What are the superior super foods and how come they are showing up everywhere? Which one is the better? Chia, goji, cacao, acai, activated almonds, sprouted seeds? Why is there constantly a new superfood that we just need to have? Where are super foods coming from and are they really that great?
Reality is, that not all foods are created equally, and you don’t need a degree in nutrition to know, that one type of food can be better for you than another.
It seems like no matter which website you go to or what magazine you open, you see the ads for super foods, and are reminded that your smoothie is not complete without a daily dose of super foods. Your day is simply not complete without chia, hemp, acai or a huge scoop of protein powder, maca or supergreens.
When you are in the health store or in your local supermarket you see all the exotic foods on the shelves called super foods, and it can be hard to know which one is the better. Should you choose the package of goji berries or the fresh local blueberries or maybe even both? It’s a good question, which I will try and demystify.
See I have been a super food addict for the past 7 years. We are not talking a few super foods in small doses or varieties. No I think I have tried almost every so-called superfood which we know of and used it in high amounts on a daily basis. I know my super foods and I know how they impact and don’t impact the body, the immune defense and the brain, which is why I wanted to write this article, so you can make better choices and spend your money where it’s important.
First, it’s important to know, that the term super foods is a 100% marketing word. Europe banned the word in 2007, and people in the health community said that the freedom of speech about health was gone. The term superfood was initially a way to describe foods from around the world, that supposedly had superior nutritional properties. Wikipedia defines a superfood as “food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits, with few properties considered to be negative.” Personally I don’t care what they call a food, for me it’s more important than ever to know the nutritional value, if I like the flavor, the potency of the product, sustainability and I feel a difference.
The global market for so-called “functional foods” (A food that is given additional function in terms of health promotion or disease prevention) is expected to reach 130 billion by 2015 according to Global Industry Analysts . With so much money at stake, the superfood trend has been co-opted to sell everything from blueberries to vitamin supplements, to exotic powders and chlorophyll to add to your smoothies. So the target is your wallet and they don’t care about you and your health, it’s about the money, as in every other industry. So please don’t fool yourself. It’s ok to buy those things, as long as you know the motive of the sellers.
The interesting thing about this business is, that every year, we see the magic of a new “wonder food” appearing from a land far away. And the message is usually something like “miracles will happen when you add this special powder to your smoothie” …. and they just made another x million dollars. You don’t know if their claims on the potency of this product is real or not, all you know is, that you got this powder and it has some magical health claims on the package. Some still argue that soil depletion, environmental pollution, physical and mental stress, aging, hormone imbalances, cancer etc. makes regular food not good enough when it comes to nutritional value. Well, I have something to say about that.
Most people do not ever eat vegetables and fruit. I have come across so many people who don’t ever eat vegetables or never has, and If and when they eat them, the amounts are so small, that a rabbit could hardly survive. Variety is also so limited, that I would ring the food alarm. In many cases, a salad is not a salad, a meal hardly ever sees a vegetable, and if there is a vegetable or fruit, there is so few and they are prepared in a way, that all nutritional value is destroyed, they are non-organic and that’s where the real problem is. That’s where we should start, looking at how and what we eat and the quality of the food we eat.
The downside of these super foods is that they actually carry a heavy environmental and social footprint. Transporting food is among the fastest growing sources of green-house gas emissions according to the World Watch Institute. Each year, more than 817 million tons of food are shipped around the planet. The energy and emissions used for this is 4 times the energy used for local produce. We should also question how these super foods are harvested. I will at all times question sustainability and how the local environments are protected, as most super foods come from 3rd world countries like South America, China, Tibet and South East Asia. Are the local people paid fair wages?
The other day I saw an article from Africa, where the cacao farmers who grow and harvest cacao, never had tried a piece of chocolate until the reporter gave them some. Fair trade, really?
In Bolivia, the local people can no longer afford to eat the famous super food quinoa. This is due to the high demand from the US market. The local people are malnourished, because they can’t afford to eat this luxury food themselves, so they have to go to the store and buy low quality refined grains and live like pheasants. The soil is also getting depleted due to the high demand. Quinoa is a great food, but one of those with a very high price tag. A food, that we should use in moderation only, and not as the main food on the table. To me the quinoa market is no different than factory farming – in this case it’s humans, that suffer from low wages, malnutrition and their land is being destroyed and depleted to meet the high demand of the health conscious and middle men, who are selling the grains for big money in the developed world.
Don’t take me wrong on this, super foods can be great, and especially if you are a non vegetable or fruit eater, but there are other solutions and more sustainable ways to get your nutrients.