by Tsitaliya Mircheva

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There’s no official scientific definition of what a superfood is, but it’s generally accepted that superfoods contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, providing us with lots of energy, protecting our bodies from cell damage and helping to prevent diseases. While many common foods provide most of these same nutrients (kale, broccoli, almonds, blueberries, salmon), lately an array of more exotic and less mainstream superfoods have appeared on the market. The most popular ones are acai, goji berries, seaweed, chia seeds, maca, hemp seeds, quinoa, boabab powder, teff and a few others.

I am a big fan of good nutrition and healthy lifestyle, but I don’t like to follow trends blindly, especially when I think of some of the biggest food myths busted in just a few years of glory:

Food Myth 1: Eggs are bad for your heart

Food Myth 2: Carbohydrates make you fat

Food Myth 3: Eating fat makes you fat

The main thing about superfoods is that most of their benefits are not scientifically proven and there is too much ancient mystique around the stories of longevity and eternal youth in tribes, living somewhere in the Peruvian, Brazilian or Bolivian jungle. On the other hand the superfood craze might be having a positive effect in terms of reduced crime. How?

You see, the trend has had a major, unintended benefit: it’s become so lucrative that quinoa is rivaling cocaine as Bolivia’s biggest export. As quinoa production has surged over the past few years, coca leaf production has conspicuously dipped to its lowest rate since 2002 – the UN estimates about 23,000 hectares. By comparison, the Bolivian government hopes to ramp quinoa production up to 1 million hectares. Since the quinoa boom, the Washington Post reports that the average income of a Bolivian family has jumped from $35 per month to about $220. Bolivia isn’t the only country where superfoods are coming in as a contender against drug crops. Pomegrenates and grapes are outselling poppies in Afghanistan, which produces about a third of the world’s illicit opiates, which help to fuel the Taliban.

Before you jump to any conclusions I believe the healthy mind should find out for itself what choice to make. Certainly we can’t eat all of the trendy superfoods available on the market every day. We most probably don’t have the time (or the inclination) to do the full research, but asking a specialist, considering our specific needs and lifestyle can certainly help.

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Here are a few questions we have asked one of the experts on nutrition Venessa Gatelein from Food Changes Everything:

Tsitaliya: Over the past couple of years superfoods have become very popular. Can you tell us what superfoods you recommend and how much a healthy portion of superfood for a day actually is?

Vanessa: Super foods are amazing, because they are nutrient dense.  That means for a small amount, you get LOTS of vitamins, minerals and good nutrition. We need this more in our modern world, because our food supply no longer has the same nutrition it used to AND our bodies need a bit more help detoxing from all the pollution.

Which one to choose? It depends on your health goal. Here are three of my favourites.

Super Food   Good Stuff Inside What it Does
Leafy Greens (kale, swiss chard, spinach, etc.) Chlorophyll, iron, calcium Enhanced digestion, energy, clears mucous, strengthens bones and alleviates depression.
Omega 3 Foods (salmon, flaxseed, algae, etc.) Omega 3 Fatty Acid (Essential) Supports brain function and reduces inflammation.
Berries (goji berries, pomegranate, raspberries, etc.) Anti-oxidants, polyphenols, vitamin C Repairs damaged cells, and supports a healthy immune system.

MUMS IN HEELS-4Tsitaliya: How much?

Venessa: Hmmnn I would add in as much as you are hungry for!

A day could look like this:

  • Breakfast: fresh raspberries with whole oats soaked in rice milk and a small spoon of honey
  • Lunch: Huge green salad with a few chopped sprigs of kale and spinach, plus a healthy protein (e.g. beans, chicken, tuna or egg)
  • Dinner: Salmon with rice and swiss chard in a lovely coconut curry sauce.

Tsitaliya: Caffeine – another delicate topic; most of the women I know drink coffee not because they need it, but because they love it. How much is too much for a day?

Venessa: Caffeine is interesting, because I don’t think most people knows how it really works.

First… it’s not true energy. We get energy from food. Caffeine basically “turns off” the signal to the brain that says… “I am tired.” So in reality, your body is still exhausted and has zero energy… it’s just that your brain doesn’t know that. This is dangerous, because if you are really zapped and you keep pushing your body to move without eating food, but drink only coffee for example, there’s a chance you can collapse.

With that said, if you are not skipping meals, caffeine can be a great way to gain more focus in a challenging meeting or to do specific tasks. It also has anti-oxidants in it and can actually boost your mood.[1]

Tsitaliya: So… maximum or minimum amount?

Venessa: Depends on you. I would keep track of how caffeine makes you feel. Can I think clearly? Am I really tired and need to sleep or take a break vs. drink another caffeinated beverage that can make me feel worse in the end? Is one cup great, but two cups a disaster? In my opinion, one cup earlier in the day seems to be a good balance. However, if you are using it as a way to survive your day, I would take a step back and get real with your true energy levels before you totally drain your body.