What makes some foods Super ?
And why aren't all nature's foods Superfoods ? As more and more things get sold to us under the 'superfood' label, it is worth knowing what qualifies them as such.
Should we be so encouraged to spend our cash and fuel literally importing sunlight: weight for weight, the most expensive thing on the planet !
Super what ?
In the hunt for perfect nutrition, we are bombarded with articles, research papers, and advertising that promotes one food after another for its beneficial this, or complimentary that, cancer-solving blah blah, or hormone supporting do-dadd.
And yet, the remains why these - often tropical - foods are so worthy of such attention, whether there is any actual science in the subject, or if it is just clever marketting. And then there is all the farming, processing, packaging and air-miles to get them here. What is so wrong with local spinach and seasonal blackberries?
It is clear that these exotic foods are often high in antioxidants, a particular vitamin, or a wonderful adaptogen - but then most fruits and roots are... So surely that can be said of much of our local fayre.
So what is the difference ?
Super who ?
The majority of fruits we buy locally are very hybridised - meaning that they are far from their natural state.
The generations of farmers and fruit enthusiasts have added their knowledge and expertise to the process of selecting specimens for procreation - playing 'God' if you will, to the lineage of commercial plants.
They were often selected for colour, taste, transportability, extending harvest seasons or storability, or increasing yield. All well and good in the farmer's search for 'unique selling point' for his brand, but - again - little to do with nutrition.
The nutritive quality of much of our fruit has fallen way below what our systems expect from nature's bounty, and as a result, we are left wanting.
Moreover, since the second world war, when economics have become the reason for almost every decision, and technology has enabled us to transport and store foods as never before, much of the diversity of available, seasonal fruits has been replaced by a year-round availability of only a few.
Rather than hedgerows full of unusual berries, and orchards bursting with multiple crops, we are left with supermarket shelves stocking the same 10 fruits regardless of season - only the 'country of origin' changes now.
Thus, unless you are foraging and storing forest fruits yourself, that which is available to you tends to be nutritionally compromised.
Super where ?
I have also noticed that they are often from distant forests - usually the Amazon.
This points to areas of the world, where our meddling (tho' well-meaning) forefathers haven't had long enough to hybridise the local bounty to make them more tasty, transportable or profitable. They are, pretty much, as they have been for millions of years. And this is key.
To restate my premise around nutrition, we are tropical, arboreal primates - monkeys in essence - and as such, we are expecting masses of vitamin-rich, highly-antioxidant, sugar-laiden, easily-digested foods that hang all around us, ripe for the taking.
We eat just a few types on any one day, but we eat them ALL DAY LONG.
We see it in our behaviour constantly - the 'sweet tooth', the 'snacking', the colourful packaging, the pudding at the end of all traditional meals, etc...
We are forest dwellers at heart, and having evolved in the heart of these benign and high-quality, fruit-loaded environments, we are expecting masses of such nutrition to come pouring in with every mouthful.
This brightly-coloured, but nutritionally-poor supermarket fodder we are being fed, is just not what the doctor ordered.
And that is why most superfoods are coming out of the forests - because the insanely complex chemical experiment is still going on there without mankind's profiteering.
But I am not here to sell packaged superfoods to you. Nor am I here to warn you off of them.
While I do believe in them, and advocate them, I use them only as a means of getting additional nutrition in from less impoverished places, I do not think them necessary. They are more about creating variety rather than anything nutritionally essential.
My urge today is to mention how we can better utilise what we are eating already, usually just by eating more of it ! Turning most fruits into superfoods.
You may have seen various articles, research papers, and advice pointing to some of these already. And you will certainly have seen write-ups on plenty of other foods and fruits which don't appear here. This is due to the nature of science.
By that I mean that there is no impersonal way of distilling information from the universe - we have to ask questions, and in doing so, we naturally interpret and modify what the world can tell us. IE: We can only ask the questions that we can ask, and thus information is perspected.
I say this because it is important to understand that if a researcher is 'looking for' something good to say about Guavas, then he will find flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins, merals, etc. Whereas if that same researcher was seeking something detrimental, then he would find that too. It is in our nature.
That does not mean that all the information is useless, it just means that we can find poisons and nutrients in any food, and reasons both for and against their consumption.
But the fact that most 'superfoods' are high in vitamins or antioxidants tells us much more about what we are lacking, rather than what they are miraculously high in !
So, let's start with my list of the top ten fruits you probably already consume. So, this then stands as a list of reasons to eat far more of them.
Bananas are loaded with fibre, and magnesium content, making them great alkalising foods. They are also famed throughout the neurological world for being rich in tryptophan and slow-release sugars - making them ideal sport food, and a great mood builder.
There were some Polynesian tribes eating 60% bananas before the western diet appeared, and none of them were fat !
They make a great smoothie base, and a fantastic sport-drink blended with celery.
Avocados have the vitamin spectrum of fruits and the protein content of nuts
Top-rated for the creaminess, completeness and ease of growth and transport - needing almost no pesticide intervention.
In tests, subjects’ total cholesterol fell by 16 percent after a one-week high avocado diet. If the subjects had elevated cholesterol, the high avocado diet caused a 17 percent decrease in total cholesterol, an 11% increase in HDL, and a more significant 22% decrease of LDL and triglycerides.
More complete proteins than eggs. Add a wonderful creaminess to smoothies as well as salads and soups.
Figs are eaten by EVERY creature that can. Loaded with an intense mixture of sugars and vitamins, these truly are an example of fruit's phytological name - the 'ovary'.
Loaded with an intoxicating mix of flavonoids and neurotransmitter precursors, they are spoken about in many ancients scripts andAdam and Eve wore their leaves - no surprise there.
Papayas are the only food source to be researched for their male contraceptive qualities. The seeds being so rich in phytochemistry they have such an effect.
As well as being the highest plant source of digestive enzymes - and handful with each fruit will keep any belly chugging along.
They are one of the rare fruits that can be eaten unripe without any damaging effects.
Coconuts take 4 years to mature, and a good tree will have 400 of them - growing out of the sand !
So perfect is their electrolyte balance that the water can be used in a temporary blood transfusion.
They contain very stable oils (giving them their sea-born duration) meaning that coconut oil is the best to cook with as it is so heat-tolerant, but nothing beats it cold-pressed, and it spreads like butter too - as well as being the only oil to 'speed' the thyroid and endocrine system.
Berries are a class of fruits, and it is their commonly defining facility that we are drawing upon here. They are small, and because of that they are proportionally loaded with flavonoids (antioxidant pigments - one of the wonders of fruits of any size), and these guys are packed full of them.
Also, because of their size, they have had to protect themselves with antimicrobial qualities in their skins - making them very unfriendly too mildews and yeasts like Candida.
Thus they are the best fruit for Candida sufferers to get their sugars from.
Dates grow in some of the most arid, inhospitable places in the world. And straight out of the desert floor comes this shade-giving tree loaded with mineral-rich fruits.
Too intensely sweet for some folk, these incredible fruits are bursting with brain-fuel and packed with Iron - no need for such supplements in the desert, date palms have it covered.
Pomegranites are one of the most visually surprising fruits. You could never guess from their drab, leathery skin that inside lies a treasure trove bursting with ruby-coloured gems.
They are also one of the highest in the countless antioxidants and flavonoids that give them their striking colour. Moreover, they resist hybridisation, making them one of Europe's only original fruits still popular today.