10 Myths About Superfoods
By Jay Wiener
Founder & CEO, WeightZone Factor
Kale, quinoa, wheat grass, chocolate, wine, coffee, coconut water, et cetera, et cetera. What do the exaggerated claims about these superfoods have in common with organic fertilizer? Both came from inside a bull. Some of those foods are very healthy, some are worthless, but all are said to have magical healing powers, and they don’t. Who’s lying? Big Agriculture.
Most ‘superfoods’ are produced and hyped by ‘natural’ foods companies that have friendly, homespun names but are owned by Big Ag. It uses the same aggressive techniques to sell superfoods that it used a few years ago to convince us we would all have perfect bikini bodies if we just ate enough SnackWell’s.
Didn’t work for me.
Let’s see which superfoods are really nutritious, and which are just inventive ways to suck money out of your checkbook.
1. Kale fights heart disease and cancer
I love kale. It’s crunchy, with a sweet peppery flavor. I eat it all the time, in salads and on sandwiches. Kale has important vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants… you know the story: it’s very healthy. However, kale isn’t magic. It won’t make your hair grow back (I wish!), it won’t improve your sex life (I wish harder!!), and it won’t do anything other than supply excellent, inexpensive nutrition–like a lot of other vegetables. The healthiest thing you can do is to eat kale along with a wide variety of other fresh fruits and vegetables, very often. And please, do not buy dried kale (or anything else) in pills at the health food store; you may be buying someone’s lawn clippings. Seriously.
2. Quinoa, acai berries, goji berries, chia seeds, blueberries, Brazil nuts, seaweed and wheat grass are all Superfoods that you must eat
Did you understand what you just read about kale being healthy but not having magic powers? Good. You can skip this paragraph. Everyone else: listen carefully. Y*O*U – A*R*E – A – S*L*O*W – L*E*A*R*N*E*R. Let’s repeat. Quinoa, açaí berries, goji berries, chia seeds, blueberries, Brazil nuts, seaweed, wheat grass, et cetera, are just like kale. They are perfectly healthy but they are not enchanted. Stories about their super healing powers are… fertilizer. They were dreamed up by marketing departments trying to sell products, not discovered by scientists. Slow Learners, please fill in the blank: when you buy expensive superfoods, you are paying a ridiculous amount of money for ________. (Hint: it comes from a cow’s husband.)
3. Fruits and Vegetables: Eat five servings every day
This is a classic example of a “One size fits none” rule. The nutritional needs of a sedentary grandmother and her grandson (the football player) are not the same, so no rule can apply to both of them. Here’s a better rule: try to eat two portions of fruits and vegetables, plus one more for every 40 pounds (or 20KG) that you weigh. Also, eat fresh produce whenever possible. Frozen is a good second choice, canned fruits and veggies have lost many of their essential phytonutrients, and the dried supplements sold in health food stores are a national disgrace.
4. Kefir will extend your life
No, it will not. The truth: Kefir is a wonderful, healthy product that originated in the Caucasus Mountains centuries ago. Made from milk, it tastes like yogurt and has natural probiotic cultures that may be healthy for your digestive tract. There is nothing wrong with drinking it–at least, there wasn’t, until American manufacturers dumbed it down. The fat-free, sugary drink thickened with laboratory gums and brightened with artificial colors would be unrecognizable to Eastern European cultures. Look for a natural, unsweetened version and add some fresh fruit.
5. Cold cereal is a great way to start your day
Every time I see children eating breakfast cereal from a box, I cringe. Despite all the advertising from Big Ag, cold cereal is a miserable food. Why? Most cold cereals have three main ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, highly processed grains and unpronounceable chemicals. Some experts say HFCS is very unhealthy, the rest say it is extremely unhealthy. Before you eat cold cereal (or give it to your children) read the label.
6. Consume sports drinks when you exercise
Feeling dehydrated? Drink water, not sports drinks (and not fruit juice.) The best thing about a typical sports drink is that it is slightly less unhealthy than a glass of soda. Sports drinks are made from sugar, sodium and potassium. Does anyone ever need it? Sure: athletes training on a hot field, people who spend the day at the beach and anyone else who has rapidly lost a lot of fluid. Otherwise, water is healthier than sports drinks, especially for children. Worried about potassium? Eat a banana.
7. Coconut water is healthier than sports drinks
Coconut Water has a powerful stealth marketing program but the drink is valueless. S*L*O*W – L*E*A*R*N*E*R*S, please fill in the blank: when you buy expensive flavored water, you are paying a ridiculous amount of money for ________. Good job!
8. Alkaline water is better than coconut water
Your first question should be, “What the hell is alkaline water?” Simple. It is a scam–the latest successful entrant into the “Some people can be fooled into buying anything” parade. Your body is not ‘overly acidic.’ In fact, the ‘science’ behind alkaline water is pure organic fertilizer. It has nothing to do with how the human body actually works. (Note to S*L*O*W – L*E*A*R*N*E*R*S: you can give your coconut water to a monkey, but he’s too smart to drink alkaline water.)
9. Wine is good for Grandpa’s heart
Maybe; maybe not. A little alcohol may be good, but a lot is deadly. Researchers looked at the relationship between alcohol consumption and the heart in about 4,500 people with an average age of 76. The conclusions: older men should have at most two drinks per day; older women should have at most one. Otherwise, alcohol can do deadly damage to the heart’s structure and to its ability to function.
10. Coffee prevents erectile dysfunction
Wouldn’t that be nice? This story raced giddily around the Internet; however, coffee won’t replace Viagra any time soon (sorry, boys). This factoid was based on a single study of 3,724 men who self-reported their caffeine intake, not necessarily coffee. The study’s conclusions: “Caffeine intake significantly reduced the odds of prevalent ED, especially an intake equivalent to approximately 2-3 daily cups of coffee (170-375 mg/day).” More than four cups and the benefit quickly deflated.
I could continue, but the list of over-hyped superfoods is endless. Just remember this: no single superfood can give balance to a poor diet. Instead of searching for a miracle, aim for a “super diet” by eating a wide range of fresh, whole foods every day.
About Jay Wiener
Jay is both a professional mathematician and a humorist–a rare combination. After maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss for many years, he created a popular diet and fitness blog that makes wellness fun. It has helped countless people to lose weight and get healthier.
Jay is also the developer of WeightZone, a free algorithm that predicts a healthy zone of weight based on body stats, health history and exercise history. WeightZone has replaced the standard BMI and is considered to be the most accurate healthy weight guide available online.
To find your perfect weight and subscribe to his blog (to receive a free sample of his work), visit WeightZoneFactor.com.
The views and opinions of guest authors do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Full Circle.