FOOD

We Asked Which Superfoods Are Actually Worth The Hype

Plus, everyday foods that are super and cheaper.

11/08/2016 10:36 AM AEST | Updated August 11, 2016 13:03
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Some superfoods really are super, but not always essential.

Thanks to good ol' social media, fitness gurus and foodies around the world, oranges and plain lettuce is about as daggy as your dad's tracky dack and New Balance sneakers getup.

In all fairness, it is true: buying and eating superfoods can help make you feel vibrant and encourage you to eat more healthy meals (even if the main goal is to post said meal on Instagram).

But are all, or any, of these superfoods really worth the hype (and money)? According to accredited practising dietitian, Jemma O'Hanlon, most of them are indeed super.

"There's a lot of hype about superfoods, but the truth is that some foods really are quite super," O'Hanlon told The Huffington Post Australia.

"No food will be the magic bullet to optimal health, but some foods do contain a host of nutritional benefits and it's great if whole foods are appearing more in the spotlight."

"The important thing is to enjoy a variety of foods every day, and there's certainly nothing wrong with mixing things up every now and then."

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Many superfoods aren't essential but can add a punch of flavour, nutrition and inspiration.

Going without these superfoods doesn't mean you're unhealthy by any means -- including superfoods to your diet is simply a way to add variety and a boost of vitamins and minerals.

"It's really up to the individual as to whether they choose quinoa over couscous, or kale over broccoli," O'Hanlon said.

"All of these foods are both wholesome and provide a range of nutritional benefits, so it's really up to the consumer as to which product they prefer and how it best fits with their budget.

"The important thing is to enjoy a variety of foods every day, and there's certainly nothing wrong with mixing things up every now and then."

Here are a dietitian's thoughts on whether these superfoods are worth the hype.

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Goji berries

Also known as wolfberries, goji is a bright orange-red berry that comes from a shrub native to China. Like all berries, goji berries are high in antioxidants, as well being a good source of fibre and vitamin C. If you like the taste and can afford them, feel free to include goji berries, but plain berries can do the trick, too.

"I love goji berries," O'Hanlon said. "They go beautifully teamed with cacao -- I'll often have Greek yoghurt as a snack topped with some cacao nibs and goji berries."

Verdict: worth the hype but not essential.

Chia seeds

"Chia seeds are a plant source of omega-3s, and what I love the most about chia seeds is that they act as a natural thickener," O'Hanlon told HuffPost Australia.

"I add a teaspoon of chia seeds to my porridge each morning just to help thicken it up and add some texture, but also to add some good fats and dietary fibre."

Verdict: worth the hype.

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Chia seeds make a delicious pudding: simply add a few tablespoons to your milk of choice and top with your favourite berries.

Cacao powder

"Cacao powder is the raw version of regular cocoa powder, so it's a great substitute for hot chocolate powders you can buy in the supermarket," O'Hanlon said.

As raw cacao powder is minimally processed, they are suggested to contain more vitamins and minerals like antioxidants than its plain counterpart.

"Make up a rich hot chocolate using a scoop of cacao powder and some warmed hot milk. Perfect for a cold winter's night."

Verdict: worth the hype but not essential.

Acai berries

Often eaten in the form of acai bowls, acai is a Brazilian berry which Australians have taken a huge liking to, with acai bowls popping up on cafe menus everywhere.

"These berries are renowned for their antioxidant content," O'Hanlon said. "Enjoy these in small amounts such as made up in a trail mix. They'll add a lovely sweetness and go well with seeds like pepitas and sunflower seeds."

Verdict: worth the hype but not essential.

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Pretty.

Maca powder

"This earthy powder is known for being rich in minerals, but you don't need to buy maca powder to get the minerals your body needs," O'Hanlon explained.

"If you like maca's earthy flavour and can afford to buy it, enjoy it in small amounts in smoothies or mixed into your cereal."

Verdict: not worth the hype.

Bee pollen

Bee pollen is a pollen ball that has been packed by worker honeybees into pellets.

"Bee pollen is not a necessary addition in the diet and can cause a severe allergic reaction in some individuals," O'Hanlon explained. "It's recommended to check in with your doctor before taking bee pollen as it may cause issues for people taking certain medications."

Verdict: not worth the hype.

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Bee pollen is food for young bees and is approximately 40 percent protein.

Hemp seeds

Yes, you thought right: hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species which has become a superfood (and cannot get you high, we should add).

"Hemp has recently been added to FSANZ's list to approve as a food that can be sold," O'Hanlon said.

"Hemp seeds contain a range of vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids."

Verdict: worth the hype.

Quinoa

"There are so many benefits to eating quinoa," O'Hanlon said. "It's low GI, high in fibre and is higher in protein compared to other whole grains.

"It's also super easy to cook -- just as you would rice. Quinoa is quite a bland flavoured grain on its own, so it goes beautifully in dishes with fresh herbs and spices, lemon juice and chilli."

Verdict: worth the hype.

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Quinoa is a nutty, filling addition to salads.

Kale

"I'm a huge kale fan and not just because it's full of nutrients such as folate and vitamin C," O'Hanlon said. "You can steam it, you can sauté it, you can even make kale chips.

"Kale is quite bitter on its own, so you have to get creative with your condiments to enhance it. I love kale steamed and served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil."

Verdict: worth the hype.

Turmeric

"Turmeric has become very poplur and we're now seeing golden lattes on every cafe menu," O'Hanlon said.

"Turmeric has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties due to curcumin, a substance found in turmeric."

Verdict: worth the hype.

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Spicy turmeric lattes are all the rage right now.

Coconut oil

"This is not one to get sucked in to," O'Hanlon told HuffPost Australia.

"Although it's marketed as a superfood, we don't have enough scientific evidence to recommend using this oil in place of other oils we know bring immense nutritional benefits, such as extra virgin olive oil."

Verdict: not worth the hype.

Green tea

"This is one to definitely drink more of if you're a green tea lover," O'Hanlon said.

"Green tea is packed with antioxidants known as flavonoids, which have been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Not to mention it's a soothing warm drink to have in between meals to cleanse your palate."

Verdict: worth the hype.

Dimitri Otis
Break up your black tea with some green.

Still not convinced? Super foods don't have to have a superfood price tag. In fact, you probably already have these in your pantry and fridge at home.

Oats

"Oats are a true superfood," O'Hanlon said. "They're low GI, high in fibre and full of B vitamins.

"Oats are the perfect way to start your mornings, whether it's enjoying a toasted or Bircher muesli, or a warming bowl of porridge."

Blueberries

"Rich in anthocyanins, blueberries provide a sweet hit and are low in kilojoules, so are perfect for people watching their weight," O'Hanlon said.

"I love them with my breakfast but I also love them as an after dinner treat, served in a bowl with a dollop of ricotta cheese, a drizzle of honey and some crushed cacao beans."

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Delicious on their own, but amazing with yoghurt.

Greek yoghurt

"I eat yoghurt every day and I can't imagine life without it," O'Hanlon said. "Not only for its nutritional benefits (high in protein, calcium, low GI, a source of probiotics... need I say more), but Greek yoghurt is higher in protein and I find it keeps me fuller for longer.

"I also love the texture of Greek yoghurt -- it's so creamy and satisfying."

Eggs

"I couldn't go a week without eating eggs, they are simply such a versatile food," O'Hanlon said. "They're cheap, long lasting, easy to prepare and such a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants."

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