Are Superfoods Overrated?

Are ‘Superfoods’ Superficial?

Diets are like fashion; there’s always a new trend. You can’t go to the store or your favorite restaurant nowadays without seeing qualifiers like “gluten-free,” “paleo,” or “keto-friendly,” it seems. Similarly, superfoods are all the rage.

Supposedly, certain foods energize, vitalize, immunize, and even help prevent serious diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. Fads have touted the miraculous power of superfoods, suggesting that a mere serving a day can make all the difference in your health.

While the foods we champion as “super” can be good for you, it’s time we peel back the marketing curtain and ask ourselves to think again. After all, the ebb and flow of fads will always be more concerned with economic health than your health.

Take It With A Pinch of Salt

Consumer Reports recently revealed that superfoods aren’t as super as we think.

Take apple cider vinegar, for instance. This hyper-helpful bitter tonic, if ingested regularly, lowers cholesterol, aids in weight loss, and fights heartburn, or so we’ve been told. These claims may have overblown the benefits. In some cases, promoting apple cider vinegar has harmed individuals because people who have consumed large quantities of the juice suffer damage to their esophagus. As the old saying goes, too much of a good thing isn’t so good after all.

Another example of a superfood that doesn’t quite live up to the definition of “super” is bone broth, otherwise known as bone stock. Some have claimed it fights inflammation and helps reconstruct the skin barrier because of the collagen it contains (and there may be something to that claim). Still, it contains excessive sodium, which can be dangerous for those with high blood pressure. Certain animal bones may also store toxic minerals like lead in large quantities, which will leech into the broth when boiled. As it turns out, bone broth may only be beneficial if prepared correctly with the right ingredients.

Similarly, people laud coconut oil as an all-purpose beauty treatment for hair and skin. It’s being used topically as a deep conditioner, an acne balm, a cure-all for callouses and cracked heels, and even an antimicrobial rapid wound healer. Some have dubbed it as the new healthy “it” fat since its anti-inflammatory properties and specific triglyceride chain structures can supposedly help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. While coconut oil may be a more wholesome alternative to your favorite vegetable or seed oils, there has yet to be any scientific evidence that backs the claim that it can help offset oncoming neuron breakdown.

Last but not least: turmeric. According to certain high-profile publications, the spice is powerful enough to destroy cancerous tumors. Turmeric is a colorful, plant-based spice that may help reinforce cell structures and neutralize potentially harmful in-body chemicals. Studies have shown that it also can help manage arthritis and other inflammatory responses. That said, to say that this spice is a cancer killer is an irresponsible marketing ploy, to put it gently. Johns Hopkins has even come out and said that it can interfere with chemotherapy treatments, weaken pain relievers, and interact poorly with blood thinners.

Bottom Line

Though these superfoods aren’t necessarily bad for you, they’re also not miracles. Any time something is declared a fix-all cure, don’t take it as gospel truth. Consumer Reports advises that the best way to improve your diet this year is to eat whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Don’t consume anything in excess. Instead, choose to have a balanced daily spread with color and variety.

Also, remember that superfoods- though good for you- are no replacement for qualified doctors and prescription medications. Before turning to a superfood treatment, consult your doctor first. Make sure you are fully insured before seeking expensive medical advice.

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This article was updated on 7/5/2024.

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