Can any food really cut your cold short? Make you thin? Cure a disease? Think more clearly? The short answer, unfortunately, is no.
If you have been modifying your diet monthly to include the latest super foods that television doctors or health magazines have promised will cure what ails you, have you actually felt better?
Don’t get me wrong, I do think the food we eat is important to our health, but I do not think any single or even a few healthy foods added to one’s diet will produce “super” effects. Generally speaking most of the foods I have seen advertised as “super foods” are in fact healthy foods that would be healthy for most people to include in their diet.
My concern in seeing them labeled as super foods is that so many other healthy foods are overlooked and variety is downplayed. Blueberries, kale, salmon, steel cut oats, walnuts, lentils are among these foods often listed as super foods, but the nutrients that won them those titles are found in other foods as well, maybe just not in the same quantities.
Can any one food fix a physical problem? Will orange juice cut short a cold? No, but eating fruits and vegetables regularly may help you to avoid the virus in the first place. The healthier you are the less sick you will get, but anyone can catch a cold and everyone who does catch a cold will just have to wait it out. Just as there is no food to cure a cold, there is no food to melt belly fat, boost your memory or reverse aging.
Notice that most super foods fall into normal healthy food categories: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart healthy proteins, like fish, nuts and beans. Eating a variety of these types of foods will help you to be healthy. Blueberries often show up on super food lists, but recently have cost about $5 per half pint fresh. If blueberries do not fit into your budget, try other berries or other purple and blue hued foods to enjoy some of the same health benefits and antioxidants. Just follow basic healthy eating guidelines.
However, even if you follow recommendations for diet and exercise, you may still become ill; many people are predisposed to one disease or another and all of us come into contact with harmful viruses and bacteria. That does not mean that diet and exercise are not worth doing, there is just no magic bullet.
Eating a variety ensures that you are getting nutrients that you need as well as keeps your diet interesting and affordable. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, color is indicative of vitamins and antioxidants.
As often as possible try to choose foods that are deeply colored and get in as many colors as you can. You may have a grapefruit with breakfast, purple grapes as a snack, leafy greens and sliced tomato with lunch, carrots as an afternoon snack. All of the vegetables you eat with dinner will be a bonus, since you have eaten 5 colors before 5 p.m. Round out these choices with whole grains and lean proteins, like oatmeal and tuna fish, and your food choices will certainly help your body to fight disease, even if you have not had a “super food.”
Super food lists may give you some ideas for healthy foods and can give you an idea of a new food to try (chia seeds anyone?), but do not be discouraged if you do not include the foods listed regularly in your diet.
Basic healthy eating probably has you covered.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.