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Super foods raise debate about claimed health benefits

SHOPPERS are spending a small fortune on fad super foods with unclear health benefits or far cheaper substitutes. 
 
Consumers are being slugged as much as $125 a kilogram for the latest craze foods spruiking miracle powers such as fighting heart disease, cancer and ageing.

Foodwatch.com.au nutritionist and Food and Nutrition Companion author Catherine Saxelby said some expensive and trendy products could be replaced with cheaper and better-tasting alternatives containing similar nutrients.

Examples included substituting barley grass and wheat grass - which can cost $25 in 200g packs, or the equivalent of $125 a kilogram in powdered form - with dark green leafy vegetables such as baby spinach and silverbeet.


Consumers could get their fill of the B-complex vitamins in goji berries, which sell for the equivalent of $40-$60 a kilogram, from whole grains, vegetables and lean meats. Ordinary brown rice with lentils comes close to the hot-selling super-grain quinoa.

Brown rice and a boosted intake of purple-black foods, such as black cherries, berries, purple grapes and onion, red cabbage, beetroot, plums, raisins or pomegranates, were also cheaper ways to glean the nutrients of black rice.

Flaxseed or oily fish had similar omega-3s to chia seeds, while almonds and sesame seeds were also high in calcium and good fats such as chia, which retails for $20-$30 a kilogram.

Basic cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli were as nutrient-rich as the exotic-sounding, curly-leafed kale.

Ms Saxelby warned some emerging products - and even tried and tested super foods such as garlic, ginger and cinnamon - needed to be regularly consumed by the spoonful for any clinical benefit.

She feared some consumers used fad superfoods as an excuse to neglect other areas of their diet.

"The danger is that people feel they only have to have a little bit of a wonder food and then can eat whatever they like," Ms Saxelby said.

"We live in a world where people are constantly on call, 24-seven. They are tired and looking for a quick fix."

More extensive studies were needed to demonstrate compelling evidence of health benefits for some.
"For now, think twice before you part with your money," she said.

Her preferred superfoods, among them blueberries, oats, spinach, citrus fruit, and oily fish, are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre or protein and low in kilojoules.

Others, such as garlic, green tea, ginger and many herbs and spices, have a long history of reported medicinal properties.

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