We delve into the mystery that is superfoods and whether they are good for us and the environment.
Superfoods. We have all seen them in healthy aisle at our local Tesco: dried variants of every single fruit, seeds and nuts that are apparently enough to be full meals and exotic berry names that you cannot pronounce. Something that pretentious and expensive cannot be unhealthy or bad for the environment, can it?
Given that some of these ‘super’ berries can go for as much as ten times the price of your humble raspberry, it seems only fair that to see if this is just the latest fad or truly worth you’re hard earned cash.
What exactly are Superfoods?
Superfoods are food products said to have a high nutrition density, and usually includes fruits, vegetables and nuts. The biggest problem with superfoods however, is that there isn’t exactly a strict definition or criteria of what separates a ‘superfood’ from all the regular, not-superfoods. If anything, superfoods do not appear to be anything more than a marketing ploy to sell exotic, unknown produce. Now, that does not necessarily mean that these products aren’t good for you or the environment, as they are mostly made up of plant-based products.
Are Superfoods good for the environment?
While they certainly seem to be shelved near many of the vegetarian/vegan options, superfoods are marketed such for their health benefits, and not necessarily due to them being environmentally ethical. Therefore, whilst the majority of superfoods are plant-based, this label can also include meat and dairy such as salmon and eggs. That being said, the majority do seem to be vegan-friendly: dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts and dried fruit seem to be the order of the day. Unfortunately this environmental thinking does not extend to its packaging. Despite generally being modestly sized products, the use of plastic is rife in order to use as much space as possible to market their health benefits. Given that many of these fruits and vegetables are also foreign, any environmental benefits of growing organic them organically are cancelled out by flying them halfway round the world
Are Superfoods actually that good for your health?
While all these products are generally certified as healthy, to label them as ‘super’ may be a bit excessive. Many superfoods do indeed contain antioxidants, healthy fats and fibre, which are thought to ward off cancer, heart disease and diabetes respectively. However, the superfood category has never received any scientific backing, so there is no guarantee that every product with the ‘superfood’ label on the packaging actually have any of these health benefits. Their marketing tends to overplay the scant scientific evidence there is, and scientific studies have also emphasised that they need to be eaten in moderation, as part of a balanced diet rather than consumed all in one sitting. All in all, it seems to be a bit of a lucky dip; you can’t really be sure exactly quite how healthy these foodstuffs are.
Eating environmentally should always be about what works for you and your lifestyle, and not blindly following one of the latest fads. If you enjoy the products and can afford them then more power to you, but it should always be in combination with other nutritious foods, in the right quantities. Superfoods don’t have the superpower to save your health or the environment single-handedly but are one, somewhat dubious, option.