Every week we hear more about a new superfood or supergroup of vegetables that bring us the next greatest absorption in a vital elemental nutrient that is going to superboost our energy, make us train 9 times a week and leave us feeling like a Cover Girl/Men's Health supermodel! Woo hoo - get me some of that!
The truth is that superfoods are but a part of the wide sphere of nutrient rich options that are available and that with all the other 'stuff' that we take, imbibe and ingest into our systems, a simple addition of one element is not going to create earth shattering changes in our well being to the extent that many marketing people would have us believe. I don't doubt they are important and play a great role, but unless we are elite athletes, monitoring everything in our diet and pushing peak performances, for many of us these changes are not going to be as dramatic.
So how can WE, the "average exercise activity based bunny" take full advantage of these superfoods? Combining them with a great base eating plan. In my early days of nutrition I came upon a belief which I still hold true to today. That we are able to incorporate all the substances and richness of vitamins that are available in supplemental form, into our eating habits. Luckily for me, I am one of those people that you can throw anything at digestion wise. Dairy, nuts, seafood - this stomach can handle whatever is on the menu (which isn't the case for everyone). In Classic Ayurvedic terms, I'm a Kaffa. A body type that ingests all foodstuffs and can eat at whatever time and with whatever combination of foods, and it doesn't upset me.
So - why not make full use of that and incorporate any missing nutrients or 'important base foods' into my system with my diet? What I am saying is that supplemental nutrients may be important for some who are unable to process certain elements like Zinc (which is in vast amounts in seafood) so they may need to look outside the dietary sphere to obtain these nutrients if certain foodstuffs are 'off limits' for them. But for the purpose of this article, lets push on with the idea of getting everything from your diet.
This one is priceless. Any inflammatory condition within the body or even on the skin can be helped by this wonderfully powerful root plant. It's healing powers have been utilised for centuries in ancient medicine eons old. Muscular strains, tendon strains, immune function, even headaches and migraines can be assisted by ingesting loads of ginger. Pickled ginger is not quite as potent as is cooking ginger but if you are chopping it up in a stir fry, it really does a wonderful job at keeping the body healthy. Inflammation can occur even after too much ingestion of flesh and heavy food. Digestive issues have long been assisted by ginger, helping to calm the stomach and keep the equilibirum by acidic environments. Tea form is wonderful and juice form packs a powerful punch. Do be careful if you are on medication such as blood thinners or have gallstones as Ginger does not mix well with these situations
The latest BIG WIG in the superfood hype is Kale. Broccoli lies in the same family and has been known for its added benefit of high levels of Vitamins A, B and K as well as fibre and calcium (yes that's right - any green leafy vegetable is far better than dairy for your daily calcium intake). Broccoli should not only include the 'florets' and stems but also the leaves as well as this is where much of their nutritional value lies. Include into that the Brussel Sprouts with its heady leafy stems. But pretty much any green leafy vegetable is right up there with kale as a 'superfood'.
Again, a great form of marketing has happened over Acai berries and pomegranate seeds or any 'exotic' fruit of late. The truth is that any poisonous berry has great powerful qualities. These are the reasons that you can't have them in any great amount! The original Blueberry has antioxidant and powerful phytonutrients that assist with keeping Free Radicals at bay but perhaps more intriguing are their ability to assist with inflammation. Particularly 'post workout' inflammation. Because of the proliferant amount of phytonutrients in the berry, these tend to have a very systemic benefit to the whole system rather than just the cardiovascular or circulatory system.
This has been hailed as the holy grail in CrossFit circles for its protein rich contribution to post exercise protein uptake. It doesn't have the high levels of carbohydrate and starch that potato has and so has utlimate status for those wishing to minimise their carb loading.
There is also a very great need to be mindful of 'seasonal eating'. My first foray into the organic realm back in 2000 had me working with a particular group of 'supermums' who were all growing and tending their vegetable gardens in their backyards in Adelaide. What I learnt here was that the seasons determine what foods are in rich supply because often that is exactly what we need to eat at that time. Oranges in the winter months, Greens in the spring, fruits in the summer - all because they are rich in certain vitamins and elements that we need at that time of the year to gear our body up for the climactic conditions that are presenting and the associated activity that we are involved with at that time.
In conclusion though, what should be stated is that there really is 'no real superfood'. All foods have benefit. Even fats and lipids have a role to take on in terms of contributing to the dietary richness that helps keep us in control and being 'superhuman'. Sure we can 'up the ante' on certain foods that are in fashion and there is no denying that they do have 'super elements' that make them desirable. But as in all things in health and vitality - it's rare that you can just find a quick fix. We are complex beings and our complex beings need complex combinations of nutrients.
So when you are choking down that shot of Wheatgrass with your blueberry shake, and proboitoic muffin, just remember that its part of the picture and not the only thing can contributes to you being SUPER.