“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!