A recent article in The Age explored the top ten superfoods. Over the next couple of weeks I’m examining each of the claims and adding a few of my own. Which ones will live up to the hype?
An Asian preserved plum, used by macrobiotic practitioners.
The claim: “One a week will help to keep your immune system strong particularly through cold and flu season due to its antibiotic properties”.
The evidence: This is a tough one as almost all the health claims for umeboshi are entirely unsubstantiated. Digging deeper, the botanical species for this plum is Prunus mume. There have been a couple of studies using alcohol extracts of the plum but not the pickled fruit. The extract does show some antimicrobial (especially antibacterial) activity in cell cultures but there have been no human studies.
Value for money: Prices vary. You can pick a jar of umeboshi up quite cheaply from Asian grocery stores – if you know what you’re looking for. The macrobiotic products are expensive by comparison, working out to about $1.50 for a small plum.
The verdict: While in a lab an entirely different product made from the plum shows some antibacterial activity, it’s unconvincing that eating the pickle will do the same thing. An equivalent food dose would be far greater than one umeboshi per week. The salt content would probably be enough to shoot up your blood pressure if you’re prone to hypertension.