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What are Superfood Powders? Should I Buy Superfood Powders?

The other day, I passed by another customer at the supermarket who was looking at the products in the "health food" section. She was telling someone over the phone that she wants to start eating these superfood powders. These pricy products were an assortment of powder supplements advertising their health benefits as superfoods.

green superfood powder

Food marketers are, by law, allowed to use only truthful advertising. Still, customers are often mislead by healthy-sounding words, claims, and packaging. There is no definition of superfood. You can call your fancy-looking potato chips superfood chips. Usually, though, the term is used for exotic-sounding fruits that are hard to come by.

While a fruit might sound healthy because it is exotic, it is worth questioning if that is the case. Does acai have a superior balance of nutrients than blueberries? Do goji berries have better vitamins than grapes? Every fruit has different amounts of each vitamin and mineral. One fruit will have more vitamin C and less thiamine. Another will be very high folate and have less niacin. It does not make one fruit better or more super than the other. It just means that we need a diet with a variety of foods to get enough of all the nutrients we need.

Another important point to consider is what happens during processing of these superfood powders. The time and temperature of drying fruit inevitably leads to the degradation of vitamin C and some B vitamins. That means the powder form will have less vitamins than the original fresh form. Additionally, the months that these items spend in transport and on store shelves leads to further degradation of some vitamins. This is another reason to question the value of superfood powders.

While food and supplement manufacturers are required to maintain honest advertising, they are not required to submit proof of most of their advertising slogans or nutrient content claims pre-market. Only if there are enough complaints to the FDA will there be an investigation of the product. So that means a superfood blend might advertise that it contains specific vitamins, but it usually has not undergone lab testing to confirm that claim.

Food manufacturers avoid legal trouble with claims by keeping them very vague. You might see an advertisement that a superfood blend has vitamin C, but it won't say how much. Or it might advertise being good for "energy," a fairly generic claim that is very difficult to disprove. They often use words like "whole foods," "plant based," and "herbal," words that sound healthy, convince us so, but are fairly meaningless when it comes to actual nutrition.

If you are someone who is trying to eat more vitamin-rich foods, superfood powders are not your best bet. Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables will give you your vitamins in a more reliable and affordable way.

As a dietitian, I do think there are many common foods that are super. Here is a list of my favorite superfoods. If you are hoping for something exotic, you won't find it on my list. These are "boring," every day foods that we have fairly easy access to at a grocery store for a reasonable price.

My Favorite Superfoods--None are Superfood Powders

  • strawberry

  • apple

  • banana

  • orange

  • broccoli

  • spinach

  • kale

  • blueberry

  • cabbage

  • sweet potato

  • almond

  • walnut

  • oatmeal

  • barley

  • beans

  • chickpeas


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