July 22nd, 2024

Viva Vitality: Include ‘superfoods’ in a balanced diet

By Julia Rowland on June 21, 2024.

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The term ‘superfood’ is used to describe a food that is claimed to have health benefits because of its high nutrient density. Some foods labeled as superfoods are blueberries, acai berries, dark green leafy vegetables, green tea, legumes, garlic, turmeric, pomegranate seeds and others.

Nutrition experts, generally, do not agree with idea of a ‘superfood’ for a few reasons. First, a food does not need to meet a standard criteria or legal definition to be called a ‘superfood’. Second, calling a food a ‘superfood’ has the potential to lead us to believe one food can provide all the nutrients our body needs. Lastly, focusing on including or excluding certain foods can take our focus away from looking at our general dietary pattern, which will likely have a greater effect on our health then individual foods.

If ‘superfoods’ aren’t the answer to promoting good health with nutrition, what is the answer? A well-balanced dietary pattern full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein foods.

Canada’s food guide recommends that half the plate is vegetables and fruits, a quarter is protein foods, and one quarter is whole grains. This dietary pattern of eating is a known way to get positive health benefits.

Each of the above listed ‘superfoods’ can fit in a well-balanced diet. For example, blueberries, acai berries, dark green leafy vegetables, garlic, and pomegranate seeds are all vegetables and fruits that would be nutritious options to use to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits. These foods will provide our bodies with many of the nutrients they need to function well.

If you like a food that has been called a ‘superfood’ there is no harm including it in your diet. If you do not enjoy these foods, choose others that you do enjoy that fit within Canada’s food guide recommendations.

Remember to focus on the proportions of the types of foods you eat at your meals and snacks and less about the specific foods you choose. Choose to make half your plate vegetables and fruits, a quarter of your plate protein foods, and a quarter of your plate whole grain foods.

Julia Rowland is a Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. Visit ahs.ca/nutrition to learn more.

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