Are you fooled by superfoods?

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1. Super powers?

What does “superfood” actually mean? There is no agreed definition, and in 2007 the EU banned the use of "superfood" on labels unless accompanied by an authorised health claim explaining why the food is good for our health.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped various foods being hailed as the next big “superfood”. Even that staple of fry-up, black pudding, has been given the label in the press.

Most fresh ingredients provide some nourishment, vital vitamins and minerals - so do we really need to buy special "super" ingredients to be healthy?

2. Berry good

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Do you need to fork out for exotic dried berries or can you get much the same vitamins and other nutrients from a bag of frozen mixed berries? Click on the hand to compare.

3. Power to the grains

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a recent addition to the "superfood" scene, hailed for its high protein content and the fact that it is one of the only plant-based foods to contain all the essential amino acids (the ones that our bodies are unable to make).

This does make it particularly beneficial for vegans because most foods that provide all essential amino acids are animal-based, meaning they have to eat a mixture of plant-based foods to ensure an adequate intake.

However, while quinoa may be one of the rare plant-based foods to provide all essential amino acids, vegans can still get everything they need without it by using some clever pairings. Lentils with rice is one example where two foods come together to provide all essential amino acids. Baked beans on wholegrain toast or peanut butter on wholegrain bread are other examples.

4. Coconut oil v rapeseed oil

Coconut oil, rapeseed oil

Coconut oil has increased in popularity in recent years, thanks to claims that it can speed up the metabolism and reduce weight and cholesterol. But research suggests these claims are currently unfounded. Much of the research looks at the effects on animals, not humans, and most randomised controlled trials into coconut oil have shown that it increases both bad and good cholesterol. The fact also remains that coconut oil is almost 90% saturated fat, and while this is an area where more research is currently being conducted, the NHS and British Heart Foundation both recommend that we reduce our saturated fat intake, swapping it for healthier unsaturated fats, such as rapeseed oil.

5. Superfoods quiz

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6. Eat the rainbow

So it seems that the word "superfood" is really just a tool used in the marketing of foods. But why are we so easily fooled? According to a YouGov survey, 61% of us have purchased a food because it had been labelled as a "superfood". It turns out that if we are told that something is "super" we choose to believe it.

Dietitians have criticised the term "superfood" amid fears that people may think that eating them could somehow undo damage done by eating unhealthy foods. But the fact is that no one food will provide everything that our bodies need nutritionally. The key is to eat a broad and varied diet, ensuring all food groups are covered. The more variety you eat the chances are the more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) you will consume.