In the past two years as a full-time lecturer, I had the pleasure to teach on a module called ‘Professional Skills for Nutritionists’ and one of the first assignment was to task students to write a short essay on ‘Are there superfoods?’ So what is it? A quick google search tells me that a superfood is defined as ‘a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’, whilst search analytics show that its use has soared from the late 1990’s onwards, which couples the rise of diet trends – recall the numerous times you encounter yet another ‘superfood’ article in the magazine, or forwarded email (or Whatsapp) from your friend. To cite a few examples from the press, superfoods include broccoli, kale, beetroot, chocolate, goji berries, açaí… are all plant-based foods which contain some useful nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals or phytochamicals, but the majority of ‘claims’ by superfoods do not live to their hype, as this page on NHS Choices clarifies. Whilst eating superfoods is completely fine, the problem with the concept of a super-food, is how it glorifies one food over the complete diet, which can be rather dangerous.
As a Nutritionist, we advocate a healthy diet not only looking at food alone – as good as healthy goes and although there is some guidance on making a ‘healthy food claim’ such as this by the FDA, over-consuming a select handful of foods can lead to problems. Afterall, variety is the spice of life! Further, any superfood-labelled prepackaged or readymade pots and dishes are usually priced at a premium, compared to making them from scratch. With this in mind, I picked out a few popular ‘superfood’ ingredients, together with some other cupboard items, and made a warm salad for dinner tonight – which portioned at 60p. It generously fed two adults and a child, plus two boxes for our Monday lunch!
50g white or red rice (or a mix)
100g kale leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large can sweetcorn, drained
30g pecan (or other nuts), roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Cook quinoa and rice according to packet instructions. Place kale leaves in bowl, add oil, cover with plate and microwave for 3-4 minutes until soft. Mix the cooked quinoa, rice, kale, sweetcorn and chopped pecan together in a big salad bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4 adult portions. Best top with some other protein source, such as grilled fish or chicken, or a vegetarian alternative, to make a light evening meal.
Per 100g and serving: Energy 152 kcal 626kJ | Fat 9.1g of which saturates 0.8g | Carbohydrate 12.2g of which sugars 3.8g | Fibre 3.1g | Protein 3.5g | Salt 0.04g