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The term Superfood, claimed to have been coined by Michael Van Straten in his 1990 Cookbook titled ‘Superfoods’, has been a word used to describe a variety of different foods said to be loaded with health benefits. So, what exactly is a ‘balanced’ diet and how much do Superfoods contribute to it? As explored in our article that delves into different kinds of Superfoods, the word Superfood can often be used as a general term to describe an array of foods. The Superfood pyramid shows how Superfoods can be incorporated into a healthy diet – though it looks different depending on the health practitioner describing it, we have broken it down into general sections.
The top of the Superfood pyramid contains foods that are necessary for a balanced diet, but that shouldn’t make up the majority of what we eat. They are products such as chocolate, sweets, and other functional foods like herbs and spices. These things are just as important in maintaining a healthy diet as fruit and vegetables. For some, alcohol and other treats might fall into this category too! Holistic physician Dr. Todd Pesek names these foods ‘functional foods’, and he also includes herbal teas to his entirely plant-based Superfood pyramid. Essentially, the top of the pyramid is dedicated to the foods and drinks we consume in the smallest quantities.
Notorious for coming from fish, omega 3 has some great health benefits. You have probably already heard of its benefits for your brain and heart, but it is also great at supporting overall immune function. Besides coming from fish, did you know you can also find omega 3 in plant-based foods? Some key plant-based sources of omega 3 are chia, flax, nuts, seeds, and even seaweed. In the second space down on the pyramid, omega 3 fats shouldn’t need to take up too much space in your diet – but the Superfood pyramid reminds us not to neglect them.
An important source of fibre and minerals, fruit comes into the middle of the Superfood pyramid. Though we often get conflicting reports on how many pieces of fruit we should be eating a day, the Superfood pyramid isn’t about numbering each piece but rather being aware of where fruit should come in the balance of your day. Bananas, blueberries, and raspberries are all examples of nutritious fruits, but there are so many fruits you could include in your diet!
Infamous for being hard to get in a plant-based diet, protein is largely important in the Superfood pyramid. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for an adult is 0.75g of protein per 1kg of body weight each day. It helps to give you energy and encourages cell repair, and there are actually many sources of protein (even in a plant-based diet). To name a few, quinoa, pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans), tofu, oats, and even vegetables contain protein in various quantities!
A key part of the Superfood pyramid are the vegetables. Sitting just above the largest component in the pyramid, vegetables are filled with potassium, fibre, and vitamins. Though being told to ‘eat your vegetables’ as a child may have felt like punishment, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and tomatoes all fall into this category and can make up some delicious meals.
One thing most health practitioners can agree on is that at the bottom of the Superfood pyramid are the leafy greens – kale, spinach, cabbage, watercress, lettuce – as the label would suggest, anything leafy and green! Leafy greens contain many essential nutrients like Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and folic acid. Increasing the amount of leafy greens you consume is one of the key objectives of the Superfood pyramid, as they have so many amazing health benefits such as better immune function and bone health.
Why not just follow the guidelines of the traditional food pyramid, which encourages a larger intake of foods like bread, pasta, and cereal? What is the difference between the food pyramids? The difference is that Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods, and the Superfood pyramid reflects the value of greatly increasing our intake of leafy greens such as spinach, cabbage, and kale. It is still important to maintain a balanced diet, however there is an increased focus on plant-based foods. Treats like alcohol and chocolate are still a part of the Superfood pyramid, though in a smaller quantity than vegetables and balanced proteins.
Essentially, it promotes a more plant-based diet, which is better not only for our health but also for our environment! The balance the Superfood pyramid encourages is intended to increase wellness, support the immune system, and decrease fatigue – but, of course, this won’t be the case for everyone who tries it, and you should always seek advice from a medical professional before making any changes to your diet.