The world is cuckoo for superfoods. Exotic berries, nuts and other rare foods hailing from far corners of the Earth are emblazoned with an endless list of superlatives. But don't fall for all the fancy labeling: The real superfoods are regular organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains you buy from the grocery story. They're much cheaper than a goji berry or maca powder splurge, and just as redeeming in terms of nutrition.
Still not convinced? Here are two big reasons regular fruits and vegetables are the only superfoods worthy of your time and money.
Superfoods: Nutritional Profile
Let’s take raw cacao as the first example. Raw cacao is seen as a powder, nibs, butter, or in bars. It's quite delicious, but pricey. One raw chocolate bar alone can be as high as $12. Raw cacao is touted for its antioxidants, magnesium and overall energizing effects, but a plant-based diet already includes a sufficient amount of antioxidants. All it takes is 1 cup of cooked spinach to satisfy 40 percent of the RDA of magnesium or ½ cup of pumpkin seeds to satisfy 152 percent of the RDA of magnesium. Other magnesium-rich foods include fish, whole grains, beans and lentils, avocados, dried fruit and bananas. I personally find raw cacao delicious, but it’s a treat in my diet, not a staple. Why should I burden my finances when fruits and veggies suffice?
Another example is bee pollen which costs around $15-25 for 16 ounces, if not more. Bee pollen is praised for providing all eight essential amino acids, folate, and more enzymes and co-enzymes than any other food. Again, these are all nutrients delivered by a well-rounded diet! We don't need nearly as much protein previously thought, and grains, nuts and seeds, soy, eggs, dairy and beans and legumes are adequate, more affordable sources. Quinoa, for example, is a complete protein and dark leafy greens, bean sprouts, beans, asparagus, dried herbs and sunflower seeds are great sources of folate.
Superfood berries, such as dried goldenberries ($13 for 8 ounces), acai powder ($23 for 4 ounces), camu powder ($23 for 3 ounces) and dried goji berries ($13 for 8 ounces), are another fancy yet unnecessary indulgence. Yes, they're packed with a lot of antioxidants, but antioxidants aren't hard to find in regular fruits and vegetables, so don’t fork over the money when you don’t have to!
Lastly, there are superfoods boasting protein, such as chia seed powder ($18 for 8 ounces), maca powder ($25 for 16 ounces) and hemp powder ($16 for 12 ounces). Yes, these products can fill the gap for a vegan diet, but there are ways to meet the quota without indulging in these expensive supplements. Protein-packed plant based foods include quinoa (7 grams per ¼ cup), black beans (7 grams per ½ cup), lentils (11 grams per ¼ cup), oatmeal (5 grams per ¼ cup), almonds (6 grams per 1/8 cup) and tempeh (13 grams per 3 ounces).
To be fair, there is a place for superfoods, even the ones listed above. If these superfoods are a comfortable fit in your life, nutritionally and financially, then by all means, go for them. However, there is more to the argument than expenses alone.
Many of these exotic superfoods are incredibly potent, as dense in textures as they are in nutrition. It's far easier for your body to deal with steamed broccoli than, say, a handful of goji berries, which are dehydrated and require a lot of chewing to reconstitute before digestion. And while an apple digests quite quickly due to its lightness and water content, dried superfood fruits take longer to trek through the digestive track.
Bee pollen and raw cacao are also not the water-containing, easy-to-digest foods that the body loves. Additionally, these two are stimulants and can cause dependence, much like a morning cup of coffee does, if you consume them regularly.
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