Their pretty labels are laden with the inviting concept of a jam-packed form of nutrition in a minute amount of superfood, conveniently packaged in some highly concentrated form. Get 300% of your RDI of vitamin E or quercitin in just one teaspoon of this stuff! Never mind how much of that your body can actually absorb, if it’s in there it’s assumed that it all gets to the cells. It’s easy, it’s exotic, it’s super-healthy. It appeals to the lazy bastard in every health conscious consumer.
Pick any one superfood found on the shelves of your health food store and you won’t have to look closely to come face to face with beautifully presented charts and other suspiciously simplified research explaining why its ORAC count far exceeds that of anything else in the world. In fact try to google a non-biased ORAC scale and you’ll have a hard time getting past the boisterous claims of research teams touting their particular superfood, each with a greater concentration of antioxidants or sea minerals than the next, each harder to find and more isolated to a Himalayan mountain or Mayan cave than any other in the world.
Rarity breeds desire
Like shark fin soup or white rhinocerous horn, rarity breeds desire - only it’s now far sexier for marketers to keep these exotic foods vegan and cruelty-free. We are humans and place value on unique, far away or difficult to find things. The rarity of a product adds to its appeal and in addition to the independently conducted research, rarity fuels the marketing bonfire. Coupled with the health-conscious, time-poor consumer with a disposable income and you have enormous scope for marketing pretty much any unheard of food as the next superfood.
Focus on foundations
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: nothing we put into the body can completely restore it to the level of health we are striving for. It’s not about what you put in, but what you take out. I believe our focus ought to be on removing the blockages that stifle the natural flow of energy through our many systems, rather than piling more stuff on in the hope that one of these wonder foods is going to miraculously cleanse us from top to bottom, fortify every one of our cells with a force field of glowing health, or otherwise turn us into some invincible super human.
With the exception of those unfortunate enough to be born with genetic anomalies and incurable diseases, we all start with relatively vibrant, clean bodies. As children our energy levels are enormous, our minds clear and our hearts open. Over time the primordial bliss and energy of childhood can fade as the substances we ingest degenerate a body that could potentially live for 120 years. I’m not just talking about food but also stressful environments, toxic relationships and the untethered mind left to slowly poison itself with resentment, greed and fear.
It’s not a lack of acai powder that ages and breaks down our bodies, but a build up of these acidic substances with no release of the blockages created. If a superfood claims to remove from the body some of the blockages already within it I might just pay attention, but without this it’s just another drop of ascorbic acid in the proverbial ocean.
Superfoods au natural
It’s not that I don’t think superfoods exist. There are many wonderful wholefoods that contain very high levels of antioxidants, which are sorely needed in our world of nutritionally devoid packaged food. I just don’t agree with the status to which some particular superfoods have been raised, with clever marketing that twists the meaning of the word “superfood” to reach a sales figure, much in the same way the word “God” has been manipulated to serve the individual purposes of power-hungry people throughout history. It all leaves a bad taste in one’s superfood-loaded mouth – but that’s to be expected when something’s that healthy for you, right?
I believe in naturally derived superfoods such as fresh vegetables and their juices, herbs, spices, seeds and weeds. I’m a huge advocate for freshly pressed green vegetable juice rather than green powders such as chlorella, spirulina and barley grass, because green juice contains alkalinity, electromagnetic energy and organic water that cleanses the system so that the vitamins and minerals within it and any other wholefoods consumed can be properly absorbed and assimilated. There’s not much point ingesting 100 grams of pure dehydrated chlorella of which 89% is protein, if you lack the accompanying chemical medium – enzymes, pH and other plant cell constituents - to absorb it.
In contrast to green juice, green powders are dehydrated, meaning its organic water (and therefore the vehicle for countless water-soluble vitamins) has been removed. It is far from fresh, and does not have a cleansing action on the body even though it may still be high in protein or minerals. Green juice over green powder, fresh berries over benzoate-preserved super-berries, raw coconut oil over capsules of coconut oil. Maca root or its fresh juice over maca powder shipped half way across the world and consumed a year after its dehydration. See the difference? Your body (and wallet) does.
This is without going into the minutiae of genetic suitability and ancestral practicality of a food. For a native warrior living in the Amazon, in the right season, the response of their body to a root that’s been used by their ancestors for centuries in a ceremonial tea is going to be different to a modern day Indo-European adding a teaspoon of maca powder to their smoothie ten minutes before downing a cappuccino. I’m not saying the maca will be completely useless, just that it may work differently in your body compared to the warrior’s.
You don’t need to refinance your house in order to stay healthy and maintain an excellent immune system. Wherever you are in the world, you can find naturally occurring, seasonal and inexpensive superfoods that pack as much if not more of a nutritional punch as your $130/kg maca powder, can be found in your own backyard or within 200km, and often taste a shit load better.
I’m in southern Thailand at the moment and have re-discovered some amazing superfoods. Some of these are often just discarded into the compost or bin and require no extra searching on your part.
Papaya seeds are an extremely effective anti-helminthic and make papaya taste even better when eaten with the flesh. Sour plums such as jujube found in this part of the world are extremely high in antioxidants and are very inexpensive. There are many wild, edible plants – found in Australia or otherwise – as well as vitamin-packed greens such as kale, comfrey and dandelion leaf to be found in fields probably growing under your fence. The leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are antioxidant rich and pretty to boot, as are herbs such as dill and coriander. (Disclaimer: make sure you know what you're doing when you go gathering wild plants for consumption. Take a wild foods course first and read plenty of books. I take no responsibility for Into the Wild-esque disasters!) Grounded spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric and mustard contain the highest ORAC count of pretty much any foodstuff you can get, far exceeding noni juice or acai berries.
It’s not like I’m going to do a rant and dance if someone lovingly makes me a chocolate goodie ball with some maca or bee pollen in it. That is simply awesome. I’d just hate to see someone buying bee pollen over fresh fruit and veggies, or stirring spirulina powder into water over making a green veggie juice. I’ve seen it countless times and it costs a fortune without necessarily conferring the individual health benefits one would expect by personally financing the health food store. Play with superfoods, enjoy them, but be wary of the marketing hype. I guess that’s all I’m trying to say.
I realise I will be coming up against some very avid sexy-superfood lovers in proclaiming my opinion. I welcome all constructive feedback and opinions, especially those that are radically different from mine! Thanks for reading :)