Notice how the title made you make a beeline towards this article?
You owe this attraction to the growing claims about ‘immunity-boosting food’, ‘superfoods’ and the like.
Living in the time we do, it is understandable to be worried about your family’s well-being, even more so if you’re the parent to a young one.
But with all the stirring buzz about superfoods, you find yourself in a conundrum: to believe, or not to believe?
To deliver you from your (known or unknown) confusions, here is a shocking (for some) revelation about your favourite superfoods and what you can do instead of fuelling their reign:
How super is a superfood?
The term superfood is no novelty for any of us. But did you know that it is a relatively recent phenomenon?
The term was coined in the early 1900s as a marketing gimmick to push the sales of bananas, the world’s first ‘superfood’. Trade groups funded research to back a major import of bananas.
Many researchers and experts since have said that no such thing as a superfood exists. Putting all your faith (and money) in buying a certain food item as an end-all remedy is against science and, pardon the pertinence, beyond common sense.
Facts or Fiction?
Likewise, many food myths have cropped up since to boost sales of various food products. Such a deluge of misinformation is enough to make one doubt the claims on food labels and those made by trade-group funded research.
Let’s uncover some such myths and see what’s factual and what’s fictitious in the wide world of nutrition and immunity (which is a buzzword of its own in these times of health-ambiguity):
Claim 1- The more immune-boosting foods you consume, the healthier your immune system gets, and the better equipped it is to keep away diseases.
FICTION- Let’s begin by reiterating the age-old saying: too much of anything is harmful. And nothing rings true to this ancient piece of wisdom.
It is a less-known fact that an overactive immune system (yes it’s possible to have one) is linked to diseases like lupus, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. It also causes the flaring up of allergic reactions.
Having a hyperactive immune system leads to its reacting against run-of-the-mill substances in and around your body.
ADVICE- Having a hyperactive immune system as you’ve seen, isn’t ideal. What’s required is an optimal immune system which does its job just enough to keep infections and pathogens at bay.
It does not mean that you will not fall sick. A healthy immune system means having fevers and a runny nose at times, which is necessary to expel irritants from your nose and to kill germs that invade your body by raising its core temperature.
Claim 2: Taking supplements of immunity-boosting nutrients is healthier (or) supplements are mandatory to fulfil your daily nutritional requirements
FICTION- It has become a general belief that supplements are indispensable to have good health and to fulfil daily nutritional requirements. But this is a myth too.
ADVICE- A balanced diet provides the right nutrients in the right amount. Supplements are only required by those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, or by persons suffering from nutrient deficiencies caused by a lack of particular nutrients in their diet.
Taking supplements is not necessary if you have good food habits. They can often do more harm than good if taken without prescriptions.
Moreover, taking too much of a nutrient or vitamin can also be problematic. Once again, practise moderation and do not DIY in matters as such.
Claim 3: Exotic foods claimed to be superfoods are better than local fruits and seasonal vegetables as they are more nutrient-dense
FICTION- Yes folks, it’s true this also a false fact shoved down our throats to boost sales of certain imported (and expensive) food items. It is not necessary that you consume chia seeds or cranberries because they have a higher concentration of a certain nutrient you want.
ADVICE- Locally grown fruits and veg, preferably seasonal are more beneficial for the body than any imported or exotic food. This is because the food sourced from local regions has adapted to its current form after thousands of years of evolving in the region. It provides a better combination of nutrients than exotic food, depending on the season.
Moreover, it provides a boost to the local economy and is not pricey, owing to the lack of import duty. So, instead of a cherry, eat an Indian gooseberry (or amla) when you need a boost of Vitamin C next time.
Claim 4: Instead of having a range of healthy food, one can have a few nutrient-dense foods instead
FICTION- This is what marketers and superfood PR strategists want you to believe. The truth remains that nothing is better than having a balanced diet, and eating a selective diet can lead your body to over-consumption of particular nutrients, which is counter-productive.
ADVICE- Your body requires an array of nutrients and ideally from varied sources. Not eating a balanced diet is an invitation to infections and diseases as every nutrient has its role in maintaining bodily functions going smooth and co-ordinated.
So, the takeaway here is that you need a balanced diet, lest your bodily functions get impaired, and you become prone to diseases.
Claim 5- Certain foods act as medicine
FICTION- The fact still remains. Every nutrient present in food plays a role in maintaining a body-function. No particular food item or nutrient can ‘cure’ your ailment.
ADVICE- The easiest way to say this has been already covered: a balanced diet. Eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and you can prevent diseases. The cure? Well, what’re the medical experts for?
EASY KID-FRIENDLY RECIPE OPTIONS FOR WINTER FESTIVITIES
As a bonus, we are offering you a few recipes for your kids and you.
They’re easy enough and made of winter-friendly ingredients.
1. Nuts and seeds Laddoos
SERVING SUGGESTION- Ditch your store-bought, sugar-loaded laddoos for Nuts and seeds ladoos this Diwali.
Made with pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds and flax seeds and nuts like almonds, cashew and walnuts, it provides Omega-3 fats, minerals like magnesium and phosphorus and small amounts of protein.
Additionally, using jaggery and/or honey as a sweetener instead of sugar leads to a guilt-free gorge session!
2. Chatpata Bhel with Berries
SERVING SUGGESTION- Instead of namkeen, you can make bhel at home and add the goodness of berries (increasing the daily fruit intake of your family. Well, aren’t you the sneak!)
Just like an ordinary homemade bhel, you can add sprouted pulses and beans, sprouted or fermented millets and berries with a dash of lime juice on the top. Don’t forget to add berries like pomegranate seeds to give the sweet kick!
This makes for a healthier alternative to fried food, keeping you and your kids away from trans fats and polyunsaturated fats. Also, it is wonderfully easy to make and not to mention, delicious!
3. Leafy Vegetables
SERVING SUGGESTION- For dinner, you can easily whip up some Palak Paneer, or a Punjabi classic, Sarso da Saag. You can also make kale crisps in the microwave or incorporate them in fried rice. If not, you can make a Palak-ki-daal and serve it with buttery naans.
After all, winter is the time for indulgence too!
Remember to practise moderation and try not to turn your Diwali and Christmas celebrations into a fest of your nutrition anxieties. It is okay to binge on delicacies sometimes if you strike a balance.
You and your kids deserve a healthy life and its reinforcement begins at home. Inculcating these habits goes a long way in your child’s life, and although they make faces when you make them eat their veggies, you know they’ll thank you one day!
Don’t forget to fact-check marketing claims on your next grocery run.
Be a responsible consumer, a mindful parent, and a happy person!
As a parting gift, here is a reading list you might want to go through: