Trendy ‘superfoods’: are they all they are hyped up to be?

Turmeric lattes, acai bowls and kombucha. Trendy foods are everywhere, but are they as good for you as they claim to be?

Turmeric lattes:

Turmeric-Latte-Recipe-.jpg

100% instagram worthy lattes- they look amazing and I will admit, they smell brilliant! Taste wise, I am not a number one fan but I can see why some people might love them. The Turmeric latte is a foodies dream.

Turmeric is a spice that has been used in India in ancient medicine for thousands of years. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is a type of phytochemical called a flavonoid and is the compound in turmeric that gives it the vibrant yellow/orange colour and is thought to possess strong antioxidant properties. Extensive research has found that concentrated curcumin is able to significantly reduce CRP levels in the body (note that CRP is a marker for inflammation, and is the most common inflammatory marker that is tested to indicate any inflammation in the body when you go for a blood test). However, curcumin is poorly absorbed by the intestines (this is called poor bioavailability) and rapidly eliminated by the liver, meaning you need to have a lot of the compound for it to be effective. It is also better absorbed when accompanied by piperine, a compound that is naturally occurring in black pepper.

So if you like turmeric lattes, by all means have them. However, be aware that they are just 1 component of the diet; they are not a magical spiced drink that will make you instantly healthy or berid you of disease.

Acai bowls:

acai bowl proper

Acai bowls claim to be full of ‘superfoods’, rich in antioxidants and a huge gold star for health, so of course you’d think that they would be healthy for you! Yes, these bowls are fresh and full of fruit however they should only be eaten in moderation.

Many acai bowls sold at cafes have 10+ teaspoons of sugar in them (many cafes actually add sugar to them). Of course, much of that sugar is naturally occurring from the fruit it contains (particularly if there’s lots of dried fruit in the bowl as dried fruit is more energy and nutrient dense due to the extraction of water from the fruit). However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the bowl is low in kilojoules/calories.

In one aspect, you could look at an acai bowl as an enormous smoothie topped with sugary/high energy toppings. I completely welcome and indulge in an acai bowl when I feel like it and they are fine for breakfast every so often. However, the best way to get your fruit intake is by eating a wide variety of fruits, not just loading up on acai with sugary toppings! Even making your own smoothie/acai bowl at home means you know what’s in it and you can portion your ingredients to your liking! Perhaps the acai bowl is better as a post-run snack to replenish your carbohydrate stores, due to its carbohydrate rich content.

If you want to learn more about the differences in sugar in fruit compared to sugar used in commercial products read here.

Kombucha:

kombucha proper.jpg

Kombucha is a tea that has undergone fermentation. Fermentation is a process in which bacteria or yeast has converted carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and/or alcohol and/or organic acids such as lactic acid (this is why many fermented products are gassy/carbonated).

Kombucha is created by combining black and/or green tea with bacteria, yeast and sugar, which allows it to ferment. The result: a carbonated tea with lots of bacteria in it (including probiotic bacteria). Therefore, kombucha is said to be beneficial for health as it provides people with a source of probiotics (probiotics are bacteria that are said to be beneficial for health by aiding gut bacteria growth and contributing to gut microbiota). Despite the claims that kombucha is anti-inflammatory and has anti-cancer properties, there is minimal research done to investigate the truth to these claims. In saying that, the lack of good quality research doesn’t mean that this fermented tea does not have any health benefits. We just need the studies to investigate this. Currently, Dietitian Megan Rossi is championing this area of research and is investigating the effects that kombucha has on our gut health! So if you like kombucha then go ahead and have it!

It is important to note that kombucha will have sugar in the ingredients list as it is added to provide the bacteria with a food source during the fermentation process. Therefore be aware of this when checking the nutrition information panel and ingredients list of kombucha drinks. Some brands also add lots of sugar after the fermentation has completed in order to appease our sweet tooth so always look for kombucha that is lower in sugar (as identified in the panel itself under ‘sugars’).

To read more about Kombucha click here.

-Your Student Dietitian, Simone Abley

Other references: 

  • Panahi Y, Hosseini MS, Khalili N, Naimi E, Majeed M, Sahebkar A. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects of curcuminoid-piperine combination in subjects with metabolic syndrome: A randomised controlled trial and an updated meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec:34(6);1101-8.
  • Hooper L, Kroon PA, Rimm EB, Cohn JS, Harvey I, Le Cornu KA, et al. Flavanoids, flavanoid-rich foods, and cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jul:88(1):38-50.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s