Are ‘Superfoods’ Really That Good For You?

Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Food, Drink & Nutrition, Health with 4 Comments

Jennifer Sygo | The Independent


The headlines claim that they can cure cancer, reduce ageing and promote weight loss. But what is the scientific fact behind the ‘superfood’ stories? Dietician and writer Jennifer Sygo separates the wheatgrass from the chaff.

I struggle with the term “superfood”. The fact is, for all of our perceived health awareness, we simply don’t know that much about our food, and we certainly don’t know enough to say exactly what makes a true “superfood”.

Whole foods have literally hundreds, even thousands, of active compounds, including phenolics, flavonoids, pigments, antioxidants, fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre… the list goes on and on.

As a dietician, I decided to turn a critical eye to all the hype that surrounds so many so-called superfoods. Is there good reason for us to jump off the deep end every time we come across an obscure Himalayan berry? What about common foods that are affordable and accessible? In my book, Unmasking Superfoods, I look at which of these foods we should approach with caution and which have more to offer than their reputation suggests.

Related Article: 8 Superfoods You’ve Never Heard of (That You Should Be Eating!)


Açaí is a classic example of the “Dr Oz effect”. The US TV medic mentioned the juice of the South American berry on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in 2008, and within the year it reportedly had revenues of $104m (about £66m) in the US. It was claimed that the açaí juice could help prevent cancer and muscle and joint fatigue, as well as promoting weight loss and anti-ageing.

Soon, it was being sold for about $40 (£25.50) a bottle – the same amount of money you could feed a family of four fresh produce for a week on – and it wasn’t long before UK consumers bought in to the craze.

The nutrition profile of açaí is unremarkable. It isn’t a great source of any major nutrients. A glass of açaí juice will give you six per cent of your daily vitamin A needs, where a carrot will give you a day’s worth. It provides 75mg of potassium, the same as you’d get in a bite of banana.

The bottom line: there is nothing wrong with açaí, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. There is almost no research on this so-called superfood, and what there is is industry sponsored. While it may be better than a glass of cranberry, orange or apple juice, for antioxidant value you’d be better off with a glass of red wine.

Related Article: 10 Superfoods to Improve Digestion & Gut Health

Goji berries

Like açaí, goji berries benefited from being praised by Dr Oz, who described it as “the most potent antioxidant fruit that we know”. The only data we have on goji berries comes from those who sell them, who claim that a 28g serving of dried berries contain 140 per cent of our daily vitamin A requirements. This, however, is the same as other orange and red fruits that contain fewer calories, such as carrots and oranges. You’d need to eat 500 calories worth of goji berries to get the vitamin C you’d find in an orange.

The bottom line: like açaí, the benefits of the goji berry are backed by industry-sponsored research and large-scale internet hype.


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4 Reader Comments

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  1.' Maureen Walton says:

    Great article….

  2.' Krizzy Ty says:

    Nice info

  3.' Neil Reynolds says:

    Label it a superfood and charge a fortune . Health tax via marketing

  4.' นัฐวดี ทองภูเบศ says:


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