I’ve been known to go on a scavenger hunt of health food stores in search of a certain superfood. The other day I spent $15 buying Herbamare (an herb-infused salt – yes, salt) on Amazon, when I could have bought it at Whole Foods for $7. The only difference? At Whole Foods, it’s called herbed sea salt. But, guess what? It’s exactly the same thing. Lesson learned…sort of.
It’s unlikely that this will be the last time I go out of my way AND overpay for a superfood. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee I will do it again when the next superfood gains traction. Despite this, I think it’s important to address the fact that superfoods are NOT a requirement to be healthy or to lose weight.
Yes, you read that correctly. You do NOT need to consume superfoods to be your healthiest self and you CAN lose weight without them.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE superfoods and you will likely find them in recipes on Diet Confessionals. However, the word itself is ambiguous. Google “what is a superfood” and you will get the following definition:
Superfood: A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.
Sounds great right? The problem is there aren’t any set guidelines or specifications a food must meet in order to be called “super”. In fact, the word itself isn’t regulated by the FDA. As a result, the term has become popular in food marketing and led to a number of myths surrounding it. Let’s explore them, shall we?
Myth No. 1: You need to eat superfoods in order to be healthy.
Marketers do a great job at making you think you NEED a certain food in order to make you buy it. It’s their job. The problem is, it inherently makes people feel guilty if they aren’t able to. As if not buying it means they somehow don’t care about themselves or their bodies.
I need you to hear me when I say this: there is no truth to this. Not being able to afford (or have access to) the newest superfood of the week does not make you less in ANY way. And it absolutely does NOT mean you can’t achieve what you want with your body or your life.
Please don’t use the fact that you don’t have access to (or can’t afford) the newest superfood as an excuse not to take care of yourself. You’ll only be holding yourself back and I believe you were made for more.
Myth No. 2: Superfoods are expensive.
This myth relates back to using the term “superfood” as a marketing tool. It has led us to believe that only the latest Amazonian root powder is considered a superfood, when, in reality, we are surrounded by superfoods the second we step into the produce section of the supermarket. That’s right, fruits and vegetables ARE superfoods. They meet all the criteria of the Google definition above and are much less expensive than the rare powder flown in from Peru.
Don’t get me wrong, if you have the access and funds to incorporate more exotic superfoods like moringa, maca, and chia seeds into your diet (just to name a few), I’m all for it. The point is, they aren’t the only thing that can help you be your healthiest self.
If you’re getting in a variety of fruits and vegetables and the majority of your diet is made up of real, whole foods, then you’re already eating superfoods. No need to spend your entire food budget on powders and potions. And there is absolutely NO reason for you to feel any less worthy of being healthy if you can’t afford them.
Now that you know fruits and vegetables are superfoods, it’s important to know that when I refer to superfoods in the following myths, I’m talking about the exotic ones labeled “superfood” by marketers, NOT fruits and vegetables. You absolutely need to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet to be healthy. Sorry, not sorry.
Myth No. 3: Superfoods will fix all your health problems.
Sure, superfoods can be a great addition to an already healthy diet. The thing is, if your current diet is lacking in nutrients to begin with (most American diets are), eating a superfood is not going to reverse or cancel out the effects of that.
The marketing of these foods creates an unrealistic expectation that they will fix everything. As if you could undo your bad habits with a band-aid. However, if you’re eating superfoods on top of an unhealthy diet, they aren’t going to have much (if any) effect.
Take an objective look at your current eating patterns. If they fall short when it comes to nutrients, then you would be much better off incorporating more real, whole foods into your diet and decreasing your intake of processed foods. Think more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less packaged foods with a label.
Myth No. 4: To get the most benefit, you should eat a lot of them.
Labeling something as “super” or “healthy” can make us think that the more we eat the better. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works.
Too much of anything isn’t good for your body – even superfoods. Overdoses of nutrients, while rare, do happen, especially if there is an underlying medical issue. Our bodies are only equipped to handle a moderate amount of nutrients at a time. If you’re consistently overdoing it, you will be putting unnecessary stress on your body – which means you definitely won’t feel like your best self.
Another issue stemming from this myth is that if you’re overeating things with a “superfood” label, you’ll have less room for other foods. This can cause you to become deficient in other nutrients you need. In order for our bodies to work at the optimum level, they need a balance of nutrients because they work together to keep your body running properly. The best way to achieve this balance is to eat a wide variety of real, whole (unprocessed) foods.
And, by the way, superfood does not mean sugar-free. For example, some consider dark chocolate a superfood. While its bioactive compounds (flavonoids) may provide health benefits, if you’re eating more than a few ounces you’re also eating a lot of sugar. Guess what? When you have excess sugar in your body it gets stored as fat. True story.
- Instead of focusing on trying to buy every superfood, try to add more diversity into your diet. This way you will be getting a wider range of nutrients.
- Think in color – colorful fruits and vegetables contain high levels of phytonutrients, which have a host of beneficial effects on our bodies. Eat the rainbow! (Yes, I am a complete nerd).