October 21, 2013

The Super Truth About Superfoods. ~ Anthony Ware

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

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