General Health Saturday September 6, 2014

4 Superfoods Which Aren’t That Super

Quinoa, wheatgrass, raw milk and goji berries – nutritional wonders or clever marketing ploys?

Do they boost your immune system and help you shed pounds, or are you being fooled into wasting pounds?

Over the past two decades, we’ve been bombarded with the ‘benefits’ of goji berries, wheatgrass, acai, raw milk, quinoa… the list goes on. And before you’ve had time to get your head around why they’re so super, there’s another new superfood making the headlines. Once discovered, consumers pack these foods into their smoothies, porridge and protein shakes. Earlier this year, it was buffaloberries. A buffalo in a berry? That sounds a bit too intimidating.

It’s easy to understand the appeal: don’t we all long for a magic bullet for detoxification, weight loss and overall rejuvenation? With people worrying about the dietary value of “modern” food, they’re seeking out superfoods to fill the nutritional gap.

I want my berries from the distant fields of Tanzania

Some people have become infatuated with eating berries from far-off farmlands or the diet of prehistoric civilisations. Who’s to say Aztecs or Native Indians might not have favoured a comforting cheese and onion pasty over another bowl of goji berries and wheatgrass? They simply ate whatever was available, and hunted for meat when food supplies were low.

Here’s a list of 4 superfoods that aren’t as super as you’ve been led to believe:

Wheatgrass: a valuable source of vitamins and minerals, containing all the 8 amino acids. Wheatgrass contains anti-inflammatory compounds and improves blood circulation.

Superfood? No. Someone’s been spreading a myth that one shot of wheatgrass is the equivalent to eating 1 kg of nutritional vegetables. If you live by that motto and drink wheatgrass as a vegetable replacement, you’re setting yourself up for diarrhoea, headache, nausea and allergic reactions. Some attribute the headaches and nauseated feelings to mind and body detoxification, but more likely this is down to intolerance or allergy.

Quinoa: Without a question, one of the most popular and marketed superfoods at the moment. It’s packed full of minerals, antioxidants and B vitamins.

Superfood? No: Despite its protein value, quinoa is heavy on lectins and saponins, two compounds that irritate the gut and are usually found in grains, seeds and plants. Also, there are concerns about cross-contamination, so it might not be so gluten-free after all.

Goji berries: jam-packed with antioxidants and promises of younger looking skin.

Superfood? No. Like quinoa, they are full of saponins. These berries are allergenic, belonging to the deadly nightshade family. The Chinese primarily use them for tonics and tinctures as opposed to food. Goji berries have also been implicated as a trigger for arthritis.

Raw milk: It’s been claimed that high quality raw milk has multiple health benefits, from fighting cancer and helping allergies, to preventing asthma and treating flu symptoms.

Superfood? Again, No. It contains dangerous bacteria, such as e-coli, salmonella and listeria, all of which can lead to serious illnesses. Symptoms include vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhoea and headache. Too agonizing, I say.

It can become frustrating when marketers take advantage of the superfood label because there are a lot of ‘berry’ good ones out there… including, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, green tea, coconut oil and almonds to name a few. Even with these, it’s advisable to eat them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

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