It’s almost a tradition. Every so often a new food appears whose existence little or nothing was known so far, which is related to so many nutritional and health benefits that it is difficult to understand why we had not been consuming them all our lives.
These miracle foods or superfoods ( superfoods ), fulfill the same pattern: they are exotic products, used in other distant cultures (or, if not, they must seem it). In addition, they live a time of excessive fury and then disappear little by little until they are replaced by the following. And, of course, they tend to have a high price.
I speak of these and other myths in my book The False Myths of Food .
Those who left
The goji berries were a recent miracle food, whose golden age has already passed. They arrived as if from nowhere with multiple promises related to their very good chemical composition, which includes omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, minerals and vitamins. It is not a better composition than other foods, but what made them useless was their anecdotal consumption of a few berries a day.
In fact, this is another common feature of the so-called superfoods. They are not consumed as real foods in appreciable amounts in the diet, but in small quantities that do not provide any final relevance to health.
The result is that, although the goji berries may have more β-carotene (a precursor vitamin A compound) than the carrots, the ration ingested is much less than that of the carrot. In other words, with a single carrot we can take more β-carotene than with a whole ration of goji berries.
The wonderful seeds
Chia seeds come from a herbaceous plant of the genus Salvia native to southern Mexico and Central America. It is another exotic plant whose use has only been local until recently. The chemical composition of these seeds is notable for its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as high fiber content. The problem, once again, is that it is consumed as a dressing, adding small amounts to other foods.
To make things more difficult, whole seeds are very difficult to digest. Despite being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the total amount that is ingested from them is very small, irrelevant to the organism.
In addition, more fiber is ingested in a serving of chickpeas than in a chia seed. What is not normally mentioned is the high caloric content contained in these seeds, which can reach up to 500 kcal / 100 g.
Among the fashionable foods that are very successful nowadays, you will find quinoa. This plant is a pseudocereal, that is, it has a similar use to a cereal but it is not. It is typical of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, where it is consumed with assiduity.
In 2013, FAO established the international year of quinoa, which gave great publicity and extension to this crop.
The nutritional profile of quinoa is very healthy, again with high amounts of fiber and polyunsaturated fats. Unlike other commented foods, thanks to the fact that it can be used as if it were a cereal, in this case it would be possible to integrate this food into the diet and consume it in more appreciable quantities, in such a way that it contributes to a healthy diet. In any case, it does not grant miraculous properties for health, either.
New names for old acquaintances
In a marketing effort to bring up new trends and innovative foods with wonderful properties, there are cases in which a different denomination than the one traditionally used is used. Thus, the consumer thinks that it is a new product.
If we talk about kale or common cabbage, almost nobody thinks about miraculous benefits or magnificent properties, but about food for cattle and fodder. It is not the same if we talk about kale, even though it is the same food.
The kale is a leafy green vegetable that has been consumed for many ages. It is rich in calcium and some vitamins, as well as fiber. Since it contains a large proportion of water, its caloric intake is reduced, as is the case with other similar vegetables.
It is a vegetable very similar to others, even from the same family and species, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Like them, it is a highly recommended vegetable to be consumed within a varied diet, and will provide benefits, as well as other vegetables will provide others, but among them there will be none miraculous.