As a dietitian, I strongly believe in the power of a healthy diet to improve a person’s life — but I do sometimes grow tired of headlines like “The 7 Super Foods You Should Always Eat,” “3 Healthy Breakfasts for a Better You” or “Super Berry Fights Heart Disease and Cancer.” While I understand the intent of most of these types of articles, no one food (e.g., an acai berry) or even ten foods, has the power to completely eliminate your chance for disease — and may not do much at all depending on other health factors you may have.
For instance, some of the foods I have seen on these lists are berries, oatmeal, barley, or other whole grains, sweet potatoes, and even bananas. While these foods are indeed nutrient packed, most of them are high glycemic load foods.
A person who is overweight, or has high cholesterol or elevated blood pressure or blood sugar — even if it’s only slight — should moderate their intake of any of these foods, no matter what antioxidant or other nutrients they contain. That’s because their body is not equipped to handle increased carbohydrate loads, especially on a continuous basis.
One suggested breakfast I saw in an online “3 Super Healthy Breakfasts” type article included a bowl of whole grain cereal, a glass of orange juice, and a yogurt. Healthy for who? Certainly not anyone who is overweight or insulin resistant. This high glycemic load breakfast would do nothing but continue to pack weight on most people I know.
As another example, take the lovely blueberry, which is rich in antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients, and has been suggested to be protective of eye health . You will often see headlines like, “Eat Blueberries for Eye Health.” But an article like this that is recommending blueberries should caution people to eat them within reasonable amounts — and within individual tolerance levels.
I had one patient who had been a pretty well-controlled diabetic, but saw one of these articles and began to eat so many blueberries he was raising his blood sugar — and even developed an allergy to them.
“Super foods” may be high in nutritional value, but they won’t usually be enough to overcome other bad habits. For instance, a person who drinks regular soft drinks or eats candy every day will still be at an increased risk of developing the most common cause of blindness, called age related macular degeneration , whether they eat blueberries every day or not. Though they contain a lot of great nutrients and I love them — blueberries are not powerful enough to overcome the inflammatory effects of daily, refined sugar intake.
Some of the super foods I have seen on lists, like spinach, ground flax seeds, olive oil, garlic, broccoli and green tea, I am particularly partial to because they can be eaten by anyone — even a person doing a low carb diet. I think all these foods are great and have many benefits, but even these foods should be rotated in with a large variety of other foods for allergy protection.
Eat super nutritious foods, YES, but they should not be over consumed. And remember — any of these “super foods” will be most beneficial when eaten within a context of an otherwise healthy diet.
Laura B. LaValle, RD, LD is presently the director of dietetics nutrition at LaValle Metabolic Institute (formerly part of Living Longer Institute). She offers personal nutritional counseling at LMI for clients who need help with their diet in relation to illness or disease. Laura also provides educational services in the areas of health promotion, wellness, and disease prevention.
Read more at http://www.totalhealthbreakthroughs.com
- 1. Prior RL et al. J Agric Food Chem 2001 Mar;49(3):1270-6 2001.
- 2. Cho E et al. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 Jun;122(6):883-92. PMID:15197064.
Laura B. LaValle, RD, LD is presently the director of dietetics nutrition at LaValle Metabolic Institute. Laura and her husband, Jim LaValle, R.Ph, CCN, ND have developed the powerful and life-changing Metabolic Code Diet – containing step-by-step, easy to follow recommendations for harnessing optimal metabolic energy and turning your body’s chemical make up into a fat-burning furnace. To learn more click here.