It seems like a new superfood is announced every week right now. But what does it all mean?
At Thackeray’s we love the new, growing interest in food quality and provenance. It’s fantastic that people are beginning to pay more attention to what food does to their bodies, where it comes from, and how it is prepared. It’s something we’ve long been passionate about and it can only do people good.
However, there’s an awful lot of misinformation out there. As always, fads and trends rule the day and, fuelled by social media, they can take hold of people and cause a massive ripple until the next big thing comes around.
This isn’t so good. It means people regularly, drastically change their diet in different directions and pay too much attention to people whose income depends on feeding them a new fad diet every month. Food bloggers, social media celebrities, and nutritional supplement companies are all equally guilty. If their living depends on people regularly switching their lifestyle and diet back and forth, should people really trust their advice?
The answer is probably not.
Of course, research is always being done into nutrition and how it affects the body but it is an ongoing process. Beware of reading big, life-changing news in the papers or in blogs. More often than not, it will be founded on one study that found some evidence that certain nutrients may have some effect on the likelihood of becoming obese or contracting a disease. That study will invariably be superseded by a new one in a few months, but by then it is too late – people have already changed their lives because they were told to by fad-diet writers.
A good example of this is fat. In the 1950s, some evidence was found that dietary fat (especially saturated fat) could cause heart disease, increased blood cholesterol, and make people obese. This was a huge finding, and caused a massive rush to create low-fat (read: high-sugar) products and encouraged many people to dramatically change their lifestyles.
In fact, this study has been debunked over and over and over. Fat doesn’t make you fat. But people still believe it, and that’s hugely damaging. Obesity rates have been rising since people cut fat from their diets, as is heart disease and cholesterol.
A relatively recent trend we’d like to address is superfood.
Let’s be clear: superfood is not a scientific term. It’s not a nutritionist’s term. It’s a marketing term. It’s designed to make you spend lots of money on expensive foods that will miraculously save you from death, poverty or loneliness.
That’s not to say kale, beetroot, quinoa, blueberries and chia seeds aren’t great for you. They are! They’re full of great stuff. But they won’t solve all your health problems.
In fact, when you’re told that a new fantastic diet or supplement or food group will solve all your health issues, it’s best to ignore that.
The reality is, healthy eating is simple. Eat well, eat local, eat seasonal, eat everything in moderation. Eat food produced on farms near you, bought from markets in your town, and cooked well. It’s only since we moved away from these simple concepts that we’ve all got larger, slower, less energised and less healthy.
And then there’s the other side of it: exercise. While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, it is the key to being truly healthy and has a highly studied and proven effect on mental well-being. I myself am a keen cyclist – it’s become a passion of mine over the past year and I’ve signed myself up to some big challenges over the next few months to keep myself excited and motivated!