Are super foods so super?
By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE
Tropical berries such as gogi berries, acai berries, and more have been bombarding the food industry and the media. These products claim almost magical health benefits including a more youthful feeling, lowered cholesterol, and weight loss. But are these products really all their manufacturers claim?
For centuries, the Asian population has included Gogi Berries as part of their diets in hopes of longer lives and to reduce aliments. This is due in large part to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants may slow the aging process by minimizing damage from free radicals that injure cells and damage. By doing so, antioxidants help reduce the risk of disease and possibly aging. A research article from The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, found that subjects who drank gogi juice daily for a 15 day period reported significantly higher energy levels, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health, contentment, and happiness compared to the control group.
More popular than the gogi berry are the acai berries. These berries are also packed with antioxidants and are also good sources of fiber and monounsaturated fats (the good fats!). A pilot study published in a 2011 edition of The Nutrition Journal, found that in patients suffering for metabolic syndrome, supplementation of acai berry led to improved cholesterol as well as better fasting glucose and insulin levels. Other students have found that use of acai berries can reduce inflammation.
So, are you all set to run out and buy a bottle of juice or a box of supplements?
Not so fast.
While it is true that added these foods into your diet may have some health benefits, there is little research to indicate that these benefits are above and beyond those one would find from “non-exotic” products.
All berries are wonderful sources of antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. There is little evidence to show that gogi and other berries are better sources—only that they are significantly more expensive. There is no reason to spend $40 when you could simply add local blueberries or raspberries to your diet. Also, eating whole foods rather than swallowing supplements is the recommended way to get your macro and micronutrients.
So, these “super berries” are just as super as your raspberries and blueberries. To have a lifestyle of health and longevity, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables daily. They don’t have to be from an exotic location, rather it is preferred if they were from your backyard or a local farm!!
Photo provided by Ambro: <p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499″>Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>