everyone-needs