I am constantly seeing references to superfoods nowadays. What the heck is a superfood, and what makes it so super? I bet you can guess what’s about to happen here. I’ll give you a few seconds to ponder this while you look at this pretty graphic I found…
Yep you’re right, a little research!
Here are some definitions, explanations, and claims I found for superfoods:
1) “Superfoods are a special category of foods found in nature.” Nice, that means they are likely natural, real foods.
2) “Superfoods are calorie sparse and nutrient dense.” Great, so low-calorie and jam-packed with nutrients. Those can be good things.
3) “Superfoods are superior sources of antioxidants and essential nutrients that our bodies need, but can’t manufacture on their own.” Ok, they are a good source of things needed by our bodies, and yes they would be a natural source, which is better than taking supplements.
So far this is positive. Superfoods definitely have some selling points. Here is some additional information.
4) “The term superfood has no set scientific meaning, and any list of the top superfoods is purely subjective. Superfoods are healthful for the most part, aside from possible contamination, added sugars, or over-consumption of them.” Ah ha, so there is no scientific basis for calling something a superfood. And based on the processing of them, they just might not be so super.
5) “Many superfoods remain under scientific study and have not been proven to have the health benefits claimed.” Another rebuttal with a ‘lack of scientific evidence’ bend.
6) “Since the term superfood is not scientific, labeling something a superfood can falsely encourage folks to eat some foods instead of others.” And depending what those foods are, this may not be a good thing. Soy of course pops into my mind. More on that in a bit so stay tuned.
7) “Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits. The term is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists, many of whom dispute that particular foodstuffs have the health benefits often claimed by advocates of particular superfoods.” Ok, this so far is my favorite statement because it makes me realize I’m not the only one questioning the superfood hype. Whew, thought I might be alone in my skepticism.
As I read on, I also found that marketing foods as superfoods is prohibited in the European Union and has been since 2007, unless it’s accompanied by a specific medical claim supported by scientific evidence. In general, the possible health benefits and effects of so-called superfoods have been disputed or unsupported by scientific studies. The term superfood is misused frequently as well. There are drawbacks to many of these supposed superfoods. For example, some seaweeds have been marketed as superfoods, however they contain natural toxins which are thought to increase cancer and liver damage risks. Green tea has been studied for decades for its potential health benefits such as weight loss, but evidence to support this claim is limited.
Soy is by far my favorite superfood to pick on. Sorry soy, I can’t help it. Oh the benefits of soy are fantastic we’ve been told! Soy is SUPERDUPER SUPERFOOD! We now know more about soy. These points have been shown by independent research. NOT research conducted by companies that produce and/or manufacture soy (surprise surprise).
1) “Soy is higher in phytoestrogens than just about any other food source. These plant-based estrogens mimic estrogen in our bodies. Consuming phytoestrogens can be dangerous for the human body and has been shown to be a leading cause of breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, infertility, and low libido is unopposed estrogen, or estrogen dominance.”
2) “Soy can destroy your thyroid because it’s very high in goitrogens which are thyroid suppressing. Goitrogens can prevent your thyroid from getting necessary amounts of iodine.”
3) “Soy contains phytates which are enzyme-inhibitors that block mineral absorption in the human digestive tract. They are naturally present in all grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes.”
4) “Soy contains trypsin inhibitors. Trypsin is a digestive enzyme needed to properly digest protein. Without enough trypsin, you might experience many digestive problems including stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bleeding. Pancreatic problems can result as well.”
Here are some other currently popular superfoods: blueberries, kiwifruit, beans, nuts and seeds, kale and other dark leafy greens, salmon, sardines and mackerel, chia seeds, and whatever the ‘fruit of the year’ is, for example dragon fruit, pomegranate and acai berry. While all of these foods for all intents and purposes are healthful (I don’t agree with beans since they are legumes and I’m paleo, but that’s a whole other topic), they aren’t necessarily more healthful than other fruits and vegetables, or other sources of omega 3s.
Superfoods may be superphony. While many of the foods labeled as superfoods are themselves healthful, the way they are processed may not be. Also, as we know, human nature and the marketing ‘geniuses’ behind the industrialized food industry have us believing that if something is healthy, we should eat a TON of it. And eating anything in excess can have detrimental health effects.
This topic reminds me of paleo inspired treats. Some people think because they are natural, they can create a lifestyle and diet around paleo treats. Sure they are natural, BUT they are treats. They should be viewed just as any other cookie, cake or indulgence. So with superfoods, some folks seem to think they can eat nothing but kale, berries, chia seeds and nuts. I dated someone for a short time that ate nothing but these things (I’m not exaggerating) because he thought this was healthy. These do not a well-balanced diet make. I tried to explain that to him, it didn’t work. Needless to say we dated for a VERY SHORT period of time. I’m not totally the food police. I’m just a little food police-y. But only when someone needs to be policed. Like this guy. And actually that’s not the reason I stopped dating him (even though it really bugged me and could have been reason enough). There were MANY other reasons (again, this is a whole other topic). Ok I’m really digressing here…
My rule of thumb is to be skeptical and question any claim or label. If there is a claim or label on a foodstuff, that is an immediate red flag to me that someone is trying to sell me something. And that means the end goal is for that someone to make money. It’s certainly not about improving my health and wellbeing. We can’t forget about the non-fat, low-fat, no/low cholesterol labeling days. Removing fat from foods and adding sugar in its place. My favorite was the no cholesterol labels on foods that were in no way animal products. Cholesterol only exists in animal products and animal byproducts. And how about no or low sugar labels? Instead of natural sugars, substituting artificial sweeteners in their place. We all know now how devastating the no and low-fat and sugar crazes have been from a health and public health perspective, and how lucrative they were for the industrialized food industry and marketing agencies.
I’m concluding that all REAL FOOD is SUPERFOOD. I don’t need a marketing company to tell me that blueberries are good for me. Of course they are, they are a natural and nutritious food. So is kale. So are foods rich in omega 3s such as fish like salmon. You know what else are superfoods? Eggs, beef, poultry, FAT! I haven’t seen these pop up on superfood lists… yet.
What should we be eating? That’s easy. Eat a VARIETY of real food, every day. That’s the best way to ensure your diet and lifestyle are SUPER! No labels or claims are needed to justify that!
Dave is my 11-year-old rat terrier. Here he is sunbathing on the patio. Yes I have a dog named Dave. Dave is what I like to call “plush.” Dave doesn’t like to go outside (except for sitting on the patio), he’s afraid of noise. Dave might be the only dog on the planet that doesn’t EVER want to go outside. When I attempt to walk him, he runs upstairs and hides under the bed, and I then have to fish him out by crawling under the bed (it’s high up, I can fit under there). It’s not pleasant for either of us, but come on, the dog has to go to the bathroom! And he DOES NOT ever have accidents in the house. Poor Dave. He will hold it forever as long as it means he doesn’t have to go outside. Given Dave’s fear of the great outdoors, getting him enough exercise is challenging. What I find most successful is standing at the top of the stairs and playing ball with him by throwing the ball down the stairs. He fetches (sometimes), and runs back upstairs (sometimes) to bring me the ball. It’s like a Stairmaster for him. Unfortunately he catches on to my ulterior motive pretty quickly and takes his ball over to his bed and chews on it instead.
I have two dogs actually. Dave, and Lily. Meet Lily.
Lily is a Chihuahua/terrier mix. She acts mostly like a Chihuahua based on what I’ve read about the breed. VERY needy. I secretly love it though. It’s nice to be needed! Lily does love to walk and go outside. Lily is more svelte than Dave.
Aside from the exercise component of my doggies lifestyles, I feed them commercial dog food. I have a sneaking suspicion Dave eats most, if not all, of Lily’s food. It’s more than a suspicion. I’ve seen him do it, and again, Dave is “plush.” The proof is more than a little evident, look at Dave! I’ve tried to feed them separately, it doesn’t work. Lily doesn’t eat much. She sort of picks at her bowl throughout the day. Dave eats what’s there, when you put it out. So balancing a feeding plan for these two isn’t easy. And of course I’m working all day and busy so I can’t watch over them all of the time. I know, thankfully I don’t have human kids is probably what you are thinking. I admit I even think that, and so does my mother. Yes she has told me that (thanks mom). And yes I need to do a better job managing their caloric intake, and the quality of their nutrient intake as well. After all, they are dogs and I am the one responsible for their health.
These facts about my dogs combined with my obsession with nutrition, health and wellness of course got me thinking. Here I am, all gung-ho paleo style right? I can’t help but think Dave (and Lily of course too) would be in better shape (not just physically) if they ate foods that more closely resemble what they would eat naturally. Just like us. Not only that, but you have to think that most commercial dog food would be the equivalent to the processed food we are marketed and sold.
My grandma Dorothy always tells me how when she was very young (she’s 95 now), she remembers that my great grandpa Abe brought home a little dog. Grandma remembers feeding it table scraps. So yes, human food, and since we are talking about circa 1920s – 1930s or so, I’m going to say the food was NOT processed. And I know it wasn’t because I know how my great-grandmother used to cook. Back in the day when people went to the butcher for fresh meat, cooked in schmaltz and other animal fat, etc. (my great-grandmother kept a kosher household). So like processed people food, processed dog food is also a newer invention of more modern times.
I hear more and more lately as well about dogs (and cats most likely but I don’t have cats so don’t pay much attention to feline news) having heart disease, and type 2 diabetes! I even have friends whose dogs have serious allergies and they have noticed improvements when they cut wheat and corn out of their furry friends’ diets. Sounds humanly familiar doesn’t it?
I found some interesting information on the topic of canine nutrition.
This link notes that meat based diets are best for dogs. Corn and grain, not so much.
Here you’ll see that dogs need well-balanced nutrition just like we do. Nutrients are important, including protein, carbs and fats.
Number three in this resource scarily reminds me of the recommendations from the “expert” dietary advice we are taught to follow.
Food allergies and even food intolerances are present in dogs as well.
This one suggests that the best diet for dogs is one closest to their natural diet.
What is their natural diet? I’m glad you asked! This link describes just that!
So there you go. Dogs, just like people, benefit from eating real food! No this isn’t rocket science. And no, this isn’t the first I’ve heard of the concept of paleo pets. This is just another example of my inquiring mind wanting to know more about something. That darn hamster in my head just can’t stop running on that little wheel.
Here’s a little caveat however to keep in mind if you plan to switch your furry friends to a more natural diet. A few years ago, there was a doggie digestive issue we dealt with over at the Alliefitfoodie residence. I came home from work one day to, let’s call it a major mess. VERY little grosses me out. This grossed me out. It turned out that both dogs had gotten food poisoning from a can of wet dog food I had fed them. It took a few days to clear up, and in the meantime I started cooking for them. Rice, potatoes, eggs, and whatever meat I was eating. I’d make a little extra protein for them while I was cooking for myself. I mentioned their new feeding regimen to the vet at our next visit and he cautioned me regarding this. There are many nutrients that dogs need he said, that they can’t get from a strictly human diet. There are supplements you can buy to add to the food to make the nutritional content complete for dogs. My vet said that he even uses commercial products for his dogs because he didn’t have the time to properly prepare meals for them that included the appropriate nutrition. So I went back to the commercial stuff. What I do now however is buy the higher end stuff, and the stuff that’s more natural. I read the ingredients, just like I do for myself when I shop for my food. The links above are great resources for what to look for in terms of the ingredients in your best friend’s bowl. The best advice though, check with your vet before you change what you feed your animals.
In a nutshell I’m concluding here that I no longer follow the standard American diet (SAD) and haven’t in a long time, so why should my fur babies follow the standard American dog diet (SADD)? Yes I just made that up, clever huh?
You’re not supposed to talk about religion. So let’s talk about religion! And about food and nutrition! And about ME!
I find there are social and psychological aspects of discussing food and nutrition with people that seem to be as touchy as discussing religion. I wanted to explore this to see if I could better understand it (I don’t get it). To me, food and nutrition are the BEST discussion topics EVER! Ask anyone I know, they will tell you I can’t stop talking about this stuff. Since I find it so entertaining and downright fun to talk about food and nutrition, I don’t understand the sensitive nature it can evoke.
While this is a concept I’ve been thinking about for some time, I was inspired to write about it now because earlier this week I posted a comment to an article published online by the Huffington Post about the paleo diet and paleo lifestyle. Which by the way, I LOVE that paleo is being talked about in such a public, high-profile forum! Here’s the link to the article.
And here is my comment.
Not only did someone comment to my comment and mention religion, but when I was reading other comments, some compared paleo to religious, dogmatic propaganda. All that was being presented was food and nutrition related information. How did people go from reading about the paleo diet and lifestyle, to comparisons to religion? Inquiring minds want to know! Well mine does at least!
The italicized text that follows is from this resource, not my brain, so don’t shoot this messenger!
Food and nutrition can be a very touchy subject for many as the topic encompasses a variety of different aspects from preferences, to heritage, to religion, to culture…
So feelings and beliefs around food and nutrition, like religion, can be extremely personal and deeply rooted in one’s self. It appears then that food and nutrition, and religion [and culture] do share similar social and psychological properties.
Given these similarities between religion, and food and nutrition, I thought I’d do a comparison to see if the paleo lifestyle is “religious” like some of the comments on the Huffington Post article suggest. I found the following noting what purpose religion can serve for folks on http://www.wiki.answers.com. Here’s the link.
Have I mentioned the italics are not from my brain?
- Religion and its leaders have historically built a base of monetary gratification exceeding that of its followers.
- Some believe that religion is for achieving enlightenment, progressing to heaven or paradise, or to enable worshipers to seek help in the present life from their God or gods.
- Religion is simply the way people organize themselves. To say I’m a Baptist/Catholic/Jewish means you organize the way you worship God in that particular fashion.
- The purpose of religion is to establish a base for human creation and to try to understand why human beings are here and to quell the never-ending desire to understand the human origins.
- The purpose of Religion is not only to teach Morals and guidelines to follow through life, but also to teach hope. Through Religion people feel more comfortable with the fact that one day we will all die, because they believe they are going to a better place.
- The purpose of religion is that people can have hope and not just think when you die you rot, but for example say you were really scared about your next swimming lesson you would pray to your god and you would have hope that it would be alright.
Here is my honest and personal take on each of these points, paleo style. Really, these are my [a little revealing] truths.
- There are a lot of folks that do make their livings off of promoting different lifestyles, including the paleo lifestyle. And there are followers of these folks, clearly I am one of those followers.
- I was seeking help and relief in my present life from the Gods of my screwed up digestive system. And food is necessary for survival much to the dismay of my tummy.
- I call myself paleo and I organize my lifestyle according to that classification.
- The purpose of nutrition (for me) is to establish a clear understanding of how my body functions and metabolizes nutrients so that I can perform at my best physically, mentally and emotionally. Paleo has helped me create a basis for balancing these things. Before I converted (pun intended) to a paleo lifestyle, I wasn’t properly fueling my body so I had fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and was a cranky biatch (among many other issues that paleo has either significantly improved or completely resolved).
- The paleo lifestyle has taught me that there is hope, and the digestive issues I’ve had for most of my life don’t have to be a battle to fight for the rest of my life. Paleo has brought me to a better and healthier place.
- When I’m eating out, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in the food on the menu. Sure you can ask about gluten, soy, etc., but sauces, dressings, seasonings. Who the heck knows what you are getting. Before taking my first bite of my meal at a restaurant I always think to myself, “Fingers crossed, tummy don’t fail me now.”
There you have it. Those that provided the commentary on the Post’s page might be on to something. It appears that I AM preaching the paleo lifestyle I practice. From now on you can consider me a PAP, a Paleo American Princess. And yes, I will say that my feelings and beliefs about food and nutrition are extremely personal and deeply rooted in MY ‘self.’
I found this exercise interesting. And I learned a bit about myself in the process. Can I get an AMEN? PALEO is my religion.
Yesterday I took on my family.
And today the Huffington Post!
Here is the Huffington Post’s article.
And here is my comment.
I’m finally in a relationship! Let me tell you, this has been a long time coming. I’ve been officially boyfriend-less since 2006. Finally I have met that special someone. Someone that makes me laugh, nourishes my soul and provides me with the sustenance I need to make it through my days. I never thought I’d find my perfect match. I’ve always been hopeful though! You know what they say, keep the faith!
Anyone in the mood for a little paleo ‘cheese’ recipe? I know cheese isn’t paleo. Don’t get all hot and bothered yet paleo police! Now that I have your attention, read on.
I love information. Reading it, collecting it and sharing it. I’m an educator and a science geek by nature. My undergraduate degree is in nutrition and dietetics, and my graduate degree is in public health and was heavily focused on health education. I enjoy combining these parts of me, the natural “I want to share knowledge with others” part with my love (obsession really) for nutrition, food, and the science that intertwines them. I feel like I can create magic with this recipe!
1) Nutrition = fueling the body so it functions the way it should
2) Food = the fuel
3) Related science = the metabolic processes that occur when the right food (for me that’s the paleo diet because it focuses on whole, real, clean food and makes me feel fantastic) is converted in the body to fuel, providing nutrients for the body to function
4) Public health spin = sharing this information in such a way that it’s easily digestible (pun sort of intended) for people to understand and practice themselves
Mix all ingredients together, bake (let the information sink in to foster behavior change), and serve (practice what’s been learned). It’s that simple!
Hang tight, I’m going to get all academic up in here, but just briefly. Baking time will vary depending on the individual. Readiness for change is dependent on a number of things that are personal to each and every one of us and may include factors that are biological, behavioral, and social (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK43745/). This article is a bit old but for the purposes of health behavior change that I’m discussing here it works perfectly as a reference. Biological examples may include things like current levels of stress and health status, and any existing disease states (such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, diabetes or heart disease). Smoking or use of tobacco, consumption of alcohol, level of physical activity, and current diet status are examples of behavioral factors. Factors related to social aspects of health behavior change may include socioeconomic status, support from others (friends and family), and even someone’s occupation. I talk a bit about behavior change in one of my thoughts for today on my Facebook page (from July 30). In case you are wondering, and I know (hope at least) you are you can find me on Facebook under Alliefitfoodie. Find me! Like me! So, change. Yes. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. It can definitely be an arduous one. Behavior change is never point A to point B. It tends to be more like point A to point to point Q to point X to point B. Be patient with yourself if you are the one making changes. If someone in your life is working on changing support them and be patient with them. Successful change happens when small, manageable steps forward are taken over time, and everyone has their own timeline. If you are interested in reading more about behavior models related to change check out Bandura (self efficacy) and Prochaska (stages of change). They are two of my favorites. Or just search for behavioral models of change. There are a ton of these from many different authors.
Ok, enough with the academic mumbo jumbo. Let’s put a fork in this (pun totally intended).
I’m calling this recipe my paleo quadfecta success-a! I was shooting for three ingredients to make it a trifecta because that sounds way more catchy, but you really can’t make this happen without number four, the public health component.
Did you know quadfecta is actually a word? I didn’t. I Googled ‘quadfecta’ and it exists (thankfully otherwise I’d have to rethink this entire post). Pretty paleo cheesy huh?
Discipline. This is a word used frequently in our nutrition and fitness circles. Is there such a thing as being too disciplined? Discipline is my greatest strength. I workout everyday. I eat healthy everyday. A “cheat” for me means I ate too much nut butter, too much fruit, or had an extra chicken breast or piece of steak. My last dessert binge (we all know this happens from time to time, for all of us I think) was on a paleo banana cake I made for a friend’s birthday about a month ago. Yes I even binge paleo style. Am I bragging? Heck no. My point is, while discipline is my greatest strength, it’s also my biggest weakness. I’m obsessive when it comes to healthy behavior! Yes I’m a bit of a freak. I wish I could lighten up and take a day off the gym, or I don’t know, eat a real cookie? I think about living on the edge like that (sense my sarcasm) but I know if I did, the “guilt” would get the better of me and I’d obsess about my “bad” behavior for the rest of the day. So this is me. HOWEVER, my advice to all is NOT what I do myself. You know, the old adage, do as I say not as I do. So what I say is that IT IS OK to have a rest day, or 3! It’s IT IS OK to eat that cookie! Remove the words “cheat,” “guilt” and “bad” from your healthy lifestyle vocabulary! True wellness is about overall lifestyle choices that span a lifetime. Now if I could only take my own advice.
So is there such thing as too much discipline? I’m going with yes. What do you think?
Here are some rules to live by when you follow a paleo diet and lifestyle. Well, these are really the rules I am living by. Now I’ll take a moment to oh so enlighten you with my infinite wisdom (totally joking but not at the same time).
My 10 commandments of cooking and paleo:
2) Sweet treats and breads, even paleo versions, should be kept to a minimum. Just because they are made into what people call paleo doesn’t mean they should be a substitute for meals, included with every meal, or eaten to excess in general. Of course if you need a treat go for it and make it paleo! The stuff is fantastically delicious and healthier than non paleo options in my opinion. I must admit I am a fan of paleo treats.
3) Experiment! Mix it up! Throw caution to the wind! Live on the edge! I love cliches! This is how I discovered my favorite seasoning combo. Garlic and cinnamon. Nomnomnom.
4) When possible do buy and eat organic. I only recently joined this bandwagon. The food actually tastes better, I have fewer digestive issues (probably TMI), and it’s way better for you.
5) When eating out don’t stress about trying to stay 100% paleo. That’s what I love most about paleo. It’s very versatile and can be modified to fit anyone’s lifestyle. A little non paleo food once in awhile isn’t a bad thing. Earlier this week for example I ate out and had a kale salad that had chickpeas on it and some sort of parmesan crisps. I ate it. I survived. That salad was on the side of a rare burger topped with cheddar cheese (I went bun-less). I ate the cheese. Yep survived that too. I realize you were probably expecting me to say I ate an entire pizza. Nope. Sorry to disappoint.
6) Load up on veggies. Raw, sautéed in butter/coconut oil/bacon grease/FAT, baked, broiled, steamed, roasted… you get the idea.
7) Load up on protein. Enough said.
8) Eat fat, eat fat, eat fat. YES even saturated fats. Especially saturated fats. Your body needs fat badly and in today’s society it is still feared by most as a dietary no no even though studies saying it was bad were conducted ages ago and more recent literature proves the great majority of those studies to be flawed. Not only that, but fat fills you up and holds you over for a long time. Basically carbs will metabolize in about 1 ½ hours, protein in about 4-6 hours, and fats in about 7-8 hours or so. The longer it takes for your body to metabolize nutrients, the longer you remain satiated.
9) EAT BREAKFAST and make it truly a meal to break-the-fast. I learned that I wasn’t eating enough to fuel my workouts and I’m a morning exerciser. How did I learn this you may wonder? I had no energy, my workouts were painfully hard and just down right painful (achy joints for example) and I generally felt like crap all day long. Tired, no energy. I’ve increased the quantity of my breakfasts and their nutritional content and OMG do I feel fantastic. Not only for my workouts, but that good start carries me through the day. I find protein and fat combos work best for me.
10) EAT! I’m still working on this one. I am not a snacky person and I eat three meals a day. I’ve spent so many years eating when it’s time to eat versus when I’m actually hungry so honestly I’m not even sure when I’m really hungry. This one will take awhile. I’m working on it. I need to retrain my system to recognize hunger so I eat when my body needs fuel, not when it’s “time” per my watch.
While I live within the realm of nutrition and always have, I’m fairly new to the paleo world. These are MY current 10 commandments. Stay tuned, the list will grow and change and I continue to learn and experiment!
This is a good read for more on paleo: