Archive | February 18, 2014

Are Superfoods All They Are Cracked Up To Be?

If you have listened to the news in the last decade, then you are aware that “superfoods” remain one of the latest crazes.

indexIt turns out all “superfoods” might not be so super after all. Here are six foods touted for their miraculous benefits you might want to think twice about—some are useless, some are questionable, and some might be downright dangerous.

1. Raw Milk: Proponents of raw milk say it can help with digestion, prevent asthma and allergies, and even fight cancer (see for one group’s take on the benefits of unpasturized dairy). But, as has now been widely reported, on December 16 the American Academy of Pedriatrics issued a statement urging pregnant women and children not to drink raw milk products and calling for a ban on raw milk products because consuming them can lead to severe illnesses.

2.Ginkgo Biloba: Following news from a few years ago that ginkgo doesn’t improve memory, this year we learned of a study that linked the extract of ginkgo biloba to cancer in lab animals. Also: not very tasty.

3. Wheatgrass: If you’ve ever done a shot of wheatgrass, you know most people aren’t drinking it for its flavor benefits. And according to an article on not-so-super foods in the Australian magazine Women’s Health and Fitness, while wheatgrass has wide range of nutrients, ” it doesnt contain particularly high levels of any particular nutrient so does not stand up to the superfood test and is not considered superior to any other green vegetable.”

4. Sea Salt: It’s true that sea salt contains trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It’s also true that it can be tastier and make for a more attractive presentation than regular old table salt. But the American Heart Association says many of us are missing an important fact: sea salt contains as much sodium as table salt. In other words, it’s only super if used sparingly.

5. Coconut Oil: Celebs like Dr. Oz tout the health benefits of coconut oil for thyroid function, cholesterol levels, brain health, weight loss, and more. But other experts say you shouldn’t start downing coconut oil by the gallon or replacing all your olive oil with it. “Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels,” Dr. Walter C. Willett wrote several years ago in an article in The Harvard Health Letter. His advice: Use it sparingly until we know more about its benefits. If you do want to cook with coconut oil, be sure it’s unhydrogenated and keep in mind that like all oils, it has a lot of calories—especially important to note if you’re using it as a weight-loss aid.

6. Antioxidant-Fortified Foods: While there are products aplenty fortified with all sorts of super-sounding ingredients, as I pointed out earlier this year in Can You Overdose on Antioxidants? the safest, healthiest, and tastiest approach to healthy eating is to consume a wide range of real, unprocessed foods, especially plants—those we know are super, those that might be super, and those that we might find out are super down the line.


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