Are superfoods real?
The answer will surprise you…
The whole superfoods movement is more about marketing than it is about nutritional facts.
Today, you learn the truth behind superfoods. Truths like there really is no such thing as a superfood. Superfoods are not real. The hype behind superfoods is manufactured. Superfoods have more to do with marketing than health.
In today’s article, I’ll show you how to save money and still get all the nutrients found in superfoods! All without ever having to fork over the dollars required to buy some hyped-up food.
The truth behind superfoods
Let’s imagine you and I are in the supplement business. We’ve figured out a way to grow a micro-algae species indoors. Now, we need a way to sell said algae.
What should we do?
Well, it tastes disgusting. No one in their right mind would put it on anything. Aside from eating it, there’s not much else you can do with the stuff.
The stuff isn’t going to sell itself. There needs to be a way to convince people that this stuff is healthy and necessary. Enter a marketing campaign. We’ll call this stuff a superfood!
This is how superfoods come to be. It’s not due to their nutrition content. A lot of the time, it’s due to a disingenuous marketing campaign.
Are superfoods real?
By the end of this post, I think you’ll be a little more skeptical.
What makes a superfood a superfood?
There are few regulations on superfoods. Health Canada does not regulate the term. Nor does the Food and Drug Association in the USA. Fortunately, the European Food Safety Authority does regulate the term superfood. As of 2007, foods sold within the European Union could only be labeled as a superfood if they had credible scientific evidence supporting the super-ness of said food. (1)
If you sell your food product to the Canadian or American market, feel free to slap the superfood label on your goods. It’s not illegal. Immoral, probably. But not at all illegal.
In North American markets, superfood labels tend to end up on imported food products. You don’t see superfood labels slapped on foods you find at the local farm. This alone should raise alarm bells.
Superfood labels help manufacturers justify the high price tags associated with their products. These high price tags usually have more to do with the preparation and importation of said food than any superfood properties. When you see a superfood label, proceed with caution.
Are superfoods real – investigating acai berries
Take the acai berry as an example. I liken the acai berry to a blueberry. It’s the South American equivalent – though not nearly as delicious!
Both acai berries and blueberries are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Both of the berries have similar sugar, fat, and fiber contents. Nutritionally, there’s far more these two berries have in common than differences that set them apart.
Yet I bet you have the acai berry filed under superfood in your mind. As far as your brain is concerned, the acai berry is much better for you than a blueberry.
Marketing. That’s why. As I showed you, blueberries and acai berries aren’t all that different. Except in price. Acai berries are orders of magnitude more expensive than blueberries.
Why would you pay 5x more for a South American berry that’s nutritionally equivalent to a blueberry?
Because companies have told you acai berries are a superfood. They’ve got you convinced that eating acai will provide you with health benefits. Don’t get me wrong, eating acai berries in lieu of potato chips will give you health benefits. But those health benefits won’t surpass eating blueberries in lieu of potato chips.
Just like in the supplement industry, marketing is what makes superfoods. Focus your efforts on eating real or whole foods over packaged and processed foods. That will bring about far greater health benefits than eating a superfood ever could.
Now, let’s debunk some more of the most common superfoods!
Are superfoods real – investigating spirulina and chlorella
Spirulina and chlorella are two different types of algae. Spirulina is a blue-green algae. Chlorella is a green algae. Both algae are reported to have all sorts of wonderful health benefits including:
- Lowering cholesterol
- Increases your energy
- Fights cancer
- Lowers blood pressure
- Fights infection
- Balances your blood sugar
These algae have quite the list of accolades. Alas, none of the above claims are supported by scientific evidence. That’s more of the marketing hype. Yep, the same hype behind all the other superfoods.
But Mark, I read spirulina and chlorella have more protein than anything else on earth!
This is true. These algae do pack a large amount of protein within their cells! But once again, marketing companies have made this claim disingenuous.
Quite a bit of protein, right?
Compare that to beef which is 17-40% protein depending on how fatty the cut is. (4) Chicken is 27% protein. (5) So, yes, these algae are composed of far more protein than beef or chicken. But let’s not forget about the dose!
A chicken breast is roughly 4oz (113g) of meat. In which there would be approximately 30 grams of protein. A typical steak is 6oz (170g). There would be about 50 grams of protein in a lean 6-ounce sirloin steak.
Tell me, when was the last time you consumed 4-6 ounces of algae?
Probably never. A tablespoon of spirulina weighs about 0.25 ounces (7g). If you wanted to get the same amount of protein from spirulina as a chicken breast, you’d have to consume more than 7 tablespoons (almost half a cup!) of the stuff. Gross!
Spirulina and chlorella have a higher protein content than chicken or beef. That’s what the marketing companies tell you. They’re not wrong. But they are disingenuous.
No one is ever going to get 30 grams of protein from algae. It tastes horrible. At best, you’ll add a teaspoon to your smoothie. Don’t believe the hype. Spirulina and chlorella, while fine, are not superfoods.
Are superfoods real – investigating goji berries
I don’t think there’s a superfood more famous than goji berries. Just eat these berries and you’ll live well past 100. You’ll also experience: (6)
- A more youthful appearance
- Increased strength and energy
- Lowered stress levels
- Alleviation of menstrual discomfort
- Healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and liver function
I took all of these claims from the book Goji: The Himalayan Health Secret by Dr. Earl Mindell. Dr. Mindell also made the egregious claim that goji berries could cure cancer. This went so far that Dr. Mindell’s company, FreeLife International, was sued for misleading marketing. (7)
Just like spirulina and chlorella, the claims are not supported by scientific literature. It got so bad with goji berries that the FDA had to step in and stop two companies from promoting goji as a natural cancer cure. (8)
Goji berries are touted to be grown high in the Himalaya mountains of Nepal and Tibet. Here, Buddhist monks consume these berries and experience incredible health. All because of the goji berry.
In reality, goji berries can’t grow at high altitudes. 40% 0f the world’s goji berries are grown along the banks of the Yellow River in the Ningxia province of China. (9) Those “wild Tibetan” goji berries you spent a day’s salary on, they’re actually Chinese goji berries. Grown in a place with a similar climate to southern France.
Goji berries do contain a great deal of dietary fiber. And plenty of vitamins and minerals. Gram for gram, goji berries have more nutrients in them than a blueberry or raspberry. But certainly not enough to make a radical change in your health!
What about all the studies showing goji berries to be amazing!?
These are what is known as in-vitro studies. Also known as test-tube studies. These types of studies are done using cells on a petri dish. They’re a good introductory study. But they most certainly don’t prove anything.
Let’s say an in vitro study finds a particular compound of goji berries to promote a positive immune response. Marketers will use this as proof that goji berries are a superfood. This is far from proof. How substances respond in Petri dishes is nothing like how they respond in a human body. At the time of this writing, there just aren’t any compelling studies in humans to suggest goji berries are anything super.
To be clear, goji berries are fine to eat. Just don’t expect to reclaim your health by simply eating a handful every day.
A practical approach to superfoods
Superfoods are not a necessity. You can live a long, happy, and – hopefully – cancer-free life without ever eating superfoods.
More important than consuming superfoods is avoiding or limiting your consumption of super-bad foods. Super-bad foods are those that come in a bag or box. Super-bad foods are foods that don’t rot. You’ll find them down the middle aisles of your local grocery store.
If you forget about superfoods altogether and focus on avoiding processed and packaged foods, you’d radically transform your health for the better. You’d increase the number of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals consumed. This will have a profoundly positive impact on your health! Way more so than eating a handful of goji or acai berries ever will.
If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be to avoid the super-bad foods. Do this one thing and you’ll improve your health. All without ever purchasing a superfood!
Now, I want to hear from you!
How do you feel about superfoods?
What impact have superfoods had on your health?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!