Many foods enjoy superhero status for containing a high number of healthy properties. While no regulations on use of the term “superfood” actually exist, it’s commonly used in reference to a food where the nutritional value far outweighs the caloric load. It’s no wonder then that most often, superfoods are fruits and vegetables. That is, unless you’re in Pakistan, where the superfood du jour is camel milk.
Granted, if there was a ‘superanimal’ designation, a camel would surely earn mention. Camels are known for an impressive ability to go several hot, dry summer desert days without water, and several more on very little (and they can reportedly go months in cooler temps). Credit goes to the camel’s unique blood cell shape and the fat reserves in those glorious humps that allows her to pull nutrients—including water—from deep within her body when external sources are scarce. Pretty darn super! But, just because the camel is an evolutionary remarkable creature, does that mean we should drink her milk?
In Pakistan and throughout the Middle-East region, people have been drinking camel milk for centuries. But, as a recent Washington Post article illustrates, camel milk is becoming quite popular outside of rural villages, where it was long exclusively consumed. Purveyors report they can’t keep enough camel milk in stock. The milk is higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk, and contains a lot of iron, and customers believe the milk can treat conditions including hepatitis and diabetes, as well as improve energy and virility.
Camel milk sells at nearly five times the price of cow’s milk and manufacturers have begun bottling it and even flavoring it with chocolate. It’s now available in cafes and coffee shops throughout the region. But is it really a superfood, or is it superhype?
While the cows and goats producing dairy around the world number in the tens of billions, Pakistan is estimated to have fewer than 1 million camels, mainly located in the southwest region of the country. Still, there’s a huge commercial incentive for the largely nomadic herders, one which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates at about $10 billion.
Indeed, that is quite a super food.
But, if the market price is the biggest benefit, which is more than likely, consumers are simply paying more for yet another exotic animal food that’s most definitely going to lead to more animal suffering. Animals treated poorly, fed unhealthy diets and forced to produce milk for years on end, produce lesser quality products and that diminishes whatever health effects may have been the “magic” to begin with.
Looking for really super foods? Look no further than your garden, and eat what those amazing camels eat: leafy green vegetables.
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