In a pronouncement timed to precede the New Year healthy eating detox many people engage in, the BDA said shoppers should be sceptical of a term substantiated more by marketers than food scientists.
“The main thing to keep in mind is that, despite its common use, the term ‘superfood’ has no regulatory approval and is not a legally recognised term,” said registered dietician and BDA spokeswoman Sioned Quirke.
“’Superfood’ is simply a marketing term that has become trendy over the last few years. Companies and marketing teams will often put whatever they can on a label to hook you into a purchase.
‘Ditch that phrase’
“The bottom line is, many foods are superfoods in their own way, but let’s ditch that phrase … Nothing can substitute healthy eating, but many a marketing person can make your wallet lighter!”
Quirke said many foods hailed as superfoods had some health benefits, but no more so than many other naturally-occurring foods.
In addition, marketers tended to focus on exotic natural foods, including goji berries, when eggs, salmon, nuts and more common fruits and vegetables could convey just as many health benefits.
“Even if a claim is made that a particular fruit has a high antioxidant level, the human body may not be able to absorb it well,” continued Quirke. “Also, it’s worth checking exactly how much of the product one would have to consume to see the ‘benefit’ claimed.
“Sometimes the amounts are very large. Consumer group Choice found that you would need to drink about 13-30ml serves of goji juice in order to obtain the same antioxidant benefit of eating one medium sized red delicious apple.”
Most foods were ‘super’ in one way or another, she said. For example, ordinary fruits and vegetables offered vitamins, minerals and fibre, meat and fish provided protein, grains provided energy and dairy products provided calcium.
“Anyone worth their degree in nutrition will tell you that no one food provides everything the body needs, therefore, the so-called ‘superfoods’ are by no means the magic wand companies market them as. We need to dispel the myths.”