Are “Superfoods” Another Super Myth? One Quick Read That May Help You Decide…

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

If poorly drawn ads on the Internet are to be believed, common problems such as unwanted belly fat and a case of diabetes can be solved with “One weird trick.” It’s unbelievable enough that most of us chose not to take the bait. But the advertisers must have some success – the “trick” ads are ubiquitous. (The ads are so common that Slate even covered the strategies of “one weird trick” marketing.) We might pat ourselves on the back for passing up obvious chicanery, but how often do we buy into another trend with better marketing – superfoods?

Have you tried a superfood yet? How is the term even defined? “Superfood” is not a scientific term – it just refers to a food that is nutrient-rich and considered to be especially beneficial to health. Oatmeal, spinach, wheatgrass, and acai berries have all been labeled superfoods. When a new superfood is “discovered” there’s often a frenzy of excitement on blogs and in the media. New products appear on shelves and new dishes show up in restaurants. The foods designated as superfoods seem to be continually expanding, so how do we decide which to add to our grocery list and which aren’t worth the purchase?

Generally speaking, the best way to decide which superfoods to throw in the shopping cart is to use common sense. Any fruit or vegetable is likely to have at least one article dedicated to its superior properties – for good reason. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the simplest and most effective diet for good health. Try to pick what’s in season and eat locally if you can. Put a variety of color on your plate. Pair green broccoli with white lima beans on a Monday and try different pairings all week. Reading about the “superfood”qualities of kale or watermelon may inspire you to try something new. Just don’t let superfoods become your sole focus. Variety is important and so is a reasonably priced trip to the grocery store.

It’s hard to find the harm in superfoods. It’s a marketing strategy, pure and simple, but at least this trend mostly encourages consumers to load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat. Anecdotal experience can hold a powerful sway over some of us, however, and one good experience with a superfood may make someone a lifelong convert. If the worst thing that happens is a family member’s insistence that he be allowed to make kale chips for every holiday gathering, who minds?

Some Shape readers were so devoted to an early morning lemon water detox, that an article debunking overhyped claims of the drink was soon awash in angry comments. In a nutshell, drinking lemon water in the mornings isn’t going to make drastic positive changes in your health. Proponents of the drink have claimed that the lemon juice improves digestion, boosts your body’s ability to absorb minerals and detoxifies your body. As the author (a doctor) points out, “detoxification” is term so often bandied about that it doesn’t have much meaning. What does your body need detoxified? If drinking lemon juice and warm water perks you up in the morning and makes you feel better, keep doing it. (Starting the day with a big glass of plain old water is excellent for your health.)

No superfood is likely to do all that its adherents claim it will, so when you see a headline sporting the term “superfood”, read it with a critical eye. (A diet heavy in chia seeds won’t likely be the reason for dramatic weight loss, as some have claimed. But you might find you really enjoy the tiny seeds in your smoothie!) There’s no reason to spend tons of cash on the superfood du jour. The old superfoods – fruits, vegetables and whole grains – are just as good for your health.

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