“Superfood” is a term used to describe products with unusually dense nutrition. In the past, catching wind of a newly labeled superfood provided this feeling of having discovered a secret that put you a few steps ahead of everyone else in terms of clear skin, weight loss, or straight up being “in the know.” For a while there it seemed like goji berries were going to save the world.
But let’s say all superfoods do pack that highly-publicized punch of theirs and can stand up to their incredible nutritional profiles. Are they still really worth the emphasis? Sure, so-called “superfoods” have their space in both health and culinary worlds, but their scope is limited and distracting in your trek to a healthier and happier life. In some ways, it may even set you back. Here are a few reasons why you should not buy into the superfood craze.
1. Superfoods Lack Variety
The marketing scheme behind packaged superfoods is to isolate certain fruits and vegetables so that you think you are getting something more special than any other fruit or vegetable out there. Savvy marketing wants you to believe that kale is king, and that all other green leaf vegetables are, well, subpar.
The term “superfood” distracts you from the fundaments of a healthy, plant-based diet, which hinges on variety. While any given so-called superfood may walk the talk, like anything else, it carries with it a distinct nutrient composition that may shine in many areas but can also lack in others. Variety in your diet allows you to access all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need.
Green leaves, especially, require rotation. Each green leaf vegetable offers not only a host of health benefits but also a small amount of toxins inherent in all green leaves as a defense mechanism. Relying on any one green leaf as your go-to salad base can lead to a build up of the same toxin, day after day, which can lead to health complications. Don’t let the superfoods lingo complicate a suggestion that is already quite simple - eat lots of different fruits and vegetables.
2. Exotic Superfoods Aren’t Miracles
The real superfoods, my friends, are whole foods sourced from Mother Nature, and you’ll do just fine with a diet centering around her incredible bounty. But when these expensive packaged powders and dried fruits, sourced from what seems like millions of miles away on the highest mountain of mountains, are made more readily available, it’s understandable why you’d buy into the hype. The exotic superfoods, such as camu camu, acai, goji, maca, lucuma, and spirulina may indeed be super, but they aren’t necessary for a healthy diet. Why are we justifying $40 for an 8-ounce acai powder packet when it is much cheaper to go to your local organic market and pick up a bunch of fresh fruits, which pack in enough antioxidants to keep you feeling and looking young and diligent? Acai may be a culinary trip (acai bowls are so good!), but take acai for what it is – fun and yummy to work with, but not the be- all and end-all.
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3. Superfoods Can Be Dense
When it comes to packaged superfoods, such as the elusive fruits and powders that come in dried form and have traveled thousands of miles to make it to your local health store, they often defy their intentions. Such dried superfoods are dehydrated and dense in texture and more concentrated in natural sugars. Without moisture in them, dried superfoods go down a bit slower and can stall digestion. Meanwhile the sugar dosage is higher in dried fruits than in fresh ones. Such elusive superfoods are packaged as such so that they have a longer shelf life and are able to make it to your home kitchen without perishing on the way. However, just because they are very nutritious doesn’t mean you can go crazy with serving sizes. Superfoods can slowly and slyly pack in the calories, sugar, and fat.
4. Superfoods Can Be Environmentally-Unfriendly
The “sustainable”, “fair-trade” jargon plastered on packaged superfoods that have been sourced from developing nations isn’t painting the full picture. As Americans, we comprise about 5 percent of the world population, but we use over 40 percent of its resources. Sustainable harvesting practices don’t really hold a candle to overconsumption. In being hungry for faddish specialty foods they don’t really need, Americans continue to deplete the fragile, tropical soils of other countries. These superfoods include: goji berries from China and Tibet; açai, maca, chia, and quinoa from South America; coconut, nonifruit, and durian from Southeast Asia; mesquite, agave, and spirulina from Mexico; and chlorella from Japan.
By sourcing these “miracle” foods from abroad, we replace local foods that are sufficient enough to satisfy our health and wellness goals, such as North American-harvested hempseed, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and nettles. Consuming foreign superfoods ultimately distracts us from supporting small local farmers who utilize good land management practices and keep fertile soils that grow high-quality food. Keep it local, and you’ll not only reap nutritional benefits but also support American farmers and save money.
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