Superfood or superhype?
By Jessica, Pure Matters
It seems like there’s always a new “it” food on the health scene, with nutritional claims a mile long. We all know that no one food can cure all of our ailments and protect us from all disease, but it’s still hard not to run out and buy the fruit, vegetable or seed that’s billed as a fountain of youth or shield against cancer. We looked at the five hot health foods, and judged their nutritional profile against the hype. Read on to find out how they stacked up.
The chia plant, or Salvia hispanaca, is a member of the mint family grown primarily in Mexico, Guatemala and Australia. Its seeds were first cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, for whom it was a dietary staple. You can buy the seeds whole or ground, and they’re often added to commercially prepared breads and snacks.
The claims: As the current superstar of the natural food scene, chia seed’s list of nutritional benefits is a mile long. It’s said to help with weight loss, balance blood sugar, prevent diverticulitis, boost energy, and fight aging.
The bottom line: Chia seed is high in protein, and really high in fiber (one serving is 42 percent of your daily intake!), which make them a filling, healthy snack or a great way to add bulk to a salad. They’re also a good source of manganese, calcium and potassium.
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, along with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It’s most closely related to collard greens. Recently, kale chips have caught on in a big way, offering an alternative to bunched fresh leaves.
The claims: Kale is present on most lists of superfoods, and it’s touted as a vegetable that can help lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, detox the body and fight inflammation.
The bottom line: If you have one serving of kale a day, you’ll be all set on the Vitamin A and K fronts, and pretty close to your recommended dose of Vitamin C. Fresh kale is likely to contain more beneficial nutrients that store-bought kale chips, but if it’s between Ruffles and the green stuff, you’ll benefit far more from the latter.
Wolfberries, commercially labeled goji berries, hail from China, and have both culinary and medicinal uses there. They are sold in their whole dried form, as tea, and are even found in some wines and beers.
The claims: Billed as one of the most nutrient-dense fruits on earth, goji berries are said to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties; strengthen the immune system and promote longevity; and even help with vision and back pain.
The bottom line: The claims about goji berries seem overblown, with little science to back them up, but one look at their nutritional makeup says they’re good for you: they contain all of the essential amino acids, 11 essential and 22 trace minerals, and high levels of iron, fiber and vitamin C. Whole, dried berries will pack the biggest nutritional punch, and they taste pretty great mixed into trail mix.
The hemp plant is a versatile one. In addition to being a food source -- it can be used to make paper, plastic, textiles, and marijuana of the medicinal and not-so-medicinal varieties. As food, it’s sold in many forms -- as oil or whole seeds, ground, sprouted, and there’s even hemp milk.
The claims: The fatty acids in hemp are said to promote heart health, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and improve memory. It’s also billed as a weight loss aid, blood sugar regulator, and a fighter of cancer and digestive disorders.
The bottom line: Hemp seed is high in protein, and has a beneficial ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, and contains about 80 percent of essential fatty acids overall. Both the whole seeds and the oil contain the same nutritional benefits.
This tropical fruit from Indonesia has been on the health-seeker “must eat” list for a couple of years now, thanks to Dr. Oz including it on his top superfoods list. It’s available in its whole form in natural food and specialty markets, and in juices and teas.
The claims: Mangosteen is said to help fight cancer, promote intestinal health, boost the immune system, support joint function, and calm seasonal allergies.
The bottom line: Mangosteen is high in Vitamins A and C, and contains anti-oxidants. It’s good for you, but you can get the same nutrients from fruit grown closer to home. And in juice form, it may contain added sugars, and will definitely contain much less fiber.
What do you think will be the next health food craze?
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