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What are Super Foods?


Neville Passmore


26 October 2018

Defined as a nutrient rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing, super foods are easy to find on the Internet. Many are exotic and relatively expensive.  Why do we hunger for these foods?  I think it is about finding a quick fix, a single silver bullet that makes improving our health as easy as tucking into a handful of pills or capsules.

Here is a selection of foods that we can conjure up to our screens when we enter the word super food.

Custard apple, avocado, goji berry, Kimchi, blueberries, broccoli sprouts, arugula (wild rocket), berries from the acai tree, maca powder, raw cacao powder, wild caught Alaskan salmon, kiwifruit, chia seeds, spirulina, flax seeds, cranberries, activated almonds, turmeric powder, ginger, honey, liquid chlorophyll, milk thistle and olive oil but only the extra virgin type. 

fig fruit

When I read through a list such as this I ask the inevitable question which one, or two, or combination of these will do the best job of improving my health? After a number of years informal study I have developed a different approach to eating to improve my health. I am simply not into super foods because I do not believe in silver bullets. This is not to say that I do not use many of the listed items but do not rely on any single super food to do the job.

I aim to eat diverse, local, seasonal food, as raw as possible and preferably homegrown. I eschew grain fed red meat animal products, highly processed food and processed sugar particularly. My hunter-gatherer genes send me into hot pursuit of Blue Manna crabs and western blue tail prawns in the Swan River in summer and trout in our garden pond in spring. These years trout crop seems to have fallen foul of the Nankeen Night Heron so that it looks like that line of fresh fish will not be on the menu. I keep a keen eye on suburban harvesting opportunities too; overhanging branches laden with lemon, mulberry or avocado are fair game. I am incredibly lucky to live beside a demonstration farm which produces a cornucopia of fresh, fruit, vegetables and leafy herbs.

For me the key is the word fresh.  I do believe we will see new ways of defining freshness emerging very soon.  One example is the claim by a few restaurants that their salads were picked within 15 minutes of arriving on your plate. One of the hottest topics in high-end grocers today is local provenance.  Knowing that the asparagus was grown in Wanneroo and not Chile, that the potatoes came from Myalup not Virginia in South Australia or that almonds come from Adelaide rather than California is clearly apparent when health conscious shoppers spend their money. .

Diversity is important to feed the biome, which consists of thousands of species of bacteria that not only live in the gut, but which control most of our bodily functions.  I aim to give these microbes a bit of a treat every day by adding fermented foods to the diet.  Currently, we produce our own sauerkraut, fermented beetroot, ginger beer, Kimchi, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rose wine, Moroccan preserved lemon as well as fermented garlic in honey.  In an effort to get more seafood into the diet we have formed a close bond with our local fishmonger who does a terrific job supplying local, fresh jewels from the sea for our new tradition - Sashimi Friday. 

So if you ask me which is my favourite super food the answer is the whole lot and if possible I will eat as many as I can find on any day.