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Superfoods - do they live up to the hype?

I recently watched an episode of Marketplace where they focused on "superfoods", and... well, I have all kinds of opinions about it.

To sum up the episode, they reviewed common superfoods to see if they really lived up to the claims that they advertised. The end result was that coconut water doesn't actually hydrate you any more than tap water, quinoa is not a great source of protein, chia seeds do not provide sufficient essential fatty acids, and that the term "superfood" means pretty much nothing. That is an extremely quick version of what was discussed, but you get the idea.

I enjoy watching documentaries like this, because I think it's important to stay educated on what people are talking about, and what kind of information is out there. But I can't stress enough that there will always be some bias in any documentary. Each person has an agenda, and they have the ability to sway the facts so that their desired end result is seen by the viewer.

I, personally, am a huge believer in "superfoods". But I also take the time to educate myself so that I don't fall for marketing ploys from massive corporations, which is one of the biggest issues when it comes to nutrition these days. I was glad to see that this topic was being discussed on Marketplace, and that they were poking holes in the system that allows health claims like "prevents cancer" on conventional processed foods with no real health benefits. (Yes, that was a real thing!) However, I also felt that they were only telling half the story, and that the information they were sharing had the potential to be misinterpreted by those who are not well educated on the topic.

The fact is that large companies know that healthy eating is suddenly trendy. People want "superfoods". People want "all natural" products. So, the larger food companies are giving us these things. The bad news is that they are adding these claims on poor quality food products. They are feeding us the same pre-packaged, unhealthy options, with new shiny promises on the label. The terms "superfood" and "natural" are completely unregulated - that means that they can be added to pretty much anything, no matter what the quality of the product is.

On the other hand, foods like chia seeds, quinoa, and coconut water, really do come with health benefits. But does that mean that we can live off nothing else but them? Absolutely not. They are a fantastic addition to our diet, but we need to be getting our nutrients from a variety of foods. There is a place for superfoods, but there a much larger place for things like fruits, vegetables, and legumes, among other things.

There's nothing wrong with incorporating some of these superfoods into your diet, but be smart about it. Read your labels. A bag of chia seeds should have nothing else listed on the ingredient list. A chocolate bar that has quinoa added is absolutely not the way to get quinoa incorporated into your day. Often, it's not much better than any other chocolate bar. Enjoy it as a treat, NOT as a superfood.

I urge everyone to watch documentaries like this, without taking everything that is said at face value. Ask questions, listen to your gut, seek advice from a professional. Remember that large corporations are not out to benefit your health or well-being, they are out to make money. But most importantly, remember that a lot of these superfoods have been around for generations, and just because they're suddenly trendy, doesn't mean they're bad.


If you're interested in watching the episode of Marketplace that I'm talking about - it's Season 45 episode 5!

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