Are Superfoods Really that Super?Or can they actually just be useless or even harmful? 3/3
Let’s have a closer look at some of these “MAGICAL FOODS”!
Everybody is familiar with the health benefits of this fatty fruit. It is extremely high in monounsaturated fatty acids, high in potassium, fibre and certain vitamins, rich in water and very low in sugar. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Because of its nutritional value, avocado can be useful for people who want to lose weight and it might help with arthritic pain for certain people.
Avocado reduces cholesterol levels significantly, which, as we know now, is not necessarily a good thing. Avocado can be problematic for many people because of allergic reactions it can cause on the skin. In some cases it can even cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, cramping, bloating, pain, constipation, or diarrhea. (16) I personally have experienced this a few times before I figured out that my problems were caused by this fruit. Did you know that avocado is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women because it reduces milk production and can cause miscarriage? Adding to all this, avocado oil is very rich in estragol and enathol, and it might cause liver damage if consumed excessively.
Its claimed health benefits are endless, from reducing arthritic pain, arthritis, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), balance, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), troubled sleeping (insomnia), tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, a skin condition marked by white patchiness (leukoderma), bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, Parkinson's disease, and chronic liver disease. It is also used to reduce side effects of medications which treat cancer and schizophrenia.
So what’s wrong with Ashwagandha? It belongs to the nightshade family, which already means that it has toxic effects because of its glycoalcaloids content. Such a toxic effect may be a change in the functions of biological membranes, causing leaky gut syndrome and harming the blood / brain barrier and starting inflammatory and autoimmune processes in the body (17).
It might cause thyretoxicosis (18) or liver damage.
This fruit coming from China is promoted with enormous health benefits. It’s full of anti-oxidants with anti-aging benefits, may prevent cancer growth, may help blood sugar control, may boost energy level, weight loss, lower cholesterol, and it may improve immune function in general. But are these claims true? What are the down-sides of these berries?
Like ashwagandha, goji berries also belong to the nightshade family, which we already know to be toxic. They can interact with the effect of different medications, it can elevate blood pressure, can disturb sleep, can be bad for pollen allergies, cause dizziness and digestive disorders. It has been proven many times that goji berries contain dangerous pesticides (19) (20), even the organic ones.
While it is true that chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acid ALAs, the fact is that humans can only convert this type of omega 3 into the bioavailable DHA and EPA very poorly (21).
One big problem with chia seeds is that they have the ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, so if they are not soaked properly they can cause serious swallowing and GI problems like constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas and bloating.
Another issue with chia seeds is that the vast majority of them come from China and are heavily contaminated with pesticides.
Quinoa is a pseudo cereal and naturally gluten-free. Its health claims come from the fact that it is high in protein and contains all the nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fibre and some vitamins and minerals. It contains flavonoids, which are plant anti-oxidants.
Despite all these amazing claims, I don’t recommend consuming quinoa regularly. It can cause severe digestive discomfort like gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea because of its high fibre content. Quinoa is very high in saponins, which is a natural pesticide of the plant that can damage the small intestine. Most of the saponins can be removed by washing quinoa many times before cooking. Although quinoa is gluten free, it contains prolamins, which might trigger an immune response in people with celiac disease (22). Quinoa is also high in oxalic acid, which can cause kidney stones in sensitive people.
The consumption of green tea has a very long history in Asia. There is likely no harm if consumed in moderate amounts, but in higher amounts it can cause different problems such as digestive issues, headache, sleeping difficulties, iron deficiency, dizziness, bleeding disorder, liver disease and high blood pressure.
Be especially aware of taking concentrated green tea supplements. There has recently been a case reported of a man who had such serious liver damage caused by these supplements that he needed a new liver to save his life (23).
After diving deeply into the subject, my recommendation is to eat local and seasonal foods on a regular basis and avoid all “superfoods” coming from thousands of kilometres away, especially in their concentrated forms as supplements. There is not enough reliable research to support their benefits, so to be on the safe side, it is best to eat the food that can be grown in our neighbourhood, so the source can be controlled and the environmental impact minimised.
20. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/nutrition-articles/is-fiber-bad-for-you/ 21. http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2018/10/fiber-an-umbrella-review/ 22. https://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/low-residue-diet-foods#1 23. https://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/924.cfm?fbclid=IwAR11PH4VWabHCkpCXGfsyKpEDuJSW1HJQObUL3mm4sw88yxlgA_xOUL6zGY 24. https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-diseases/the-benefits-of-high-cholesterol/ 25. https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/study-says-theres-no-link-between-cholesterol-and-heart-disease/