Do superfoods really give you superpowers?




Açaí berries, avocado and chia seeds are very special exotic foods which are also known as superfoods. Lauded as a healthy trend for years, those foods described as superfoods promise an extraordinarily positive effect on our immune system or our body in general. To some they are an anti-ageing miracle. But what’s behind the big words? What are the best superfoods? Which nutrients make them an indispensable part of a healthy diet? And are there regional foods that offer an alternative to the more exotic ones?

Who invented superfoods?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines superfood as: “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.”

The idea of designating foods such as goji berries as superfoods was spread by – no surprise here – the marketing departments of food companies.

Which foods count as superfoods?

Since it isn’t a protected term, any food could technically be declared as a superfood. Many superfoods actually do have a positive effect on our bodies. We have compiled a superfood list with valuable nutrients and their superpower for you:

   

Superfood

Origin

Nutrients

Touted superpower

Açaí berry Rain forest, particularly the Amazon region Calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, particularly high amounts of vitamin C Large amount of antioxidants*
Acerola Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Florida Calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, protein, vitamin B1, B2, C, provitamin A Anti-inflammatory
Aronia North America Beta-carotene, calcium, folic acid, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E Large amount of antioxidants*, anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol levels
Avocado Mexico, Peru, Israel Many valuable fats, vitamin E, B6, provitamin A The large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids are, for example, recommended as part of a healthy diet for the heart
Chia seeds Mexico and Central America Fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids Quickly provide a long-lasting feeling of fullness
Goji berries China Iron, potassium, vitamin C Helps against high blood pressure and exhaustion and supports the immune system
Matcha Japan Calcium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, E, C and K Wakes you up and relaxes you at the same time
Moringa Tropics and subtropics Calcium, magnesium phosphorus potassium, sodium, sulphur Strengthens the immune system and boosts circulation and metabolism
Quinoa South America, particularly the Andes Amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium True powerhouse
Spirulina Tropics and subtropics Calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus potassium, zinc Strengthens the immune system

*Antioxidants are molecules that protect the body from harmful free radicals (i.e. aggressive metabolic products) – an excessively high number of free radicals can cause cell damage. In turn, this can encourage illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. The effect of antioxidants in the body is controversial. While they are certainly part of a healthy diet, there is no concrete evidence that the consumption of antioxidants protects us from diseases.

Environmental impact of exotic superfoods

As these trend foods do not grow in Europe, they need to be flown or shipped halfway around the world. The long transport routes are one reason for the bad environmental footprint of superfoods. In addition, the rising demand leads to a large monoculture, the increased use of pesticides and the destruction of rain forests. As a result, endangered animals lose their habitat and considerable damage is done to the climate.

In countries already suffering from water shortages, the water is (often illegally) used for the extensive cultivation of avocado, for example. Growing 1 kg of avocados requires 1,000 l of water. In comparison, 1 kg of potatoes grown in Germany only require 8 l of water (given a normal amount of rain).

There are therefore many reasons to choose regional foods as an alternative – which isn’t all that difficult, by the way:

Superfood

Regional superfood

Açaí berry Blackcurrant, blueberry, elderberry, sour cherry
Acerola Blackcurrant, rosehip, sea buckthorn
Aronia Blueberry, elderberry
Avocado High-quality plant oils, nuts (especially tree nuts)
Chiasamen Linseed
Gojibeere Blackcurrant, raspberry
Matcha Chamomile, dandelion, rosehip
Moringa Dairy products, fresh herbs, fruit, garlic, nuts, onions, vegetables
Quinoa Green spelt, spelt, millet
Spirulina Cheese, eggs, green vegetables, meat, nuts, pulses, wholegrain

 

Recipe ideas with superfoods

In our recipe collection, you will find countless healthy, sugar-free recipes with unusual ingredients. Use our superfood recipes as an inspiration for your healthy diet:

Raspberry oat bars (vegan)

Pound cake with poppy seeds and raspberries
Cucumber and matcha power drink (vegan)
Wholegrain scones and quick strawberry jam
Yoghurt oat porridge with raspberries
Fresh chia seed and lemon pudding (vegan)
Green smoothie
Raspberry smoothie bowl

Conclusion

The effect of superfoods may not be scientifically proven, but these special foods can still make a valuable contribution to a varied and healthy diet. Let us protect the climate by keeping regional superfoods in mind when shopping for groceries. Preferably buy foods – with or without superpowers – seasonally from a regional vendor that you trust.