Superfoods: Not just your regular slice of Wonder White. We’ve all heard of them, maybe in a two-minute segment on Sunrise with Kochie ‘enjoying’ a bowl of Goji berries or a Kardashian swearing by a fresh glass of celery juice.

They’re sold as nutrition hacks, overlooked culinary gems that can protect you against chronic disease, maximise your energy, prevent aging… heck, they can even unpack the dishwasher* (*they can’t).

But what makes a superfood? How do you know you’re getting bang for your buck? (and let’s be honest, a lot of superfoods are expensive, so it’s important that you know what you’re spending your money on!)

What is a Superfood?

There is no scientific definition of what makes a superfood. If you google it, you’ll definitely see some similarities:

1. They’re often plant based

2. They have some sort of health benefit

3. They’re often expensive

4. They (might) taste good (but have you tried unsweetened açaí?)

The concept of a superfood is more or less a media construct. It’s a way to describe food, sell food, sell a lifestyle. Let me show you what I mean.

Kale. The green, lean, immune-boosting-detoxifying-smoothie- filling-machine. It’s the leafy green that everyone loves to hate but eats it anyway because someone once said it was the elixir of life. Kale is packed full of fibre, which helps to keep you regular, and is also a source of calcium and vitamin C.

Personally, I’ve never met a crispy kale chip I didn’t like. But how does it compare to other leafy greens?

Interesting! When compared to spinach and rocket, there’s no clear ‘super’ green.

Sweet Potato. The hip cousin of the humble tater. It tastes great when roasted, and even better in chip form (I feel a pattern emerging!) Sweet potato is full of vitamins and minerals:

So while sweet potato kicks potato’s spud in the calcium and Vitamin C department, potato comes out on top with respect to potassium, which we need to maintain our bodies’ fluid levels, move our muscles and manage our blood pressure.

Check out the difference between the ‘super’ berry Açaí compared to the strawberry. While strawberries can be enjoyed cheaply and simply, Açaí is most often enjoyed at a high price in smoothie form (and beware, many commercial mixes are high in added sugar).

What is a Superfood?

Do you want the unsexy, unprofitable and far less Instagrammable (but arguably way more delicious) truth?

Eating a combination of fresh colourful foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, lean meat and dairy, is your best chance of getting the purported health benefits that superfoods promise to deliver.

Let’s take a look at the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating – conveniently in the shape of a pie (mmm, pie).

Check out the colour, the variety, the diversity! How much more exciting does that look than a kale smoothie?!

The Australian ‘Eat For Health’ website has lots of great resources to help you to choose the right amounts of nutritious foods for your age group and gender. As a general guide, try
to eat a variety of colourful foods from each of the five food groups and aim for two pieces of fruit and five different veggies every day. You can find out more at eatforhealth.gov.au

Rachel is a Student Dietitian, Les Mills Group Fitness instructor and Group Fitness Coordinator at Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness. You can find her on Instagram at @resolve_nutrition