Lots of the newly discovered or revived super-foods that have hit shelves in the past few years are simply part of the fads and trends created by marketing agencies and the media. Lots of these widely-discussed and promoted foods don’t even really have the nutritional values to back up the claims their producers and marketers make. While these foods might indeed have some beneficial qualities, the hype surrounding them massively exaggerates their health benefits and misleads consumers. Here are some widely-touted “super-foods” and the truth about them:
It is a common misconception that quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods out there. A cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, a little more than a hard-boiled egg, double that of a cup of rice (4 grams) but nowhere near that of a cup of lentils (18 grams) or a cup of chopped chicken breast (43 grams). Quinoa is marketed as a “whole” protein, since it contains all nine types of amino acids that people should consume. It was also marketed as an amazing food for vegetarians, who need to worry about protein intake. If you’re interested in high-protein foods and not affected by trends, you could opt for a plain old piece of steak, or a serving of beans, lentils, or chickpeas.
2. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar, the same stuff that is in tequila, can be boiled down into a sweet syrup. While this syrup does have a low glycemic index (meaning that your blood sugar will not fluctuate too much after consumption), agave is still not that great an alternative to sugar, honey, or date honey – especially if you’re diabetic.
While agave has minimal glucose, it does contain high amounts of another sugar: fructose (familiar form corn syrup). Fructose has shown, in various studies, to be even more harmful than other sugars. The sad truth is that you’d be best off minimizing all types of sugars – other than what you get in your fruit and veg – from your diet.
3. Coconut Water
Everyone agrees that the sugar in sports drinks is unhealthy. Coconut water has been marketed as a great alternative, being able to hydrate and energize you in a healthier way. While it is high in potassium, it does not have the sodium or calories that an athlete is seeking in a sports drink. Most average humans would do just fine drinking water during a normal workout. If you’re an Olympian, Gatorade is acceptable. Otherwise, you can simply increase sodium levels at your next meal.
4. Acai Berry
Nobody heard of acai berries before 2013, but they’ve now become the most widely marketed super-food, thanks to their high levels of anti-oxidants. Claims have sprouted about its benefits for weight loss and countless other ills – most are bunk. True, antioxidants neutralize free-radicals that enter our bodies and cause cancer. However, there is no direct scientific connection between eating more antioxidant rich foods and lowered risks of cancer. In any case, there are lots of antioxidant rich fruits out there. The value system that acai producers used to rate their product as “healthier” than other fruits (ORAC) has recently been disproved. You can add antioxidants to your diet by eating more blueberries, tomatoes, kale, grapes, and cacao, among other antioxidant rich plant foods.