There are certain foods on the market newly publicized as 'Super' foods – foods that exceed the normal amount of nutrients and benefits when compared to ‘regular’ foods.
Superfoods are often advertised as ‘action-packed’ and tout benefits such as increased brain function, energy, and alertness.
Upon discovering these new products, my advertising brain quickly began to strategize on behalf of the industries whose products were once thought of as undesirable and, simply put, gross tasting.
I have heard of most vegetables - aside from the more obscure exotic plants - so where did these superfoods come from and why hadn’t they been talked about previously?
Hell... it’s not as though we just discovered kale.
According to an article published by the Guardian in 2016, nutrition is “fabulously complex, different for everybody and mostly mysterious”. That the word ‘superfood’ holds “many lies in one word”.
Is this merely a marketing tactic to drive sales or are the benefits real?
These claims are already thoroughly debated, but I think there might be a bigger problem here.
The marketing industry, which I have been a part of for over a decade, has prayed on the vulnerable and needy in search of profits. It was taught to me in school that advertising was a way to communicate a product’s value to the mass population (and this was before social media), and there are laws in place to protect consumers from malice and false advertising.
However, language and package design have inherent ambiguity, leaving space for interpretation (and possible manipulation) on behalf of the companies. I realized the food and health/beauty industries were no different. They too, took advantage of these same flawed (‘loopholed’) rules, leaving the consumer (me/you) blissfully unaware that what I was reading on the front part of the package could be interpreted in many different ways.
I became aware of just how diverse, misleading, and confusing this industry was when I was presented with a cosmetic progressive skin condition.
The industry spoke to my vulnerabilities but yet, no matter how much I bought, nothing was fixing my problem. Fast forward to thousands of dollars spent, dozens of creams tried (both prescription and over the counter) and nothing made this condition budge.
After the anger wore off, I started to do my research. Not only did I look at the cause of my issue (which will vary, depending on the person), but I looked at what I was ingesting and putting on my face because I realized they were all contributing in some way.
My findings were upsetting to say the least. Briefly, I concluded that the beauty industry doesn’t get regulated or treated in the same way you would assume. There are few (if any) expiration dates, there are often filler ingredients- harmful/sketchy (some carcinogenic) - and a host of other issues.
What could I do?
I started to learn the basics about vitamins and how they work, as these were the ingredients that would shift my skin conditions. I looked into what nutrients reacted best to my particular skin type and how I could harness these little hard workers (the nutrients) to my benefit.
You can do the same, once you get to know the basic rules
Vitamins and nutrients:
Water Soluble – These DON’T ‘stick’ to your system and when taken as a supplement will be properly filtered out of your body daily. Taking more than the recommended dose is merely a waste of money as your body can’t absorb any more than the recommended amount (usually). Some of the popular water-soluble vitamins are C and B.
Fat Soluble – These ‘stick’ to your body. These vitamins are absorbed into your bloodstream when you eat them with fat. You can find out if you are deficient by getting tested or going to your doc. Some of the popular fat-soluble vitamins are D, E and A.
Probiotics – Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are proven to solve a host of different issues. They should be ingested as often as you like.
Once you have an understanding of these facts, you can dive deeper into what you need those nutrients for; ignoring the flashy packaging.
Do you need help with digestion? Sleep? Pimples? Weight loss? Each one of these vitamins have a list of foods that carry varying benefits. Pick and choose how much you might need, put it on your plate/take it as a supplement, stay consistent and let your body do the rest! Ok, it's not THAT simple... but, you get the point.
What's simple, is this: there is not a ‘superfood’ per se.
What is ‘super’, is combining your nutrient-rich foods with other action-packed vitamins, making them work smarter. E.g., pairing goji berries with carrots adds varying levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
The fact of the matter is, nutrition is different for each person.
All people eats and digests foods differently. The way you are built, your weight, exercise level, environment (home and work), influence what we need in our diet to stay healthy and thriving. It is up to you to learn the basics and apply your knowledge for what you need.
Lastly, I encourage you to learn about your body - if needed, test your vitamin levels - and then customize a plan for yourself. This could be your future plan to staying healthy and ‘super’.