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Superfoods really super? Try local.

Taking a tour through a big grocery store, I wonder about all the superfoods. Almost every aisle promotes at least one magic food item which is thought to be superior to all its colleagues. More micronutrients, better health, well-being, better performance and promoting weight loss – and a long way to get here. There is hardly any superfood that is local, all those promising foods come from the other side of the world. It seems there’s nothing local that can support our immune system, provide micronutrients, antioxidants and make us feel good. No, the superfood has to go a long way.


Consumers look at all those products, read claims on the package and hear them on the radio and TV. Strange names make them sound even more interesting: goji, acai, chia. Five years ago, nobody had heard fo chia, now chia is in almost everything. Rice cakes, bread, muesli, granola bars, yogurt, crackers, cakes. I had a look at the nutrient content of chia and flaxseeds and you know what? I couldn’t find the magic in the chia seeds! I couldn’t find the reason why I need to change my local flax seeds to chia seeds. My good local seeds just do the same job and provide me with a lot of good, important micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, trace elements and other nutrients. And the good thing, they all come from Austrian farmers! Take a look at the table below. I put nutrient content for various seeds into one table.

Yes, there’s a slight difference in carbohydrate, fibre and fat content and fat composition but there’s no reason to put chia seeds above flaxseeds in a seeds ranking. Nothing is really concerning when I go over the fatty acid composition of flaxseeds. Flaxseed is high in protein, high in fibre, high in omega-3. And if you don’t want to add flaxseeds to your breakfast cereals or fruit salad, you can use linseed oil. Just add a tablespoon of that, so you get some healthy fats into your breakfast.


Looking at pumpkin and sunflower seeds, there is a difference in the fat composition. Especially the MUFA:PUFA ratio is different. Health benefits from MUFA’s are inconsistent, there is some assumption that high MUFA intake is associated with a higher atherosclerotic risk in animals.

From research we know that the PUFA’s omega-3 and omega-6 have anti-inflammatory effects but that high omega-6 intake has pro-inflammatory effects. Therefore, a high omega-6 intake is not recommended. Looking at the table, pumpkin seeds would be the ones with the highest omega-6 content, while flaxseeds have a quite good PUFA profile.


If I went on, I could add some more facts and some more local “superfoods”. Consumers also have to understand that there is no real superfood. There are foods with a high nutrient content and there are others that are poor in nutrients, often high in (saturated) fat. If we know which ones provide us with a lot of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fibre, antioxidants – we can pick the right ones. If you’re not sure what belongs to that, start by thinking dark color! Add a lot of color to your meals and you’ll consume many different nutrients. Enrich with grains and seeds, healthy oils and the first step is done.

MUFA: monounsaturated fatty acids

PUFA: polyunsaturated fatty acids
Sources: nutrient content from DGE database