In the 3rd part of Superfood Hype I want to take a closer look at superfood powders. I think that we all have heard about them in one way or the other. Researching this field is definitely like fighting your way through a jungle. There are so many different types of powders with so many different claims as to why we need them. The common claim, as with most superfoods, is that we need them to stay healthy and maximise our potential. As a food scientist my question is clear; do we really need them?
As a start let’s look at some of the different products. For example we have the famous Lucuma powder which often is marked as a low-carb powder with vitamins, trace minerals, fibers and slow acting carbs for long lasting energy. Sounds good right? Now let’s look at how the retailers recommend us for use this power. They say that it’s a perfect sweetener or flavor enhancer in smoothies. Here are some concerns I have. First, do we really need to use sweeteners in a smoothie made of berries or fruit? I don’t think so. Secondly, some Lucuma powders are listed as being 100-percent sugars and some only 16 percent. These differences raise concerns. On top of that there is little research about the types of carbohydrates and sugars that make up the powder. Now remember that the Lucuma powders main marketing term is the claim to be a low-carb powder. How does that make sense? Go figure.
Then we have maca power, chia powder, chlorella powder, spirulina powder, wheatgrass powder, barley grass powder, bee pollen powder, hemp powder, cacao powder and the list goes on. Then we also have the sorts of powders that are a mix of different kinds of powders. It’s hard as a consumer and also for me, as a person with a Masters in Food Science, to even know where to begin. So I figure rather than going into details on every single product let’s look at it with a wider perspective. I want to raise the concerns that I have about this major hype. Why the concern you might wonder. Because I feel like there has to be a counterweight to the marketing campaigns and health claims that never speaks of anything that doesn’t put a good shine to the products. As a potential consumer it’s good to always look at a product from both sides. What might be good and what might be bad.
- Concern #1. Superfood powders should just be a supplement for a healthy diet. But the way many of them are promoted can fool people into thinking that they might not have to focus as much on the overall diet.
- Concern #2. Some powders, especially those including algae’s like chlorella and spirulina, can have unexpected side effects. Algae’s are in fact potent mineral chelators (binding agents) which mean that they can rid the body of important minerals like zinc and magnesium which many people already have a low intake of.
- Concern #3. The lack of scientific studies and human-trial research is a major concern. One thing that I always come back to is that superfood is just a marketing term and not based in science which leaves the consumers to put their trust in the food industry’s marketing and claims.
- Concern #4. Because of the lack of science to back up the health claims we don’t know if we actually can absorb that many nutrients at once. We don’t know if loading our bodies with extraordinary amounts of nutrients will have a detrimental effect. Hence, we don’t know if we actually need these extra supplements.
- Concern #5. There is also research showing that an overconsumption of antioxidants can prevent our bodies from killing cancer cells and prevent our hearts from beating with the correct force in stress-filled situations.
So, we don’t know if we really need these extra supplements because of the lack of scientific facts to back it up. With that being said using a superfood powder as a supplement can be a good thing if you know what your body might have a lack of. But have in mind that these superfood powders do not contain anything that we cannot get from other sources. Food for thought.