In light of the superhero boom that we have experienced of late, thanks to Stan Lee and his team of extraordinary defenders against the forces of evil, it seems there is a new sheriff in town called the ‘superfood’. Found in a special aisle on its own at the supermarket (puns fully intended), these superfoods protect us from the evil that is ‘death’ and ‘disease’, by keeping us in the pink of health. Even though they are not defined as a food group on their own, superfoods are those food items that are believed to be nutritionally dense and are a source of antioxidants, and thus, are great in a healthy diet.
Some of us may fall prey to the mentality that more is always better. But that cannot be true, since we have been taught that anything in excess is poison. While the consumption of superfoods in excess would not end up with your frothing at the mouth, it has been found that too much of superfood could actually be counterproductive.
Most of us consume our daily intake of fruits and vegetables, only because of the high amount of antioxidants in them, which are believed to prevent diseases and cancer. As a buzzword on everyone’s lips, a lot of people are taking antioxidants, without knowing that too much of it could actually hinder muscle function and cause you to feel more fatigue during exercise, making its consumption a futile one. Researchers have found out that when they supply someone with a large dose of antioxidants, the key signalling mechanisms for muscles to operate properly are held back.
Even though they are tiny in size, blueberries are one of the best ways for your body to get a load of antioxidants. But when does it become too much? A healthy estimate is to have nothing more than a cup of blueberries at one sitting. If you are buying punnets of blueberries that are on offer, share them with your colleagues or save them for another day.
It is true, brazil nuts are great to munch on in the office and they are a great source for selenium. Selenium is the nutrient that your body counts on to stay healthy, since it is necessary for DNA production, thyroid gland function and protecting the body from infections and damage caused by free radicals. Based on the nutrition chart, how much selenium you would require a day is determined by age — for an adult, that is somewhere around 55 micrograms. Despite its importance, there is no need to check in with your pharmacist for selenium supplements — you would very likely find meeting that number highly attainable, since selenium can be found in a number of foods like seafood, meat, cereal and dairy products.
Tread lightly when it comes to brazil nuts, since a kernel carries around 95 micrograms of selenium, a bit more than our daily requirement. If you are nuts over them, you can munch on an extra one or two, but anything above that number would no longer be advisable. Having a handful too much might cause you to have loss of hair or brittle nails, be more irritable and your skin to break out in rashes.
A favourite at Christmas, this spice from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree has been regarded as a superfood for its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties that help keep a tight lid on acne. With its very distinctive flavour, most home cooks often add cinnamon into their desserts to give their apple muffins or apple pie pancakes that delicious kick with each bite.
But within cinnamon lies a compound called coumarin, which can be extremely harmful when taken in large amounts. In the cinnamon that we are familiar with, called Cassia cinnamon, it has a relatively high amount of coumarin within each spoonful. Based on the recommended suggestion, one should not take in more than 0.5 to 2 grams of cinnamon each day, as going over the daily limit is known to lead to liver toxicity and cancer. If you are whipping up a recipe that asks for a huge amount of cinnamon, the occasional treat can be met with a cheeky wink, but that should not be more than a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence.
Keeping Under the Limit
As a doctor would say, it is always good to practise having anything and everything in small portions. Even though a particular ingredient may be touted as the next big thing, it is always important to not stray into the territory of living in excess. Like junk food, the same would go for the supposedly healthy superfoods and it is important to debunk this misconception with the other members of your household. In addition to the three superfoods in our article (just think of them as the BBC — Blueberries, Brazil Nuts and Cinnamon), there are other superfoods that you should make a mental note of. Remember… everything in excess would only lead to more distress. If you are in actual doubt over how much is considered too much, just run a quick Google search and you will find your answer.