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Claire Turnbull: Super foods - 31 May

Super Foods - are they really SUPER?

We've read about them and seen them advertised - 'super' foods that promise all manner of benefits and to cure all our ills. But are they really all they're cracked up to be?

What is a super food?

We don't believe that any one food can replace a well-balanced diet - there's no such thing as a super food, only a super diet! No amount of super food will make up for it of you're not getting the basics right.

Not really any super foods - as you need a bit of everything...but these are things commonly thought of as super foods...are they as good as they claim?

So you have got goji berries here, what it is it about these berries that are thought to be so amazing?
- Goji berries are available as a dried fruit (which look like a red sultana) or juice.

- Marketers claim an endless list of health benefits such as promoting longevity, improving metabolism, treating impotence, preventing cancer and cleansing the blood.

- A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that daily consumption of 120ml of goji juice was able to improve antioxidant markers in healthy adults.

- Our advice at Healthy Food Guide is that Goji berries do appear to be rich in antioxidants, but claims about their benefits are not proven, so enjoy them for what they are - an extra variety of fruit

Stevia - what's that?

- Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant.

- Stevia has been used for centuries in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten foods and drinks and is widely cultivated in Asia. While fresh leaves are reported to be 15-20 times sweeter than sugar, extracts from the leaves can be up to 300 times sweeter.

- Stevia - This naturally occurring no-kilojoule sweetener from plants (approved for use as a food additive in New Zealand in October 2008) is popular among those not keen on alternative sweeteners like aspartame.

- Stevia is 250-300 times sweeter than sugar and has a slower onset and longer duration of taste than sugar.

- Stevia is a no kilojoule naturally occurring sweetener from plants that is totally safe to use.

Chia seeds

- Chia seeds look a bit like tiny sesame seeds and come in black or white.

- Along with flaxseed, they are one of the richest sources of plant based omega-3 known as ALA (alpha linolenic acid).

- Omega 3 is important for good health - and you need to get through diet as your body cant make these fats itself

- HOWEVER - although a little ALA is important, the health benefits of omega 3 are the LONG chain types DHA and EPA so - chia seeds aren't enough to meet your total omega 3 needs! ALA needs to be converted from to the long chain omega 3's  - VERY little of this is actually converted by the body!

- On the plus side  - chia seeds are also very high in soluble fibre.

- Chia seeds contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

- Now also, chia seed bread - some omega 3 but definitely NOT your daily dose, need far more!

- Chia seeds are a rich source of plant-based omega-3 fats, but  they are more expensive than other things that do the same thing, like flaxseeds. They are a useful source of fibre though.

What about the Acai berry?

- Acai berry is said to be a super antioxidant.

-While the juice or pulp of acai berries does exhibit antioxidant activity, it pays to check what you're buying - not all juices which contain Acai are actually high in antioxidant.

- For example, when Choice magazine (Australia) analysed nine different exotic juices made with goji, noni, acai or mangosteen, in all cases they found the total antioxidant activity of a 25-30ml serving of juice was less than that of a Red Delicious apple.

- Acai juice is an antioxidant - but be careful and be aware there are other less expensive ways to get the same benefit.