So-called superfoods have gained popularity in recent years, with shoppers forking out their hard-earned cash for activated almonds, green powders, protein balls and more, but according to new research many superfoods aren’t as healthy as many people believe.
According to the study’s findings, there’s little evidence these superfoods are better than the tried and true five core food groups and QUT dietician Dr Helen Vidgen said many packaged ‘healthy’ foods that make nutritional promises are often based on “weak studies”.
“These promises are often based on weak studies, experiments on a rat, or flimsy evidence of a vitamin’s ability to affect your emotions or behaviour,” she said.
“Many of these products promise to benefit health but when you go back to the research they say supports them, it’s pretty weak and unfounded or the findings have been extrapolated in a way that’s not very relevant. New ‘superfoods’ come and go and often confuse the public on what healthy eating is.”
To find out how healthy superfoods really are, Vidgen’s nutrition students investigated the marketing promises behind some of the most popular superfoods on the market, including, breastfeeding biscuits, kombucha, green powder, toddler milk and protein balls.
The students found no scientific evidence to support the promise that breastfeeding biscuits enhance milk supply, or that protein balls could boost your mood. In fact, protein balls contain double the fat and sugar recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Meanwhile, the students also found that fermented drinks, such as kombucha, might not be that healthy after all.
Fermented but non-alcoholic drinks are having their moment in the sun right now, with fancy bottles of kombucha available in supermarkets and plenty of fashionable cafes. Many studies claim that fermented drinks give our bodies probiotics (good bacteria and yeast) that are supposedly excellent for the digestion and can even improve overall health.
However, according to the student’s findings, all documented effects of kombucha on wellbeing are from animal studies and evidence to show that kombucha improves gut health is also weak.
They found the best way to improve your gut health is to eat a variety of plant foods such as different kinds of legumes, wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and nuts.
The student’s also found that toddler milk formula is much more expensive than regular cow’s milk and has twice the sugar, which can contribute to children developing a liking for sweeter foods early in life. Formula can also keep the child full for longer, which may lower the appetite for the core food groups.
Meanwhile, green powder, which is often marketed as an easy way to get children to eat their veggies or a great addition to fruit smoothies, has no evidence to support the promise that the powdered product provides enough nutrients to substitute real veggies. In fact, the processing means potassium is lost and the magnesium is less available than it is in fresh food.
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