Monday 31 August 2015

5 Dangers of “Superfoods”

We all know that healthy eating starts with eating less junk. Then you need to get your calories and macros (i.e. proteins, fats and carbs) right for you and your goals. From there you can take your nutrition to the next level by including more superfoods. However, in doing so, you can run into these five traps if you are not careful.
Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

Trap Number 1: Over-Consumption 
If some is good, then excess must be excessively better – right? Nope. Any food eaten in excess can be bad for you. Strawberries have traces of arsenic, excess spinach can cause kidney stones and over-consumption of non-fermented processed soy products can have a host of health problems. To top it all off, you can actually kill yourself from drinking too much water by causing hyponatremia.  

Recently, kale which is one of today’s most popular superfoods came under attack. Ernie Hubbard who works at an alternative health clinic tested local kale and urine of patients and concluded that they were getting low-level heavy metal poisoning. This lead to an overreaction by the media (like that’s never happened before) and scary headlines such as: "Find out why this superfood is actually super-poisoning."  Thankfully Anna Almendrala from the Huffington Post provided a great critique of this scare in her article: Everyone's Got The Kale Poisoning 'Study' All Wrong: But the problem isn't science -- it's journalism. Note: I still use kale my Power Shakes

Trap Number 2: Nutrient Deficiency
Different foods are higher and lower in different nutrients. When you over-consume a few superfoods, you still may be missing out on important nutrients that are higher in other non-trendy foods. By eating a wide variety of foods, you get a much more comprehensive profile of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

Trap Number 3: Mock Health Foods
Starting back around the early 2000’s we entered a nutrition fad I like to call the “mock health food era”. Prior to this, we had the misunderstood low-fat era (i.e. the message most people heard was fat is bad – eat more highly-processed grains) that kick-started the obesity epidemic. Then we had the low-carb era which was better, but also misunderstood (i.e. all carbs are bad and try to stay in ketosis indefinitely). It was also quite unsustainable. 

These fads left people wanting to be healthier and lose weight yet unwilling to give up their favorite foods. This created the perfect opportunity for food manufacturers create mock health foods. They gave people all the junk they were used to eating, but with a very slightly healthier twist. Processed sugary cereal is now “made with whole grain”, chips are made with supposedly trans-fat free oil (note: you produce trans fats when you deep fry), brownies are now made with dark chocolate and organic and those blended sugar-bombs (i.e. fruit smoothies with hefty dose of syrups and juice – concentrated fruit sugar) have a little kale thrown in.   

Warning: just because processed junk food has trace amounts of some superfood fad does not mean you should eat it.

Related: Be Trend-Wise

Trap Number 4: Ignoring Calories and Macros
Never forget that what you eat and how much you have are both important. This is especially true if you are currently trying to gain muscle or lose fat. Too many people with body composition goals fall into the trap of thinking that if they just “eat clean” they won’t have to worry about calories and macros. They are important and you need to have the right amounts. 

Related Posts: 

Trap Number 5: Missing out on Future Superfoods
I really believe that there are many more superfoods science has not yet discovered. If you eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods you may be eating future superfoods without even knowing it. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out 40 years from now that some new scientific discovery found some amazing health benefits to a food you have been eating all your life?

Bottom Line with Super Foods
  • Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods including known super foods (click HERE for a list of superfoods)
  • Don’t be fooled by mock health foods
  • Pay attention to what you eat and how much
  • Stay informed (from credible sources) of current information about new superfoods and consider adding modest amounts of these to your diet
  • Don’t get caught up in the latest food fad

For more information on superfoods and cancer, check out this ted talk:

How About You?
What are your favorite superfoods? What traps have you fallen into? What traps have you seen others fall into? I invite you to leave your comments or questions below or on my Facebook Page


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