Posted on 08 January 2010.
By CHASEN MARSHALL
Looking for a real-life alternative to the fountain of youth? Nutritionists recommend eating.
But not just anything will do. While coffee and energy drinks may provide a temporary heightened state of liveliness, they provide little to no nutritional value to the body.
“Food can create energy or it can destroy it,” said Ronna Corlin, a nutrition coach from Hartsdale, N.Y. “It’s important to eat foods that will help you age with vitality.”
The search for the fictional fountain of youth is a never-ending process. Some find it in athletics, others through artificial enhancement. Some swear by skin creams. But regardless of age, gender or background, a popular food talking point with this subject among nutritionists, health-conscious consumers and the media is so-called superfoods, those foods that offer the greatest health benefits. Common superfoods include blueberries, cinnamon, cruciferous veggies, garlic, ginger, nuts and watermelon.
“The key is to eat foods from their natural state, foods that are alive,” Corlin said. “Foods from the wild that ran freely, fell from a tree or grew from the ground.”
New foods are constantly being unveiled for their nutritional value, whether it is an international fruit that makes its way to the U.S. market (like acai from Brazil) or a food that food scientists realize has a greater positive effect than previously believed (pomegranate). The most recent superfood to enter the discussion is the goji berry, or wolfberry, which is native to southeastern Europe and Asia. The packaging for a goji berry product at Whole Foods in New York City says fruit is said to be “rich in age-defying antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.”
“My nutritionist just recommend them to me, today actually,” said Giovanna Braga, who had a large bag of raw goji berries in her grocery cart. “She told me I needed an iron supplement and said that these were supposed to be great. So I’m curious to see how they are.”
According to one food expert, superfoods aren’t the answer. If a person is truly in search of changing life through food, it needs to come from a well-balanced diet, incorporating all the key foods.
“People like to buy into the hype about acai as the next superfood or pomegranate, but that’s all marketing,” said Stefanie Bryn Sacks, a culinary nutritionist from the New York area. “Mostly people just need to be educated about healthy food choices, a balanced diet, instead of a few key foods.”
And it does help to consult the experts on this subject. There are an array of books and resources online, but as with anything one puts into their body, people should do their research. While most healthy foods are universal, what works for some groups won’t work for others.
“The elderly usually don’t have enough intake and then they have absorption issues, so we will recommend supplements,” said Jennifer Fix a dietitian at the UCI Medical Center in Irvine, Calif. “Their appetite isn’t what it used to be, so we have to find alternative sources for nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate.”
Consumers like to believe the hype that surrounds the foods they hear about on talk shows, blogs or from their friends. But healthy living does require some research and a greater approach than one or two key foods.
“It’s a much bigger picture than most people think, there is no magic bullet that will make everything better,” Corlin acknowledged. “It’s about finding balance in one’s life, which seems simplistic, but most who take that approach experience a shift.”
According to Corlin, figuring out what works often requires listening to the least likely of sources.
“People have tuned out listening to their own bodies,” she said. “Your body is going to tell you a whole lot more about yourself than the experts.”