Balanced diet versus superfood fads: Aussie herbalist calls for common sense approach
“I have never in 48 years of work met a person with a balanced diet,” said the master herbalist, author and broadcaster in response to the 2016 federal government figures compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “Nobody knows what a balanced diet is.”
But it is a frightening statistic nevertheless that shows there is a burning need for people to supplement their diets—though of course nothing can beat nutrition delivered by food itself.
“In a room of 100 people, 95 will not have the required intake of fruit and vegetables across the day, therefore we don’t get the genetic material we need—every bit of food we consume has genetic material as food is information for our body,” he said.
“If we could solve it all with that would be wonderful. Perhaps the hunters and gatherers of years ago did, but we don’t and we can’t.”
While trends towards growing consumption of superfoods may be heartening, too many people are relying on exotic seeds and leaves when supermarkets and grocers are already well stocked with far more mundane examples.
“We sometimes hear about superfoods, but fish is a superfood; apples are a superfood; garlic has something like 72 different components and is a superfood. But because it’s not from the deep jungles of South America it doesn’t have the romance associated with superfoods,” said Quigley.
Consumers couldn’t do better than to boost the amount of omega 3 in their bodies, either by eating eggs, fish and pulses high in the fatty acid, or by supplementing, he says. The problem, however, is that most Australians are not aware that they are lacking.
A vast body of research has found that EPA and DHA omega 3s offer proven benefits for eyesight, cognitive health, the heart, joints and psychological disorders. The human body does not produce these compounds so fish oil supplements can step in where diet is lacking.
Blood tests are available to gauge a person’s omega 3 levels, though Quigley believes these should be offered more widely as part of a government effort to promote preventative health.
“The benefits of the omega-3 supplementation are beyond reproach, but I’m always surprised that the government is not funding omega 3 tests to keep people off the public health system. It’s common sense,” he said.
“We really don’t fund preventative measures. You can have a whole level of inflammatory factors but until you’re diagnosed with a disease in Australia; the system doesn’t help you at first, but then it kicks in once you’ve had your diagnosis. It’s like we are almost being rewarded for being unwell.”