“superfoods” and why you should ignore them.

I’m so sick of people talking about “superfoods”.  Did you know most nutritionists won’t even use that word?  It’s because it was coined by Dr. Stephen Pratt (well, there might be dispute over the first guy to pitch the sale) and doesn’t necessarily have any real science behind it.  It’s literally just a marketing ploy.  It’s like “going on the Atkin’s”, you can “go on the Pratt’s” and eat from his list of alleged “superfoods”.  (He began marketing the concept in 2004 with the publication of his book, “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life”.

So what constitutes as a “superfood”?

According to Pratt, there are three qualifications for food to be a superfruit:
1. It has to be readily available to the public,
2. It has to contain longevity-enhancing nutrients, and
3. The health benefits have to be backed by peer-reviewed, scientific studies. (says CNN)

Oh…..so basically you just need to not eat junk.  Yeah, that’s not a diet.  That’s just survival.

Pratt claims his diet wasn’t for losing weight, but that’s what people got excited about.  Probably because someone cut out McDonald’s for a week, ate a little less junk and some more real food, and then thought Gee!  I’m losing weight!  (Except now I have to actually pay real money for food…)

Basically, superfoods are supposed to contain high densities of nutrients that prevent or even reverse the effects of aging, cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.  Now, I have no problem with thinking foods can reverse these sorts of things.  My problem is the marketing.  These are not “superfoods” – they are food.  Foods that do this kind of work are foods that should be part of our normal lifestyles.  They should be foods native to our area and not hard to obtain for the public.  They’re not supposed to be fancy import berries or exotic things.  They’re food.  Like, real food.  So this whole reversed marketing thing makes me frustrated.  You know, when an advertisement for McDonald’s seems normal rather than appalling and then “superfoods” become a marketed thing as some miracle solution to all your problems.

I bet McDonald’s owns some kind of “superfood” initiative.  It’s like when tanning salons advertise on their signs that they have sun damage reversal treatments included in their tanning packages.

But fine, fine, let’s just go along with it.  So, on this “superfood”, ground-breaking diet, what would you eat?

Pratt lists green tea, meats like salmon, greens like broccoli and spinach, and some kinds of berries.  Specifically, here are 20 foods: apples, avocados, beans, blueberries, broccoli, cinnamon (yeah, that’s a tree bark), dark chocolate, dried superfruits (um, okay), extra virgin olive oil, garlic, honey, kiwi, low fat yogurt, oats, onions, oranges, pomegranates, pumpkin, soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and wild salmon.

The key part left out of this list is the emphasis on “organic” and “wild”.  For example, one should avoid farm-raised salmon as its fed dyes to make its meat pink the way we  expect healthy salmon to be pink in the wild.  And this dye is probably toxic and currently unregulated.

One of my problems with this list is…, if I ate locally and healthy as someone would have eaten where I live hundreds of years ago, here are the foods that would be available to me from that list: crabapples, wild legumes, wild blueberries, dried blueberries, wild garlic, wild honey, wild onions, squashes, wild greens, sumac tea, wild turkey, black walnuts, and wild salmon.  Sounds a lot simpler.  I kind of like it. It just seems illogical to me that we have to import pomegranates and olive oil and kiwis and such to eat “healthily”.  Clearly this list caters a lot to spoiled tastes.

Ah, but the kicker is…since “superfoods” became a thing, people have completely run with the idea and promoted foods that actually are not “superfoods” and which might increase your risk of things like cancer rather than reduce them.  People are suddenly consuming way too much of these FAKE superfoods and seeing negative side-effects as a result.  This article lists 7 “hipster” superfoods and the problems with them:
1. coconut water
2. almond milk
3. quinoa (whose popularity has skyrocketed prices so indigenous Andeans can no longer afford to eat their own crop)
4. goji berries
5. kale (can cause hypothyroidism when abused!)
6. juicing
7. clay (yes, people eat clay).

And, fun fact: Blueberries aren’t even nutritiously dense enough to be qualified superfoods.  But marketers would have you believe otherwise!  Business analysts don’t care about your health, remember – just about their sales and income!

my view on marketing.

I had written a huge entry about the evils of marketing and then accidentally deleted it.  So this shorter recap will just have to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the media, TV shows, celebrities, sports, politics, and health topics and realizing how backwards America is.  I also realize how all of these things are rooted in marketing.  I’ve always accused journalists singularly for being selfish, pushing articles, and putting up false or inappropriate images just to make a buck or sell a pitch.  Now I’m realizing it’s not just journalism the marketing part of journalism, as well as marketing in general.

The Mascot Issue would not exist without marketing.  Eons ago, back when “racism” wasn’t a concept because White was the only race, Native American (and other minority) images, names, and stereotypes were generated to market sports teams, movies, and things like books.  Marketers are literally the people sitting around going “how can we make this obvious to the public as something they can identify with”, then selling out minorities to win over the majority.  A perfect example of this when Darrin Stephens in Bewitched has to sell dental crème.  “We all know witches have hooked noses, warts, and blacked-out teeth,” says the owner of the crème company.  Darrin doesn’t hesitate in creating an image that sells based on this stereotype.  Ethics don’t play a role in business.  And until Samantha flies (understandably) off the (broomstick)handle, Darrin doesn’t even pay mind that his own beautiful wife is a witch insulted by such discriminating images.  Today, these same logos, brand names, trademarks, and other images become a kind of metonymy for a product.  For example, “tissue” harkens to Kleenex, and we begin to think nothing is as good as that brand name.

When the media expresses its opinion on an issue, the author has to decide between pitching to this majority or understanding the minority cause.  In the case of recent articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Washington Post, some authors have taken huge risks in defending Natives in both cities against imaging by the local sports teams.  In the case of other large-stream media with other marketing interests, where unemployment is too much of a risk, this isn’t always the case.  For example, Bloomberg media rarely reports on the mascot issue, generally copies-and-pastes words when it does, and considers the issue old and “scandalous” – a rather pathetic word bank, if you ask me.

But sports continue to be marketed as the Neo-Patriotism of America.  These images become holier than the American flag.  People put more money into expensive plastic food and chemical-laden, cheap beer than they do for positive things.  They accuse doctors who save lives as making too much money and sue them like crazy for malpractice, yet it’s okay to pay a football player absurd amounts of money and let him off the hook for violating people.  Even celebrities and TV are often popular for the wrong reasons.  Shows like 16 and Pregnant, Jersey Shore, and Bridezilla make me grown as I realize how many Americans idolize these shows and lifestyles.  These become “normal” ideas of the American life.  And, trust me, I see the effects of this marketing.  When Europeans turn up their noses at Americans for being lowly and when Central Africans tell you they could never stand this country and love their lives in Cameroon, that’s when you know you have problems.  We’re not the land of the free; we’re the land of big egos, stressed lifestyles, and erroneous priotization.

And don’t even get me started on politics.  I’ve come to realize it’s just a game rich people play to be famous without having any acting skills or intelligence.  If they’re so good at raising money, why don’t they pull us out of debt?  Any person who can market themselves to win Presidency is not an honest enough person to do the job, but any person honest enough to do the job would never sell themselves out to market themselves a win.  Yup, I am disgusted with the practice of advertisement and marketing.