The Super Truth About Superfoods. ~ Anthony Ware

Via Anthony Ware
on Oct 21, 2013
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Maltexo for growing greater, 1935

There’s nothing super about what have been referred to in recent years as a superfoods.

They aren’t from Krypton or some other galaxy far, far away.

When you eat them, you will not be able to see through buildings or fly.  “Don’t believe the hype,” said Public Enemy.

A quick search for the word superfood returns 6,670,000 results on Google; we love our superfoods.

I realize that I am perpetuating the use of the word superfood. It is important to note that our use of language dictates our culture and behaviors.

Why the campaign against adding the super to food?

I’m not trying to dispute the value of the nutritional investment. Yet I think we need to stop calling them superfoods. These foods have been around for centuries. It is good for marketing firms, but not necessarily good for humans, the foods or the earth.

Why do we call them superfoods?

Two reasons:  first, compared to the highly processed-food and food-like substances we have been eating for decades, this real food is pretty awesome; and, second, companies using marketing campaign to cash in on the shift in eating habits and lifestyles.

You might recognize some or all of the foods on this list:

•       Raw Honey
•       Leafy Greens:  kale, spinach, mustard, etc.
•       Turmeric
•       Quinoa
•       Beets
•       Avocado
•       Coconut
•       Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, etc.
•       Theobroma cacao (Cacao or Cocoa)
•       Chia Seeds
•       Fermented cod liver oil (sourced from a paleo list)

Over the years, nothing has changed with the foods on this list or that could be included on this list.

What has changed?

Volume and consumption.

There has been an increase in the volume of foods produced and the number of people that now find them acceptable to eat.

Let’s see a few examples:

  • Raw honey has been around as long as there have been bees. I am talking 4,000+ years ago.
  • The Maya consumed cacao in one form or another. Thanks to the Spanish it is now a mainstay in the diets of people in most of the developed world.
  • The Incas warriors used maca root. What do you think a Peruvian calls maca root? There are multiple answers including maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira and ayak willku. None of them include the word super.
  • The Aztecs and Tarahumara included chia seeds on their menus. Today, it’s sad that more people know about the Chia Pet than they know about the nutritional value of the chia seed.
  • Personally and in more recent history, beets, greens and cod liver oil were a steady part of my diet as a kid in the 1980s. When we sneezed or had the beginnings of a cold, my dad would make us down a couple of spoonfuls of mint flavored cod liver oil. Cod liver oil shots were not fun. Beets were fun.

I thought it was cool how the red-purplish color of beets mixed with the yellow of my Kraft Mac and Cheese Deluxe. I had a love/hate relationship with greens I grew up eating collard greens. We didn’t call them super. Just greens.

The addition of super is like greenwashing.

Adding “super” helps to increase the amount a company can charge.

I was caught up in the media marketing frenzy along with everyone else.  That is, until it hit me that it is just food. It is not like non-GMO, organic or local. Those labels make sense to me. Just like “new and improved,” it adds to the confusion, increases the price and waters down what is really important:  the food you are eating.

Ultimately, this is nothing more than a return to eating like humans did in the past. In our hyper local and easy access world, we have forgotten that indigenous people from all across the world used to eat these foods and still do.

Let’s stop calling it superfood and start calling it what it is—food.


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Assistant Ed:  Jes Wright/Ed: Sara Crolick


About Anthony Ware

Anthony Ware is a yogi, teacher, writer, cultural architect, listener and founder of Access+Optimism. His life is a spicy gumbo of experiences including yoga and mindfulness teacher for adults & kids, advocate for conscious consumerism and time spent working for Fortune 500 companies. In addition to his degree in biochemistry, he has completed trainings for Tribal Leadership, Cultural Architecture, yoga teacher (200-Hour and mini yogis yoga for kids) and facilitated Mindful Practices workshops for youth-serving professionals. Anthony is a Zen Doughboy™. He digs a good green smoothie, conversations that give you pause and laughing until his cheeks hurt. He’s currently teaching Conscious Awareness with A. Ware™, working on his memoir and planning an around-the-world trip in July 2014.  He has contributed articles to elephant journal and MindBodyGreen. Anthony is also a SoloPreneur with Solo Noir™, part of the movement to use all-natural and organic grooming products to empower men and youth to invest in themselves in education, lifestyle, health and skincare. Catch up with him on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Email.


9 Responses to “The Super Truth About Superfoods. ~ Anthony Ware”

  1. Thanks for sharing! The good news with superfoods is that attention is being brought back to real grown-in-the-ground food rather than processed junk. The bad news is people are overindulging in superfoods, and mixing them in abnormal and unprecedented combinations purely for their potency- who knows what effects these combos might have on the body long-term! I'm not so much talking about beets and avocados here but things like chia, acai and goji berries which are generally not local nor seasonal. If we simply eat seasonal, local, wholesome foods, nature provides us with enough nutrition that we don't need extra "superfoods."

  2. kim says:

    Local seasonal food is fine if you live in California like me, but what do you do in Edmonton, Alberta, or Rocchester, Minnesota in February? Move?

  3. piercingillusions says:

    These foods deserve to be called superfoods now or 4,000 years ago; they've always been super! Everything on your list is known to have radically high nutritional content, and I love knowing the specifics. (If you don't know, please google and see how these foods really keep our bodies ticking.) Keeping an ideal weight leaves limited calories, and I want the most bang for my buck. Give me superfoods any day!

  4. A+O Curator says:

    I feel you on how nutritional they are. Yes, I did and continue to do my research on food. My point was that the food is still just food. Over the past several decades, our definitiion of food has become distorted due to all the processed food that has flooded the market. All the foods that are considered "super" have varying amounts of nutritional content. All are still just food.

  5. A+O Curator says:

    You raise an interested point about combining non-local with local. The challenge with eating just local is both economic and political. Not everyone has access to affordable foods that locally grown. It's also a cultural one as well. In order to eat only local, people would need to change their eating habits and be educated on the new foods and how to prepare in a way that fits their family dynamic.

  6. A+O Curator says:

    Good point. The quickest way find out would be check with people who are living in those areas. They may do a hybrid purchasing model…as much local as possible.

  7. piercingillusions says:

    Well, imo, a food that has the same chemical composition as plasma (coconut water) and was actually used for blood transfusions by the ancient Hawaiians deserves some sort of superlative description, and I think super is great. I really don't get your point in so much antagonism for a word that designates special qualities. How about Outrageously Nutritious foods? Or Beyond Belief High Nutrition Foods? Or phenomenally potent foods? Super foods just works. How about we celebrate the fact that people are waking up to the value of nutritionally dense foods for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I'm glad to pay more for that. These foods are not just foods.

  8. These climates do present challenges, but we should aim for as much local as possible. This might mean more winter squashes and root vegetables which last throughout the winter, or naturally preserved foods such as those that are canned and pickled. The regions you mention do offer fresh produce in the winter that's grown in greenhouses. There's a lot available that doesn't have to be flown in from distant lands. Nature also gives us what we need to eat each season- so the fruits and vegetables available in the summer might for example be too light for us in winter.

  9. Very true, education is key! It's important for the long term sustainability of our planet.