Can tomatoes prevent cancer? Will eating avocados give you perfect skin? We look at the myths and realities of superfruits.
Cutting through the myths of superfruits
Superfruit health claims
If you like to keep up to date with the health and wellbeing news on a regular basis, the chances are that you’ll have noticed some big heath claims being made for certain foods. In fact, there’s often so much hype you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be possible to ward off all sorts of illnesses, just by eating masses of one type of food!
Can a diet rich in tomatoes really ward off cancer? Will scoffing an avocado give you perfect skin? While these foods are all healthy and full of nutrients, it seems that they don’t have any food superpowers,,,
Why we all need superfruits
Some of the big claims made for individual superfruits may not hold water – and most of us are likely to react with healthy scepticism when told, for instance, that one food prevents weight gain while another reverses the ageing process.
However, all of the foods we look at in the list below are healthy as part of a balanced diet – with most providing dietary fibre as well as a wealth of vitamins and minerals on top. And if you’re feeling peckish, our superfruits list provides plenty of healthy choices – and a great alternative to pre-packed snacks which all too often contain high levels of fat, added sugar and salt.
So forget some of the crazier claims made for superfruits – and fill your fruit bowl high with blueberries, grapefruits and all the rest. Getting your 5 a day is the most important thing – it’s the best bet for a healthy heart and maintaining a healthy weight over the long term.
Superfruits – The health claims vs. the reality
The claim – often described as a ‘miracle’ food, the goji berry (also known as wolfberry) has had some pretty big health benefits claimed to its name. These include anti-ageing properties as well as improving eye health and better sleep.
The reality – sadly, the research doesn’t necessarily live up to the hype, with studies being inconclusive regarding the claims we mention above. However, it’s no secret that they are packed with loads of great stuff like vitamins A, B and C as well as other antioxidants. They’re also very tasty too – try sprinkling some on top of your morning porridge for some added zing.
The claim – tomatoes fight cancer, prevent strokes and ward off osteoporosis
The reality – while studies into tomato health benefits have resulted in some high profile health news stories, there has been no conclusive proof that eating them has any effect in reducing the risk of prostate cancer, strokes or osteoporosis.
Tomatoes are still a very healthy choice though – and a great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants.
The claim – avocados make your skin look great, and may help prevent cancer
The reality – there’s no doubt that a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables is the healthy option. And while avocados are a good source of vitamin E – which helps maintain healthy skin – eating them to the exclusion of other fruit and vegetables won’t improve your complexion. As for the cancer claim – avocado seeds contain a compound that scientists believe may eventually lead to new treatments for leukaemia, but this doesn’t mean that eating avocados will prevent or fight illness.
Check out our recipe for avocado, grapefruit and fennel salad.
The claim – acai berries prevent weight gain
The reality – sadly nature still hasn’t provided a silver bullet to counteract the effects of eating too many calories, and studies indicate that acai berries are unlikely to have any effect at all in stopping people gaining weight.
The claim – blueberries can prevent cancer, protect your heart and even enhance your memory
The reality – no study into blueberries has yet found conclusive evidence that they can fight cancer and heart disease or preserve cognitive function.
Blueberries are an excellent choice nutritionally, however – bursting with vitamin C as well as a host of other antioxidants, they’re definitely worth putting in your healthy shopping basket.
Check out our blueberry and oat savoury pancakes recipe.
The claim – pomegranates can prevent heart attacks and slow prostate cancer
The reality – there may be something in the claim that pomegranate juice might be able to slow prostate cancer. Studies to date have however been small, so more research is needed before doctors can say for sure. As for pomegranate preventing heart attacks, no trial has yet proved this conclusively.
Pomegranates also have their share of vitamins and are high in fibre.
Check out our feta and pomegranate couscous recipe.
The claim – eating grapefruit halts weight gain and may protect against diabetes, as well as lowering the risk of strokes in women
The reality – grapefruit consumption has healthy effects on mice, slowing weight gain and also keeping blood sugar levels in check – according to a recent study. But since humans and mice are very different from each other, it’s impossible to say for sure if grapefruit would have the same effect on humans. The claim that grapefruit reduces stroke risk in women is based on research that isn’t conclusive, with experts saying that there’s “no evidence” that the fruit has any effect at all on stroke risk.
Grapefruits are still an excellent food choice, however. They are a very good source of vitamins, with just 100g providing half your daily recommended vitamin C, and a quarter of your vitamin A.
For more information on healthy eating, please visit our diet and nutrition centre.