04 September 2018 | Column | By Shruti Kumbla
Super food the word sounds like a food with robust powers when consumed will convert you into a “Superman”. This sounds quite childish and funny. But do we wonder why a food is associated with such a powerful word as super.
The term superfood is a marketing term used to sell a food with various health benefits. They are not mentioned in the food regulatory system of our country governed by FSSAI. In 2007, European Union prohibited foods to be marketed as superfood unless accompanied by specific authorized health claim with supporting research. The medical and nutrition fraternity do not really support in terming a food as a “super food” as it may be misleading to the consumer. It is impractical to rely on diet based on few superfoods, where a diet including diverse ingredients can provide the nutrients. Each food has its role in nutrition. Each food can become a superfood. Currently, the definition of super foods is limited to omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and dietary fiber rich foods.
Over the last few years, some foods have gained recognition as ‘super food’. For a balanced diet, we always need varied set of items.
Superfoods: Pros & Cons
There are no standard criteria or an approved list of superfoods. One could call the ‘Finger Millet’ or Ragi, as a superfood because of its high fiber, calcium and phytochemical content.
‘Super foods’ worldwide are mostly international foods such as kale, chia seeds, and quinoa. They have come into India at the cost of our rich variety of Indian foods. Lest we forget, people used to come to India in search for spices & food items, these superfoods have existed in India for centuries. In India, the label superfood is being associated with the forgotten foods like millets, amaranth, basil seeds and the likes.
For Example: Chia is purely a product of the marketing efforts of the West. Compositionally, Chia is similar to Basil. Both are rich source of omega 3 fatty acid and dietary fiber. Both swell and become a gel in liquid. However, when it comes to price, Chia seeds cost a whopping Rs. 350 (250g) compared to Basil seeds, priced at Rs.145 (250g).
There are many such examples- Groundnut Oil & Olive Oil, Gojiberry & Amla, Kale & Cabbage or Millets & Oats.
Technically, any food one chooses has its own benefits, so why name them to be superior to another?
Functional foods could be considered a more reliable one compared to super food as they are not a marketing gimmick but a combination of nutraceuticals, health supplements, individual plant extracts, prebiotics, probiotics which has a more holistic approach towards health, disease prevention and sometimes treatment.
This actually forces us to ponder, whether there is anything called superfood which is widely marketed and sold by the food industry at high pricing making the consumer believe in mirage.
-Shruti Kumbla, Senior Nutritionist, Pristine Organics