Superfoods: Super Nutrition or Super-Sized Hype?
You may have heard of some of the superfoods out there, like lucuma, maca, goji, pomegranate, and acai. Do you know anything about them? Why are they considered “super”?
Part of the “super” label comes from the price tag. Seriously, have you priced some of these things? However, the most compelling reason for their consumption is the high levels of antioxidants.
Antioxidants scavenge for free radicals and neutralize them, which is a good thing. This helps prevent cancer and other diseases.
1. Lucuma is a fruit from South America. It’s generally used powdered in the United States. It’s sweet with a mapley flavor, and looks like a yellow avocado.
It has sixty calories per tablespoon, which is the same as honey. Generally you wouldn’t use it tablespoon for tablespoon, though. As such, you’ll use less product, and therefore have a few less calories.
It is worth the price? Nativas Naturals sells 8 oz of powder for $12.99. I think it’s pretty expensive for half a pound of dried fruit. At $26/lb., I could buy a lot for my family!
2. Maca is a root from the Andes. It’s supposed to help with libido and combat fatigue. I think it tastes like dirt, but other people describe it s having a “nutty, earthy” flavor.
I tend to like “earthy”, but to deal with maca I have to hide it. I add it to smoothies that have a strong flavor to mask it. At $25/lb, I’d rather eat “earthy” sweet potatoes!
3. Goji berries are heavily marketed and growing in popularity. They grow on bushes in the Himalayas.
The berries are dried and have a tart flavor. I think they’re somewhere between dried cherries and dried cranberries, but some batches are more tart than others.
These berries are really packed with nutrition. They’ve got vitamin A, Vitamin C, and 18 amino acids. Sounds like a great value, right? Except a pound costs $18.99. Yikes!
4. Acai powder. I’m sure you’re as sick as I am of the acai ads on every banner of every website supported by Google ads. It’s annoying, frankly.
This ONE berry, the dark purple fruit of a South American palm tree, is extremely expensive. Nativas Naturals prices is at $39.99/8 oz. Eighty bucks a pound. For berries. Heck, even organic raspberries aren’t THAT much!
5. Pomegranate powder is generally from the Middle East or India. I confess that I love pomegranates.
I love to cut them open and look at the little juicy jewels inside. I don’t LOVE tearing away the white part, but it only takes a moment.
However, if that’s too much for you, you can buy it powdered. It’s actually quite convenient, as all you do is open the bag and spoon it into your smoothies. It also makes a lovely chia drink. Price per pound? $44.
So let’s so a bit of math. We’ve gotten a pound of each of the above superfoods. Six pounds total, before tax and shipping from Nativas Naturals, costs a grand total of $193.92. I don’t have that to spend, even on products you use in small quantities.
Even at an average of $4/lb, you could get almost fifty pounds of organic fruits and veggies. That’s enough for two to three weeks for my family, but I imagine we eat more produce than most.
Now let’s think about the miles each of these foods would have to travel. It doesn’t seem very green to eat foods that travel thousands of miles in such limited quantities.
Lucuma is from Peru, which is 3,200 miles from the Atlanta area. Maca is from the same area, so we’ll add another 3,200 miles.
Goji comes from Tibet very often. That’s a whopping 8,000 miles from Atlanta. Back to Peru for the goji, add 3,200 MORE miles. Finally, we’ve got pomegranate powder. If we measure from New Delhi, that’s another 8,000 miles.
25,600 miles for that trip. If it all travels by air, you’re looking at almost 19,000 lbs of carbon to offset.
So what are some alternatives? I know this is going to sound crazy, but here’s the deal. Eat fruits and vegetables. Add some beans and green tea if you like. That’s it, that’s the whole secret.
Local is preferable is you’re an environmental type (or a nutrition type, as faster delivery equals more nutrients). Organic is best, but if you can’t afford organic, wash your produce thoroughly.
I know this is not at all glamorous. I know you don’t want to hear me tell you to eat apples, even though they’re high in fiber, cheap, and local.
The truth is that if you want huge amounts of antioxidants, eat berries (wild blueberries are best). After berries, go with plums and red grapes. Then move on to apples, kiwi, citrus, apricots, peaches, and pears.
Next, veggies and greens. Start with kale and spinach. Then move add some broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, red bell pepper, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets and eggplant are other great sources for antioxidants.
Then, legumes. Black beans are your best bet. Follow those up with white beans, pinto beans, lentils, and lima beans. Kidney beans and dried peas make the list, too.
Finally, green tea is a good source of antioxidants if you’re getting enough water. I don’t ever think a beverage is OK to drink INSTEAD of water, even tea, juice, or water-rich produce. However, if you drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day and still want a little extra punch, green tea is a great addition.
I hope you’ve gotten a new perspective on what “super” really means. There are so many great options that are easy on the Earth and your wallet, and they’re no further than the fruit bowl!
Superman photo from John Hobbs
Lucuma photo from Naturallygreen.co.uk
Goji photo from Positive Foods
Pomegranate Powder photo from Nuts Online
Tree photo from Harbec.com
Produce photo from Elder Advocacy Blog