“Superfoods” have attracted a lot of public attention in recent times. A quick Google Ngram search of the term superfood shows a huge increase in its popularity since the year 2000. Superfoods do not have any universally accepted definition as it varies from culture to culture. However, broadly they can be defined as a nutrient-dense food, especially beneficial for health and well-being when compared to regular foods (van den Driessche, Plat, & Mensink, 2018).
Superfoods are a lot more expensive than regular foods which make them inaccessible to most of the population. Common sense dictates that almost all the nutrients that are found in superfoods can be obtained through the consumption of a varied diet consisting of whole foods, fruits and vegetables which are all within our budgets. This makes the inclusion of superfoods, even if they do have benefits, unnecessary.
For example, 100g of quinoa contains 4.4g of protein, 64mg of magnesium and 152 mg of phosphorus as compared to 100g of dal which contains 25g of protein, 115mg of magnesium and 366mg of phosphorus. According to current market prices you pay approx. Rs. 60/- per 100g serving of quinoa (600 rupees per kg) and Rs. 8/- per 100g serving of dal (80 rupees per kg). Therefore, quinoa is almost 8 times more expensive than dal.
A recent systematic review on the effects of superfoods on risk factors of the metabolic syndrome in humans was conducted by van den Driessche et al. (2018). The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of lifestyle diseases which are grouped together. After evaluating a total of 113 studies which tested the effects of 17s of the most widely accepted superfoods (quinoa, goji berries, cocoa etc.), they concluded that the evidence of any benefits is inconsistent. Therefore, the case for superfoods is still weak and more studies are needed to see if they benefit populations without metabolic syndrome.
Therefore, superfoods must be consumed only if, firstly they are within your budget and secondly, if they appeal to your taste buds.
van den Driessche, J. J., Plat, J., & Mensink, R. P. (2018). Effects of superfoods on risk factors of metabolic syndrome: a systematic review of human intervention trials. Food & Function, 9(4), 1944–1966. https://doi.org/10.1039/C7FO01792H
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