Why you should care
Because while few foodies are lined up behind superfood pills, they might well be the stuff that dreams are made of.
“Are Twinkies superfood?”
It’s always best to start off a serious inquiry into dietetically significant health issues with a broad query that just about anyone could understand. Even the presently grimacing Tom Dobrov, a family and pediatric nurse practitioner at Stanford Hospital who came by his Ph.D. at Yale and is obsessed with what we put into our bodies.
“The fact that Twinkies are not any kind of ‘real’ food probably prevents them from being ‘super,’” he says. Even if no official or legal definition exists, people in the know know what superfood is when they see it.
To wit: a nutrient dense food stuff. Usually packed to the gills — or the pills — with antioxidants, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients and vitamins. And just the kind of claim we’re hearing all over the health-nut world, for one particular pill to rule all the superfoods: Vitamineral Green. And, you know, we really want to believe. Because what’s better than buying, chopping, chewing and juicing all the superfoods? Not having to eat any, and just popping a pill.
… better than buying, chopping, chewing and juicing all the superfoods …
While the European Food Safety Authority has found compelling evidence that they help more than they hurt, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not confirm, deny or validate the efficacy of so-called superfoods. But the agency has shown that it’s paying attention by slapping down some claims about disease-prevention benefits deemed too outlandish and unsubstantiated.
But as far as Dobrov is concerned, to dismiss the potential benefits of superfoods is to ignore the drawbacks of conventional foods. “Conventional processed food today will kill you. Glyphosate [an inexpensive and widely used herbicide] is close chemically to Agent Orange. And we are eating it. So superfoods are a great alternative to slow poison.”
Which brings us to the natural extension of this line of thinking. Working from the logic of, if an apple a day is good for you, then a supplement with the equivalent of 30 apples a day has to be even better, health-conscious consumers have sparked a race to the top of the superfood supplement pyramid.
One of the more significant players to emerge in this Wild West, where one person’s snake oil is another’s miracle supplement, is Jameth Sheridan, founder of HealthForce Nutritionals. Sheridan has developed a health food product that impresses by shortening your day of consuming beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, spinach and turkey, and delivering 14 known superfoods in the form of capsules.
And nutty as health nuts may be, to a one they/we are exacting about the quality and efficiency of what makes up their/our diet. Which makes for near-endless searching, fueled by a healthy dose of hope. “It is a marketing concept,” Dobrov admits, addressing our fear of being hoodwinked, “but the foods are good.” “It’s ‘the kitchen sink’ of high-quality herbs and proteins for feeding and detoxing your body,” says Dobrov, who takes the supplement himself and recommends it to patients who display any interest in improving the quality of their lives through nutrition. “[Sheridan] used to mix green powders for most other companies, but he noticed what a rip-off most of them were, as the expensive ingredients — often the most important ones — were ordered in lower quantities to boost profit margins.” The low amounts were often clinically insignificant; good enough to put on the label legally, but not as helpful as anyone expecting superfood results would want them to be.
Or as nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, author of Food & Mood, says: “Every superfood is going to be a ‘real’ (unprocessed) food. You don’t find fortified potato chips in the superfood category.”
For now, we’ll keep skipping the Twinkies and maybe, when time allows, supplement the dried, powdered superfoods with healthily prepared real food. Because if anything’s going to help in leaping tall buildings in a single bound? Well, yeah, this might be it.