Superfood energy balls seem to be more popular than ever these days. You will see many shops offering overly priced superfood energy balls as an alternative to cakes with your coffee but what exactly are superfoods and will they keep you healthy and young as they claim to?
What are superfoods?
Superfoods are intended to be nutritionally dense with high volumes of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and low in calories.
There is no official definition of superfood in most food markets but it is a term that suggests a food can protect against certain diseases. Under EU legislation, use of the term superfoods is not allowed unless it includes an authorised health claim that explains to consumers why the product is good for their health.
What exactly is in a superfood energy ball?
It will often be a mix of ingredients such as nuts, seeds, almonds, dried fruit combined together in a ball.
My favourite one is Guarana superfood ball made of guarana powder, dates, peanut butter, chia seed and coconut flakes. One ball has roughly 104 calories. Although, it is small in size and I have to resist the temptation to eat 2 or three which purely from a calorie perspective will mean that I would have ended up eating one slice of cake (calories really are everything).
What about other superfoods?
Superfoods don’t just have to be dessert or something sweet. According to Harvard, superfoods to eat can include fish which has a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which can help prevent heart disease. Dark, leafy greens are also promoted as superfoods and can be a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium with lots of health benefits.
Remember superfoods just need to say what the health benefits are which has to be backed up by scientific research to be classed as one.
Will replacing all my meals with superfoods be better for me?
This would depend entirely on what type of superfood. I am sure by now we all know, too much of one thing can be bad for you. Most superfoods will come with high beta-cartene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
In high doses these can be bad for you, for example foods with high-doses beta-carotene supplements can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers and use of high-dose vitamin E supplements can lead to increased risks of hemorrhagic stroke (a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain). Too much vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful in comparison, however megadoses can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hearburn, headache, and insomnia for example.
What about the antioxidants?
Superfoods with antioxidant properties are all the rage these days. Goji berries, green tea, dark chocolates are all marketed as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are good for us as they help neutralise free radicals (otherwise known as oxidants).
Free radicals can cause damage to the cells and can induce ageing, chronic illnesses such as heart disease, genetic mutations and abnormalities.
Dr Emma Beckett, a molecular nutritionist at the University of Newcastle has a good way of explaining free radicals and how anti-oxidants are helping.
"Free radicals are basically nasty little chemicals that go around stealing electrons off other molecules in your body, and that causes damage in the body,"
"Antioxidants are clever little molecules that come along and stop that free radical chain reaction," Dr Beckett said.
Can I have too many antioxidants?
There are mixed views on this as there is limited research which is conclusive, as we said too much of anything is bad for you. According an article by NHS, Daily Mail reported too many oxidants could be doing more harm than good.
According to Popular Science, in very “small doses free radicals are crucial” and their destructive power can be used for good. For example when you cut your finger “one crucial step your body takes to prevent infection is to produce more free radicals in the area”
How many antioxidants do I need?
They tend to be measured in ORAC scale, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.
According to Steponefoods.com is estimated that men, who consume an average of about 2500 calories a day need at least 11,000 ORAC units. Women, who eat about 1800 calories per day, should get at least 8,000 units.
“A cup of blueberries, some dark leafy greens in your salad and a good dose of oregano in your spaghetti sauce will get you well over 20,000 for the day”, they claim.
So, where does that leave me if I want to stay young, beautiful and healthy. Is the perfect blend of superfood the answer?
Well, if you figure out what the perfect blend is then please let us know. However as we highlighted too much of anything is bad for you. It is all about finding the balance.
If you need a quick fix then a superfood energy ball is definitely better than cakes. However it is also ultimately a mix of fruit and nuts.
So instead of an overly priced, well marketed superfood energy ball just have a handful of nuts instead? It will all mix in your stomach anyway!! (Just a suggestion). Also don’t forget the salads and a balanced diet.