Derval O'Rourke: What is a superfood and are they a marketing myth? 

— plus a recipe for a super vibrant beetroot risotto
Derval O'Rourke: What is a superfood and are they a marketing myth? 

'superfood is a marketing term, not a nutritional classification.'

Superfoods: myth or magic? The term superfood pops up a lot in the health and wellness industry, and as we are coming into the colder months it’s a good time to take a look at just what this term means and if there is any merit in it. For this week's recipe I’m keeping it super vibrant with my beetroot risotto.

What is a superfood?

Firstly, the term superfood is a marketing term, not a nutritional classification. This is a good place to start because it makes us think about how we approach our food choices. Whilst we all want to feel that our food is ‘super’ particularly when we are actively making an effort to choose healthy options it’s important not to get too caught up in this term. When you see the term 'superfood' what most people perceive is that the food has a superior nutritional value, that the food is more natural or has not been processed.

What foods are typically believed to be superfoods?

There are lots of foods that get thrown into the ‘superfood’ category — cocoa, chia seeds, matcha, blueberries, wheatgrass and many more. It’s important to consider the research behind these foods and whether or not you actually need them in your diet. The other consideration is that lots of foods that are marketed as superfoods can be very expensive and this can end up being prohibitive to eating a healthy diet.

What are the simple foods that will boost your health?

Whilst the idea of a superfood is, in some ways, quite attractive, the key to nourishing ourselves does not lie in superfoods. A great way to approach your health is to combine healthy choices from across all food groups and take your calorie intake into consideration. Here is a list of five of my go-to foods that give me a super boost!

* Beetroot is packed with nutrition and a delicious option. The risotto recipe here is a great way to include it in your food choices.

* Oats are an excellent choice. Oats are fantastic for a breakfast or snack option as they are very filling.

* Fish is a food that I aim to include in my diet a few times a week. It is considered a ‘brain food’ and I could definitely use the omega 3 fats it provides. My go-to choices are salmon, mackerel, or tuna

* Honey has been a food that hits the headlines with its claims of nutritional benefits. Irish heather honey has received great endorsements from research done in TCD and DCU. I include a little honey in my diet each week but I’m mindful of the sugar content.

* Colourful fruit and vegetables are a great source of nutrients and antioxidants. Aim to add lots of colour to your shopping trolley.

Wellness tip:

Consider your overall eating pattern rather than single foods. How does your food intake look over seven days rather than just one meal? What are the measures you can put in place to supercharge your overall eating pattern?

Movement of the week:

This week's movement of the week is my favorite exercise of all time: the squat. For me, this exercise is a great overall exercise for strength which requires lots of different areas of the body to work simultaneously.

To do a basic squat:

Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

Keep your chest up, engage your abdominals, and shift your weight onto your heels as you push your hips back into a sitting position.

Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor.

You should feel the squat in your thighs and glutes.

Pause with your knees over, but not beyond, your toes.

Exhale and push back up to the starting position.

Beetroot risotto

recipe by:Derval O'Rourke

I love risotto and this one is a great way to get beetroot into your diet. Double up on the recipe to make additional portions as needed

Beetroot risotto



Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

30 mins

Total Time

35 mins




  • 50g butter

  • 1 raw beetroot, peeled and grated

  • ½ onion, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • 130g risotto rice (pearl barley also works well but you need to parboil it for 20 minutes)

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 300ml vegetable stock, simmering

  • salt

  • 100g goat’s cheese or feta

  • a large handful of spinach or rocket, to garnish


  1. Melt the butter over a low heat in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the beetroot and onion and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and rice and cook for 2–3 minutes.

  2. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the stock. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly, until each ladleful is absorbed. This will take about 30 minutes.

  3. When the rice is creamy but firm to the bite, season with a pinch of salt. Spoon the risotto into warmed serving bowls. Crumble the goat’s cheese over it, garnish with the spinach and serve.

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