Super-foods & supplements

Okay–this is a rant (rather like my one on “baby” vegetables  so you might want to quit reading right here. Not a problem–you can have my share of the superfoods, too.)

mustard & kale IMG_6023

mustard greens, curly kale, and dandelion greens

I’m really tired of hearing about “superfoods”! I don’t care if it’s açaí berries, green tea, kale, turmeric–I don’t really think there is such a thing–It’s media hyperbole. I don’t mean that I don’t like some of the things that are called superfoods. Kale and acai berries are good, nutritious, and even tasty.

The term superfood somehow suggests that many of the fruits and vegetables we eat are not adequate nutrition. If a superfood is one which is supposed be rich in compounds good for health, it seems more of our fruits and vegetables should be on that list, for example, dandelion greens. (It’s not a new word–according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (online) it was first used in 1915. It’s true that fruits and vegetables do vary in nutritional value–iceberg lettuce and cucumbers are not exactly powerhouses of nutrition but they do have things like fiber that are good for us.

Kale is undoubtedly more nutritious than iceberg lettuce. I like kale, but the other day I wanted a takeaway from the grocery store–a vegetable salad (something other than mesclun, romaine, or other “lettuce”. I was really frustrated because almost everything had raw kale in it. Frankly, I don’t like raw kale even if it’s been massaged, and I’m sure none of this had been.  Raw kale of the kind that is so frequently used (the curly stuff) puts me into the existential world of a ruminant–and I’m lacking the extra stomach that they have for digesting completely uncooked greenery. So, I want my kale cooked and I want different varieties–e.g. Toscano or Russian which are more suited how I want to eat kale.  (I feel the same about completely raw broccoli; give it to me as a cruditè but lightly blanched, please,  and I love it.)

While skulking about the internet to learn more about the legislative process in the EU, I found the European Food Information Council and an article on The science behind superfoods: are they really super? that suggested we need to look carefully at the science behind these claims–with the bottom line being that we do need to eat more fruits and vegetables–and a variety of them. Just a variety of real foods and not look for “superfoods”.

Thinking about all the hype of super-foods lead me to think about all the supplements marketed and consumed in this country and the idea that “more is better” is applied to so many things. On my own recognizance and the recommendation of my physician I take a single multivitamin (age appropriate), and because of age, calcium and vitamin D supplements. That’s all! (As much dairy as I consume I sometimes wonder if the calcium supplement is really even necessary.) Then I think of some acquaintances who take supplements as if life depended on it–rather than focusing on good daily nutrition.

All this rumination leads me to thoughts about our more-is-better attitudes which gets me on my soapbox just about as much as superfood and baby vegetables. It seems bigger-is-better is the theme in the produce department. I don’t want huge apples; I want a serving-size apple so I don’t have “leftovers” when I eat apples. My produce does not need to be picture-perfect to taste good, either.

Give me variety, give me lots of veggies and fruits, give me “real” (unprocessed) food, but spare me the superfoods!


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About sa.fifer

Lover of good, wholesome food and wine. Cooks for one and the cat. Likes to paint-- a frustrated botanical illustrator and amateur (photographer) and fledgling birdwatcher, beekeeper, and Kindle addict. Works as a freelance indexer.