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Five “superfoods” that might not be so super

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s something that burns fat, combats aging, and stabilizes your intestinal flora! It’s a superfood! Superfoods are having a buzzworthy moment, for sure, but if we’re really considering them from a health-perspective, we should probably be a bit skeptical of the term. Certainly, “superfood” is a great label for marketing agencies, but there’s no authority out there regulating what is and isn’t a superfood.

List of five “superfoods” that might not be so super

Also, it’s never a good idea to expect that one kind of food will provide certain health benefits that make up for less-healthy eating behaviors. So while superfoods are certainly healthy, they should be part of a varied diet and need to be eaten in moderation. Here we investigate five of the more common superfoods:

1) Kale

Kale is packed with nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins C, A, and K, iron, folic acid, and fiber. But is it necessarily healthier for you than, say, spinach? The truth is they’re both healthy for different reasons; just as an example, spinach contains more potassium, magnesium, fiber, and iron than kale does. So while kale is undoubtedly a healthy choice, it’s best not to limit the types of leafy greens that you enjoy.

2) Dark chocolate

Like kale, dark chocolate also contains antioxidants. Some studies suggest that cocoa might help with blood pressure, improve blood flow throughout the body, and prevent blood clots. Careful, though – it’s the cocoa itself that provides these benefits, not the chocolate product. The less cocoa that a product has, the more sugar and other additives it contains. Nutrients get lost in the production process too, and sugar and fat get added to the chocolate so that it tastes better. Dark chocolate has some health benefits, but it makes more sense to have it be an occasional indulgence rather than an essential part of your diet.

3) Hot peppers

Some like it hot, others do not! If you’re one of the ones that do, eating hot peppers will help you get fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and antioxidant effects. The compound capsaicin, which makes hot peppers hot, might help the metabolism, reduce high blood pressure, decrease a person’s likeliness of blood clots, and inhibit weight gain. But like the fiery taste of a hot pepper, one question lingers: are they so super? You can get a lot of these same benefits from regular peppers, and while capsaicin seems to have a variety of healthy effects on the body, a lot of its medicinal benefits are based on shaky research. If you love the taste, then you can consider hot peppers your own personal superfood. But if you’re not already feeling the burn, don’t sweat it!

4) Green tea

Green tea’s popularity began in the 17th century when it was first shipped from India to Japan, and its reputation as a nutritional powerhouse is nothing new either. Green tea has long been appreciated for its potentially anti-cancerous, anti-heart disease effects, as well as its ability to lower serum lipid levels and help with weight loss. However, there really isn’t enough information to prove some of the claims about green tea, and you don’t want to drink too too much if your green tea is caffeinated. Drinking it in moderation will help you get the potential benefits.

5) Chia seeds

There’s no denying that these little seeds deliver fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium, among other nutrients. Chia seeds have been shown to prevent insulin resistance, reduce free radical activity, and possibly lower blood pressure. But the craze surrounding chia seeds is a little, well, crazy. They aren’t a miracle cure for diseases like diabetes, and when eaten in too-high amounts, they can have negative side effects like gastrointestinal bloating, allergic reactions, and thinning of the blood. They’re good for you – but don’t add them to every meal.

Hyper-healthy or overhyped: What’s a consumer to do?

At the end of the day, no one has found a single food that you ‘need to know about’ or ‘should be eating every day’. There are a lot of whole foods out there that have incredibly nutritious properties, and enjoying each of these foods in moderation is the best way to get and utilize their effects. Instead of treating any single food as a cure-all for your health, nutritionists emphasize that you should eat a balanced and healthy diet of mostly whole foods to keep your body functioning at its healthiest.

  • “Basic Report: 11233, Kale, raw.” USDA.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, May 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2983.
  • “Basic Report:  19904, Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids.” USDA.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, May 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6453.
  • “Basic Report: 11670, Peppers, hot chili, green, raw.” USDA.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, May 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show?ndbno=11670&fg=11&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=0&sort=c&qlookup=&rptfrm=nl&nutrient1=401&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=0&totCount=777&measureby=m.
  • Rosalie Bliss. “Analyzing Green Tea Leaves and Supplements.” Usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, Aug 2017. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2012/analyzing-green-tea-leaves-and-supplements/.
  • “Basic Report:  12006, Seeds, chia seeds, dried.” USDA.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, May 2016. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3610.
  • “What’s so super about superfoods?” Heart. American Heart Association, Nov 2013. Web. Accessed 10/26/17. Available at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Whats-so-super-about-superfoods_UCM_457937_Article.jsp#.WfDj2RNSyCQ.

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