Nutritionists Lola Berry and Rosemary Stanton give opinion on Superfoods
Lola Berry: These guys are a brilliant source of antioxidants, particularly lycopene which is great for cardiovascular health.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: No evidence published in reliable scientific journals of human studies showing any great benefit. Studies only on cell lines or in zebra fish, rats or mice. Note too that goji berries are bitter, so many products containing goji berries have added sugar or apple juice to increase palatability.
Lola Berry: Chia seeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and fibre. In order to obtain the omega 3s, they either need to be soaked or crush, much like flaxseeds to gain their health benefits.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: A useful and nutritious product but no specific 'wonder' properties. A randomised trial found no difference in health profile or weight in women given 50g of chia seed or a placebo product for 12 weeks.
Lola Berry: King of the leafy greens, kale is a great source of the mineral magnesium which is kind of like the traffic controller of the body, so we need it for a lot of pathways in the body. It's also a great one for stress as magnesium is great muscle relaxant.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: High in many vitamins, plus minerals, dietary fibre and some potential anti-cancer compounds (also found in broccoli and other vegetables from the Brassica family), so well worth including in the diet. No problems with kale.
Lola Berry: This one is a brilliant vegan source of protein, containing about 57 per cent protein, plus you've got all the benefits of B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. It's like mother nature’s very own multi-vitamin.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: The source is important because spirulina can pick up lead (found in Korean spirulina) and various toxins. Often promoted as a source of vitamin B12, but this is in the form of pseudovitamin B12 and is not bio-available for humans.
Lola Berry: Flaxseed is another great one for omega 3 fatty acids, but you want to soak them or crush them up to get the goodies.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: A useful source of the omega 3 fatty acid known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), but that does not confer 'superfood' status. Seeds are useful because the outer covering protects the ALA which is vulnerable to oxidation. Flaxseed oil is so likely to be oxidised that it's best to consume the seed rather than the oil. Bacteria in the large intestine can break down the seed coat and allow the ALA to be released.
Lola Berry: Maca is rich in vitamins B, C, and E. It also provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. It’s great for general health but specifically skin, cardiovascular and bone health. It's a South American root veggie, often taken in powder form. It's a hormone balancer for females (often taken to prevent symptoms of menopause) and it's a libido enhancer for males.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: No substantial evidence for its supposed ability to enhance sexual behaviour in humans. However, there have also been reports of alterations in menstrual cycles as well as cramps, moodiness and insomnia.
Lola Berry: Matcha green tea is a brilliant source of antioxidants. Great for preventing free radical damage, premature ageing and it's brilliant for your skin.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: Matcha is a powdered green tea with higher levels of some antioxidants than other green teas. There is no evidence from human studies of any of the benefits claimed for matcha but some concern over possible levels of lead. When tea plants contain lead, it remains in the leaves and is unlikely to leach into the water used for tea. By consuming the leaves in the ground matcha product, any lead present will be ingested. Quantities are likely to be small, but it does mean that for matcha (as for most foods), more is not better. Caffeine levels may also be higher than regular green or black teas.
Lola Berry: Coconut oil is a great one for medium-chain saturated fat, which means the body is more inclined to use it to make energy, rather than store it as fat. Plus it contains "lauric acid" which is great for encouraging healthy gut flora and boosting the immune system. It's another great one for skin health and brain health. The brain is about 60 per cent fat, so it thrives off healthy fats.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: Coconut can increase (good) HDL cholesterol but it also increases (bad) LDL cholesterol. Fine in small quantities but many people incorrectly assume that coconut oil is the same as MCT oil, an artificial oil produced for people needing tube feeding or with severe problems that mean fats cannot be digested normally. MCT oil has a high concentration of fatty acids with 8 and 10 carbon atoms. Coconut oil contains small quantities of 8 and 10 carbon fatty acids, but is dominated by lauric acid, a fatty acid with 12 carbons (which is not 'medium chain'). Fine in small amounts but no wonder properties.
Lola Berry: This (can be taken) as a fermented tea; also great for boosting gut flora and thus looking after your immune system. Think of your immune system as the guard dog of your body.
Dr Rosemary Stanton: No wonder properties reported in proper scientific studies in humans and some reports of potentially serious adverse effects which resolve when the kombucha tea is removed from the diet.