What are the uses of fruits
Superfood: Hype about fruits and seeds
What is behind the superfood advertisement?
Superfoods are said to have all kinds of health-promoting properties. Usually they are supposed to prevent various diseases and also make you feel full and slim. Its antioxidant potential is particularly emphasized. So it's no wonder that for 48% of the population, superfoods are part of a health-conscious diet.
There is largely a lack of scientific evidence for the health-promoting properties advertised. Most of the statements about superfoods come from commercial suppliers, individual consultants or interest groups. Anecdotes and experience reports predominate. Charlatanism is widespread. As a rule, there is no reliable data on enzyme levels or the amounts of individual phytochemicals, as a result: Superfoods are often simply not adequately investigated to be able to evaluate their health.
Even with food supplements containing superfoods, the advertised health benefits are usually not scientifically proven and the exact composition is often not known. The vitamins and minerals highlighted in the products are often added artificially.
The Stuttgart Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office was able to show in investigations in 2017 that 90% of the samples examined had defects in the labeling. In most cases, it was a question of missing quantities of advertised nutrients or the use of inadmissible nutritional and health-related claims.
Superfoods can - if they are not consumed in capsule form - enrich the menu and convey completely new taste experiences. A health benefit compared to the multitude of local vegetables and fruits is not to be expected.
What should I look out for when using superfoods?
From a nutritional point of view, there is nothing wrong with superfoods in the form of fruits and seeds, fresh, dried or as a puree. However, exotic foods (whether pure or as an extract) always carry a certain risk of triggering hypersensitivity reactions or allergies.
In addition, interactions between superfoods and drugs are possible. As with grapefruit, a minimum interval should be observed between the consumption of pomegranate products and the intake of medicines in order to rule out any changed effects. Goji berries, even in jam form, are dangerous for people who take certain anticoagulants ("blood thinners").
Especially caution is advised with enrichment. There are no standardizations for extracts and preparations in the food sector as there are for pharmaceuticals. Mangosteen extract A and mangosteen extract B are therefore not comparable with each other. And what is not a problem as food in normal quantities (such as cinnamon) can be achieved through the Concentration of certain irritating or toxic substances (Cinnamaldehyde, coumarin) become health problems. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has already submitted individual studies and assessments of the risk and warns in a current press release: "Some superfood products, such as certain dietary supplements, [...] consist of extracts or preparations made from vegetable superfoods that contain potentially harmful substances in concentrated form may contain. A lack of standards for extraction processes or, in some cases, insufficient data from studies can make the health assessment of these products more difficult. They are therefore not to be equated with the plant-based superfoods from which they are obtained. "
When deciding on a superfood, one should consider not only aspects of health but also the influence of superfood on the environment and society in the growing regions. The long transport routes, sometimes by plane or (deep) refrigerated, result in a poor climate balance for numerous exotic superfoods.
What are superfoods?
Superfoods have been on the market for a while. However, so far there is no official definition or legal regulation. "Superfoods" are mostly natural and exotic foods with large amounts of vitamins and / or minerals as well as secondary plant substances. They are rarely offered fresh, but mostly dried, as a puree or extract. They are also on the market as enrichment in functional foods (such as rolls with chia seeds) or in capsule and powder form as dietary supplements. Superfoods are also used as an ingredient in particularly "healthy" recipes (for example mueslis, smoothies, bars).
If you want to try superfoods, you should make sure in advance whether the advertised product is about the "real" fruits or seeds, or whether it is just an ingredient in a food (usually only available in small quantities). Numerous processing steps were often necessary to make the superfood edible, such as extraction, drying, adding plenty of sugar or flavoring.
What ingredients do superfoods contain?
Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods that naturally contain high levels of individual micronutrients, enzymes and phytochemicals. The fresh super berries, grains or leaves are initially usually rich in valuable ingredients, but the Transport route from the growing areas in exotic countries to the German supermarket is long. The products are often harvested too early, sometimes heavily processed, or lie in shipping containers for weeks. It is therefore questionable how much of the advertised ingredients actually reach the consumer.
A balanced nutrient intake can be achieved through a plant-based diverse diet to ensure. It is not enough to focus on a few superfoods in your diet.
Can superfoods be contaminated with harmful substances?
According to a survey by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, two out of five respondents believe that superfood products are tested for their harmless health before they are available in Germany - this is not the case.
Basically, the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that his product is safe. It happens again and again that berries, seeds, algae or dried plants sold as superfoods are contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals (e.g. arsenic, cadmium), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), mineral oil or pathogenic bacteria. Insecticides are regularly detected in goji berries, and products with seaweed often contain far too much iodine.
In its current report, the Stuttgart Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office comes to the conclusion that overall, there is a clear improvement in the residue situation, but the situation is not yet satisfactory. There are still products that have been classified as harmful and unsafe food.
Instead of the acai berries, you can eat local dark berries (blackberry, elderberry, blueberry and chokeberry (aronia) as well as cherries, red grapes and red cabbage, which also score with high levels of antioxidant substances. Flaxseed instead of chia also contain omega -3 fatty acids and fiber. Kale, spinach and lamb's lettuce replace spirulina and moringa.
Onion plants (onions, leeks, chives, garlic), all types of cabbage, radishes, beetroot, legumes and citrus fruits, native vegetable oils, kernels and nuts, but also potatoes and (whole grain) cereals are particularly rich in secondary plant substances. Most of it is locally grown.
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Chia, Goji & Co. - Superfoods are part of a healthy diet for around half of the population, press release 39/2020 from November 18, 2020. Retrieved on November 19, 2020
CVUA. “Superfood” - does not keep what the name promises. Investigation results 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2020
Investigation offices for food control and animal health Baden Württemberg. Moringa leaf powder - still with residues and unfair application. Still not great: the "superfood" Moringa. Retrieved on November 19, 2020
Health risk from shiitake mushrooms. BfR opinion of 23.06.14
García Jiménez S, Pastor Vargas C, de las Heras M, et al. (2015) Allergen Characterization of Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica), a New Allergenic Food. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 25 (1): 55-82
Larramendi CH, García-Abujeta JL, Vicario S, García-Endrino A, et al. (2012) Goji berries (Lycium barbarum): risk of allergic reactions in individuals with food allergy. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 22 (5): 345-50
Smollich M, Podlogar J. Drug-Food Interactions. Scientific publishing company Stuttgart. 2nd edition, 2020
Federal Institute for Consumer Health Protection and Veterinary Medicine (2000). Contents of coumarin, safrole, methyleugenol and estragole in food. Retrieved on November 19, 2020
Ökotest (2016) Test Superfoods - Supertox. Ökotest 4, 29-36
Greenpeace (2013) Toxic pesticide cocktails in traditional Chinese herbs. Retrieved on November 19, 2020
CVUA Stuttgart: Followed up: pesticides in goji berries. Retrieved on November 19, 2020
NDR market: Chia, goji berries, moringa: what are the benefits of superfood? from June 21, 2019.
Hacker K / CVUA Baden-Württemberg (2009): Pesticides in goji berries? Retrieved on November 19, 2020.
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