For the past few years, “superfoods” have been hyped as the One Weird Trick to magically make you healthy. Years ago I remember when spirulina was the antioxidant-packed food of the future. Then it was royal jelly. Then it was acai berries. Then it was goji berries. And on and on…and somehow kale is now being hailed as the miracle veggie. Yes, kale….you know, the thing with sandpapery leaves that tastes like broiled ass? Yes, that’s the one. No, I will not buy your disgusting kale chips — nice effort with trying to make them hip and edgy, but I’d rather eat a dish sponge.
Anyway, these foods do contain lots of antioxidants which can do some impressive things in the petri dish, but your body’s a lot more complex, and you can’t expect the same results by slamming glasses of acai-infused wheat grass juice.
Both quinoa and goji berries – and other prominent superfoods such as kale, acai berries, blueberries and green tea – also contain high levels of vitamins that act as antioxidants. With this elevation in status often come wildly exaggerated claims that blockbuster nutrients will stave off ageing or prevent some as-yet-incurable disease like cancer. Who needs superpowers when you can eat superfoods?
While the description is widely used in blogs and the media, it has no status in science – you’ll struggle to find it referenced in a peer-reviewed journal. ‘‘It’s just a marketing tool used by people to push a certain food,’’ says Dr Paul Roach, a University of Newcastle biochemist.
The most depressing bit of this story? Our superfood obsession is taking its toll on other countries who are trying to keep up demand for these fruits and grains. When the marketing people herd us on to the next magical superfood cure, what happens to these people?
But the superfood fad comes at higher cost than is measured in supermarket bills alone, mostly to people living in poor countries or to the environment. Some reports suggest the increased demand for quinoa in Western cultures means people in countries like Peru and Bolivia, where the grain has been a food staple for decades, cannot afford to eat their own crops.
It kinda reminds me of Fiji water, which of course comes from Fiji…and up until a few years ago, half the people there didn’t have enough fresh water to drink. Sigh.