“Superfood” is definitely the buzzword of the nutrition world these days. Along with detoxing and carb-avoidance, this trend makes it too easy to fall into the trap of believing that all superfoods are the be-all and end-all of staying fit and healthy. If you asked 20 different health experts to name the most effective superfoods, you’d likely get 20 different lists with overlapping foods like avocado, berries, kale, fish, spinach, and flax seeds.
There is no legal or medical definition of a superfood, which is part of the reason why these nutrition claims are so ambiguous and contradictory. The most commonly cited superfoods are usually rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and polyphenols (abundant micronutrients that are said to help ward off disease).
Although the exact nature of superfoods is still not known, The Daily Meal spoke with a panel of nutrition experts, many of whom tirelessly debunk myths about perfect, nutrient-packed foods. We came up with a list of nine superfoods that are not as super as you think: Either the common claims behind them are exaggerated, as with blueberries, or there’s simply very little truth to their health benefits at all, like the bulletproof coffee trend.
“I talk to patients and people in general who get very fixated on specific superfoods and they often get an all-or-nothing mentality about it,” says dietitian Lisa Hugh. “At least half of patients tell me that they don't think they should have to make any changes because they eat some superfood. One good food in a diet can't make up for a bad diet.”
The bottom line, according to our nutrition panel, is to eat everything — even so-called superfoods — in moderation, and remember that no single fruit, vegetable, or grain can ever be considered a health miracle.
Açaí berries are one of the most commonly cited superfoods out there. Unsweetened açaí is full of antioxidants, but açaí bowls are “basically glorified non-dairy fro-yo cups with toppings,” says certified holistic health coach Annie Lawless. “Many shops don’t use unsweetened açaí, and the toppings can be a nightmare, because plain açaí just doesn’t taste that great. One bowl can pack more calories than a Big Mac.”
Agave nectar, which comes from the same plant that yields tequila, is often touted as the healthier, more holistic alternative to sugar. But in this case, it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Agave is comprised of more fructose than any other sweetener (70 to 98 percent), while high-fructose corn syrup is about 55 percent,” says Annie Lawless. “Fructose is broken down and directly converted to belly fat.”