Superfoods: salvation or slick marketing?
Written by: Blanka Junová
Modern dietary supplements capitalize
on single-cell organisms with high nutritive value. But how "super"
STRESS, LACK OF exercise, a toxic environment, poor quality comestibles,
coffee, alcohol, medications...all of these raise the body's need
for consuming natural prophylactic nutrients. But these are frequently
missing in industrially produced foodstuffs. Producers of diet supplements
offer a modern solution: so-called "superfoods".
What's in the name?
Generally, comestibles and diet supplements marked superfood are
distinguished by their high content of readily available nutrients,
which means that they are easily digested and may quickly benefit
tissues and organs. In addition, they also contain other substances
(chlorophyll, flavonols, fiber, certain types of bacteria, etc.)
that favorably effect human health. The "superfood" designation
is most frequently connected with products based on plants that
are rich in chlorophyll. Thanks to its composition, which is very
similar to that of hemoglobin in red blood cells, it supports blood
production, acts as an anti-inflammatory, cleans and detoxifies
the system, supports healthy intestinal flora, and promotes the
production of vitamins E, A, and K. Some plants that are rich in
chlorophyll are blue-green algae, alfalfa, and wheat or barley sprouts.
Blue-green algae are spirally shaped, monocellular organisms, and
they are currently regarded as a supplement with ideal nutritional
composition. There are three types: spirulina, chlorela, and wild
algae. They all contain about 60% high-quality amino acids, and
in addition to chlorophyll, they are also a source of a wide spectrum
of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, and
enzymes. Furthermore, they are one of the few vegetable sources
of vitamin B12, a vitamin that vegetarians frequently lack in their
diets. By comparison, the digestibility of vegetable-based proteins
is calculated at 85%, while the digestibility of proteins contained
in beef is only 20% of total content. Wheat and barley sprouts have
similar properties to those of algae, but with lower (approximately
20%) protein content and higher chlorophyll and enzyme content.
Alfalfa has a higher content of some vitamins and minerals.
Plants containing high quantities of chlorophyll are hot items in
modern diets. Producers offer them in various combinations and forms,
from tablets to so-called "green beverages", and these
compete in quantities of other beneficial additives and ingredients
(one should remember that natural comestibles offer similar qualities).
Ocean algae, fermented soybean paste (or miso, in Japanese cuisine),
and grain and legume sprouts contain many of the substances mentioned
in the preceding paragraph. Shiitake mushrooms, Kombucha beverage,
molasses, and even ordinary garlic and flax seeds have similar effects
Do superfoods really work?
The term "superfood" is often used to attract the attention
of potential buyers of diet supplements. It attempts to evoke an
image that the product in question will solve their health problems
without forcing them to change their eating habits. However, "superfood"
is neither a panacea nor a bandage for a poor lifestyle; one should
not assume that adding one "green beverage" to a big lunch
at McDonald's will assure good health. On the other hand, the word
"superfood" is, to a certain degree, justified. It really
is a representation of comestibles with "super" nutrient
concentration, and, if properly ingested, "super" effects.
Diet supplements and comestibles thus marked can serve as an excellent
preventative of many diseases, and a way to reinforce the self-healing
abilities of the organism.
| Specific properties of plants rich in chlorophyll,
most frequently designated as "superfood".
|65% protein, phycocyanine blue stain
||55% protein, higher content of nucleic acids
and essential fatty acids
||60% protein, phyacocyanine blue stain
||18.9% protein, higher content of minerals
and vitamin K
||20% protein, 200 types of enzymes
||nervous system stimulant, antidepressant
| used for
||malnutrition and anemia, reconvalescence,
diet supplement for seniors
||reconvalescence, physical stress, diet supplement
||depression, nervous disorders, menstrual
||arthritis, stomach ulcers, mineral deficiency
||inflammation, fatigue, intestinal flora
| * Only substances that distinguish
individual types are stated.