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Silver surfers were still in their early middle age when the idea that some foods could positively reduce the risk of fatal diseases (normally cancer) first gained traction. We’ve all heard of “superfoods”, and could probably name a few without too much trouble: onion; broccoli; garlic; chilli.

The science says that a superfood is something with a high natural level of a chemical or compound that has been proven to have a statistical effect on a person’s likelihood of getting cancer, or developing other serious degenerative disorders such as heart disease. These compounds may include antioxidants (which are also found in green and Rooibos teas); some specific vitamins; and some minerals.

It’s worth bearing in mind that all of the above are linked to a statistical drop in occurrences of specific degenerative disorders (i.e. the ones a particular test was set up to look at); or to retardant effects on cancer cells in laboratory conditions. Killing a cancer cell in a Petri dish with a pure antioxidant solution isn’t the same thing as drinking Rooibos and never dying of the big C.

It’s also worth noting that the term “Superfoods” is something of a marketing ploy. It’s a spin, given to specific food groups (mainly fruit and vegetables, and the smoothies and prepared salads that can be made from them) to justify the heightened price of specific items on supermarket shelves.

The Colourful Plate 

That doesn’t mean that superfoods aren’t good for you. In general, the term is appended to the fruit and vegetables we’ve always known are staples in a varied diet. These are the greens that our own grandparents told us we had to eat if we wanted to grow up big and strong.

The key warning is not to assume that by eating blueberries every day, or having a smoothie with acai berries in it, will automatically save your life. Rather, we should all be looking at consuming as widely varied and healthy a diet as we can. The more complex combinations of good nutrients we can get into our bodies (instead of processed food and ready meals) the better our outlook in all areas of our life.

Grandparents need extra energy – to maintain mental well-being, to keep up the sex drive and to look after boisterous grandchildren. About diet & nutrition, adding blueberry smoothies to the daily diet will help sharpen an already active system – but cutting out fast food and doing regular exercise is more beneficial to the couch potato. Get more colour on your plate – and get out in the fresh air when you can.

Lifestyle is Health 

A healthy body breeds a healthy mind. Again, our own grandparents used to say that to use when we were still grandchildren: and now we’ve gotten old enough to realise that most of what grandparents say is said with good reason, we know the saying’s still true. Really avoiding degenerative conditions of all sorts is a matter of total lifestyle – how much you eat, what you eat, and how much exercise you take for both body and brain.

Superfoods are an important part of the equation. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re a new miracle cure though. They’re part of a much bigger picture, which needs painting broadly and well to cut down our risks of disease.

Some useful links:

The British Heart Foundation

Cancer Research UK