If all the information about which foods have achieved superfood status has your head spinning, you’re not alone. The term encompasses different grains, meats, fruits, vegetables, and just about every other edible substance. According to LiveScience, the word is probably more of a marketing ploy than an indication of nutrition, as you won’t find any scientists using it. Still, certain foods experience a surge in popularity after some trusted nutrition source gives it the label. While many of these ingredients are healthy in moderation, overzealous folks might take the claims a little too seriously. We’ve picked six of the most popular superfoods and taken a closer look to show you that more isn’t always better when it comes to healthy eating.
Sippable meals are nothing new, and it doesn’t look like the craze will be going away anytime soon. The Los Angeles Times revealed juice bars continue to open with much success, and patrons are willing to shell out upwards of $12 for a nutrient-packed beverage. The healthy image probably has a lot to do with that popularity. After all, the drinks are made from little besides fruits and vegetables. CNN reported drinking juice is a good way to get vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, but also acknowledged it’s easy to go overboard. The article went on to compare eating whole fruits to downing just the liquid, and said eight ounces of orange juice could contain up to four of the fruits.
Let’s take a closer look at the citrus favorite. According to Calorie Count, 8 ounces of orange juice contains 112 calories and 20.8 grams of sugar while one fruit is just 62 calories with 12.2 grams of sugar. Since turning produce into liquid removes the fiber, a glass doesn’t have the same satiating power as eating the whole shebang. Men’s Fitness said trying to replace meals with juice is a surefire way to overeat. Also, removing the solids quickly leads to nutrient loss. Unless you’re drinking that glass immediately, you’re better off keeping produce whole.
If you hate eating fruits and vegetables, juicing could be a good way to get some nutrients you would otherwise miss, as long as you do it the right way. Don’t try to replace all produce with liquid. Keep munching on ones you don’t mind, focus on getting fiber from whole grains, and make sure you’re eating enough protein.
In a country that loves chicken, pork, and beef, seafood doesn’t get much love. The Wall Street Journal revealed American’s are actually eating less fish than ever. While that might be the overall truth, some folks have heartily embraced seafood. Salmon might be the most popular among health fanatics thanks to high levels or protein and omega-3 fats. It’s also among the least risky for mercury contamination.
It’s not all good news, though. Since the worldwide harvest of wild salmon is only about 2 billion pounds every year, according to The Wall Street Journal, most of the stuff you’ll find at the store is farmed. And it comes with some ingredients you probably don’t want on your dinner table. The Huffington Post reported many farmed fish go overboard on fat content and contain higher levels of pollutants than wild varieties. Even if you’re willing to shell out extra for wild fish, you can still overdo it. Unfortunately, even fish that aren’t enclosed run the risk of swimming in polluted waters. Cleveland Clinic said eating large quantities of wild or farmed salmon puts you at risk for consuming cancer-causing chemicals.
The omega-3 craze might be to blame. Though there are plenty of health benefits associated with these fats, some research is showing it’s possible to go too far. An Oregon State University team found eating omega-3s in extreme quantities can suppress your immune system and increase your risk for colitis, a type of inflammatory disease that affects your intestines. Most folks will be fine, but you might want to rethink your supplements if you’re already feasting on loads of fish.
It’s the rare restaurant that doesn’t have at least one quinoa dish on the menu. This grain, though it’s technically a seed, gets a lot of love in the health world. Forbes explained quinoa has all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. The article also mentioned it has nearly twice as much fiber as other grains. Praised for its ability to maintain a healthy digestive system and promote a feeling of fullness, fiber is a key nutrient in any healthy diet. As with anything, too much leads to some not-so-good side effects.
FitDay revealed eating too much fiber can lead to cramping and reduce your body’s ability to absorb key nutrients. In extreme situations where you’re not drinking enough water, you can become constipated or even experience a blockage that requires surgery. Any fiber rich foods can lead to these issues, but quinoa’s sky-high levels could make could make it particularly troublesome.
You also need to pay attention to portion size, because this grain carries a pretty hefty number of calories. Quinoa might seem like diet food, but it actually contains more calories per serving than both brown rice and pasta. A serving should be around ½ cup, not an entire bowl.
Fat is back in a big way, and avocados are now as common in a Caesar salad as they are on a taco. There’s no denying the creamy fruits pack plenty of monounsaturated fats, and Today reported those nutrients can helplower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Because the fruits are so high in fat, they also deliver a huge dose of calories in a relatively small package. Livestrong said one avocado contains around 322 calories, so it can quickly lead to weight gain. It’s also important to remember you need to consume other foods to get all of the protein and other nutrients your body needs. You can certainly enjoy a few slices, but not at the expense of other nutritious eats.
5. Coconut Oil
Health food bloggers can’t get enough of coconut oil. Whether raving about the flavor or the health benefits, they seem to be finding ways to tuck the fat into just about everything. The recent popularity has a lot to do with new reports that saturated fats don’t have the cholesterol-raising, heart-damaging properties we once thought. The folks at Muscle & Fitness are fans, saying it’s a great addition to just about any meal.
While eating coconut oil can be perfectly healthy in moderation, drastically increasing your intake is just going to make you gain weight. It is, after all, a fat. Berkeley Wellness said none of the claims about weight-loss orpreventing Alzheimer’s disease have any merit, so treat it like you would butter or olive oil.
Fermentation fanatics go for foods like kimchi, but they also like to down glasses of kombucha. Though the tea has been around for centuries, it only recently caught on in America. WebMD explained it’s made by adding bacteria and yeast to a sugar and tea solution, and then left to ferment. The article also mentioned it contains B vitamins and antioxidants, but that’s about it as far as its health benefits go. Claims that it prevents cancer and boosts liver function just don’t have any scientific basis.
While the do-it-yourself method is now as common as buying a bottle at the store, you should be aware of the increased risk of consuming harmful bacteria from homemade versions. The drink is also pretty high in acid, which could leave you with an upset stomach. In extreme cases, it could lead to a toxic buildup called metabolic acidosis. Cleveland.com reported two cases of the condition in 1995 were from drinking too much kombucha, and one was fatal. While drinking the tea from time to time is fine, don’t expect it to be some magical, cure-all potion.