Enhancing Nutrition - Fruits, Vegetables, Legumes

Superfoods: Looking for health at the table

January 27, 2016

By Jose Carlos Marques. This article was translated from Portuguese.

Read the original article  from Correio de manha.

They call them ‘superfoods’ and promise many benefits. Experts doubt.

“Açaí is suitable for all those seeking a very nutritious food with unique flavor, fat zero and with high concentrations of vitamins, reducing the risk of disease.” This is how the Brazilian company Amaçaí describes on its website the fruit that sparked the Pará state’s economy, the world’s largest producer of açaí. The reason for this success is explained because the tropical fruit of Amazon is among the so-called ‘superfruits’, a list that changes every year with new products that promise massive doses of vitamins, antioxidants and other characteristics that supposedly make them very healthier than a simple pear or an apple. José Batista Ribeiro, manager of Amaçaí, tells’ Sunday ‘selling’ to such different places like Dubai or the Philippines “and that” the business is growing every year. ”

Also in Portugal it can buy acai in the form of pulp, juices, teas, tea or yogurt. The specialized shops to hypermarkets, the acai berry is a fruit of fashion, presented as an antioxidant and as such excellent to prevent heart disease and other ailments.   The fashion of the ‘super’  ‘Superfoods’ and ‘superfruits’ are terms that have become commonplace. Doctors and nutritionists are divided as to the real qualities of the products that come out every time. But all converge on an idea – advertising that want to make consumers believe that these foods have healing powers goes far beyond reality, at least the reality scientifically tested, with proven results and accepted by all.

The fashion of the ‘super’ 

‘Superfoods’ and ‘superfruits’ are terms that have become commonplace. Doctors and nutritionists are divided as to the real qualities of the products that come out every time. But all converge on an idea – advertising that want to make consumers believe that these foods have healing powers goes far beyond reality, at least the reality scientifically tested, with proven results and accepted by all.

Isabel do Carmo, medical specialist in endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition, not in the habit of recommending to their patients these foods. The explanation is simple: “There is still very little scientific literature on the effects that these products – usually exotic origin – have in the body.” But got used to hearing the questions of those who seek it and realizes a trend. “There is a kind of ‘magical thinking’ and people convince themselves that these foods have properties far beyond the normal, which is not true.” There are known and documented cases of foods that help in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases, but Isabel do Carmo emphasizes that it is not necessary to get them to the end of the world. “For example, a person who has a family history of colon cancer, it is important to eat foods high in acid. For example, broccoli,” he explains. The doctor, who is also a professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon, is attentive to scientific progress that are being disclosed and says it has been a lot of literature on the shuttle and its properties in aiding digestion of carbohydrates. This is another example that is not in the list of so-called ‘superfoods’ but that can have unexpected benefits.

Know what you eat

The nutritionist Lillian Barros is among those who recommend the consumption of these ‘superfoods’. But do not like the name. “The term ‘superfood’ was not used in everyday language until recently. Arrived with the fashion of the ‘detox’ juices and healthy eating. What is there are foods that have properties that result from the concentration of certain nutrients that can be beneficial and help improve the power. ” The expert speaks, for example, the fatty acids in chia seeds or in flax seeds, which can be important in the diets recommended for those suffering from diabetes or those looking to lose weight.

But there is another side, so often neglected. “People should be aware of their health. They should make an assessment before they started eating this type of ingredients. The goji berries, for example, can be very interesting as they have antioxidant properties that make it advisable to consume the breakfast. But it is known that people taking anticoagulants should avoid dried fruit. And the goji berry is precisely a dehydrated fruit, “says Lillian Barros. A nutritionist gives some simple advice: “These foods are not the solution for all ills We must know what each of them has the nutritional level and understand why we can do well.”

Nuno Borges is member of the board of the Portuguese Association of Nutritionists and professor at the University of Porto. Has on these foods a skeptical view. “Under the heading of ‘superfoods’ we find very different things. It is true that there are some interesting products, but the price is often high and do not know if you pay for them brings some benefit to the consumer. It remains to demonstrate whether the berries goji are richer than the nutritionally raspberry or strawberry eg “.

In the US, there is a recent euphoria surrounding the pomegranate fruit so far little known in the country. “Here’s an example of a food that we have known for centuries and is an interesting fact. But we must be careful if they use four or five pomegranates to make a juice, you need to take into account the level of sugar that juice will have. As the result, in terms of calories, can be harmful. ” Nuno Borges points out a positive side to this fashion. “Portugal is among the countries where the consumption of fruit is not enough. The secret here is the diversity, whether these products lead to people to eat more fruit, that’s good.”

Myth or Reality?

Mary Ann Lila, PhD, NC State Plants for Human Health Institute NC Research Campus

Mary Ann Lila

In 2013, worldwide experts joined in Vietnam for a symposium whose theme was precisely ‘superfruits, myth or reality?’. Mary Ann Lila, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute of the University of North Carolina (USA), was invited to lecture on the subject. The expert tells ‘Sunday’ his vision: “There are well-documented evidence that the so-called ‘superfruits’ are wells of energy and are beneficial nutritional and extranutricionais – that is, have agents that inhibit diseases, have properties anti-inflammatory and reinforce the immune system and metabolic regulation.”

Despite this finding, the researcher warns of the hype industry. “I do not like the term ‘superfruits’. Marketing can tell the consumer that only a rare fruit from the Amazon jungle has exceptional properties, but this is not true. Many of our domestic fruits (blackberries and raspberries, for example) also have compounds that fight disease in merger pharmacologically relevant. “The American expert points out that these properties are present in fruits, there is no proof that concentrates and tablets are better than fresh fruit.”

Jeffrey Blumberg directs the Center for Research in Human Nutrition from the United States Department of Agriculture. Explains the ‘Sunday’ doubts. “The terms ‘superfruits’ and ‘superfoods’ are foreign marketing creations to any regulatory or scientific definition. There is much scientific evidence that says that a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains can substantially promote health. But it is very restricted proof that some food can, by itself, provide significant benefits outside the context of a healthy diet. In other words, the most important is to establish a healthy pattern. ”

The American expert fears that the label ‘super’ could lead consumers to reduce their dietary diversity and focus your diet these foods, convinced that the foods ‘super’ are by themselves sufficient to ensure a balanced diet.

Healing unproven

Another problem that ‘superfoods’ bring to the consumer is excess adjectives that companies who market employ in their description. It is not uncommon to hear talk in properties “anti-cancer” or “anti-aging”, or exaggerate the role of these products in the prevention and cure of certain diseases. Jorge Holy Spirit, director of the Barreiro Hospital Oncology Unit, launches the warning. “There are around a conversation about antioxidants and foods that fight free radicals [components that are the source of many types of cancer], but there are no known effective evidence. In the case of cancer, you can not make a general recommendation because each type of cancer, and even the stage where you are in the treatment of this cancer, leads to the recommendation of different diets. ” The doctor is skeptical. “I know of no study that fully demonstrates that some of these foods have a protective effect with respect to a cancer What exists is to make sure that there are better diets. – For example, the Mediterranean diet -. And harmful foods such as processed meat”

Also the doctor Rui Nogueira, president of the Portuguese Association of Family Medicine, has a critical view of the powers assigned to certain products. “Food does not use to do well at anything. They can not be designated as healthy by itself. The most basic is to have diversity in food. Food is healthy if used in moderation and if they are made-up in a healthy way.”

The doctor gives the example of the olive oil, a key element of the Mediterranean diet and is touted as a healthy fat. But not in all circumstances. “Olive oil is a beneficial food when eaten raw. If we use oil for frying or baking, we are producing a chemical change that makes a harmful ingredient.”

Growing market

Regardless of the scientific rigor of the proclaimed virtues of ‘superfoods’, indisputable is the business on a global scale growth. And even though the European Union has banned the use of the term ‘superfruto’ in the labeling and force brands to justify the benefits they preach, there are those who believe in powers mágicos.Um recent article of the magazine ‘Slate’ reminded a campaign large American company, which in the early twentieth century, had the fantastic properties of a fruit that by fighting diseases. Probably it is in your fruit bowl – the magical fruit was the banana.

List of ‘superfoods’ and what is promised  

herb of wheat

Herb-of-wheat It can be eaten fresh or concentrate (powder). It is recommended for its detoxifying and alkalizing effect and is often used to ‘detox’ juices. The plant can be grown at home.

goji berries

Goji berries  Used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia, these berries arrived in force to the West recently, in the form of dehydrated fruit. It is a food high in fiber and antioxidants.


Chlorella  Microscopic algae growing in pure water, is presented in the form of powder or tablets. It is recommended to improve brain and liver function, it has detoxifying properties.

hemp seeds

Hemp seeds They have an interesting proportion of fatty acids such as omega 3 and 6, and are rich in minerals, vitamins and fibers. They are used to improve the health of hair, skin and nails and diets to lose weight.


Quinoa It is a grain much appreciated for presenting a balanced balance of proteins. Gluten-free, contains fatty acids and several vitamins. It can be used as a monitoring, replacing the rice.


Spirulina  It is a microscopic algae which owes its name to the fact of assuming the shape of a spiral. It comes in powder and is described as a protein easily absorbed and strong action antibacterial.


Hammock Submitted normally in powder, it is rich in nutrients root. It is recommended to treat cases of stress and anxiety, and may be used in salads, juices and other beverages.

camu camu

Camu camu Fruit originating in the Amazon region, is referred to its wealth in vitamin C (40 to 50 times more than an orange). Presented often powder, it is used for strengthening the immune system.


Acai  Currently, one of the most popular fruits worldwide. A native of the Amazon, it is said to have antioxidant effects, improving cardiovascular health and producing rejuvenation effect.

chia seed 2

Chia seeds  Very popular, can join various foods, from yogurt to salads. They are regarded as a source of fatty acids and rich in antioxidants and essential minerals. Improve the body’s immunity.

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