Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There's no such thing as a "Superfruit"

I received an email last week from a reader asking about acai berries. I've had others asking about goji berries, melumbers and mangosteens.

The questions invariably have to do with the incredible health benefits these fruits are reputed to confer.

Funny thing is (ok, not so funny), there aren't medical studies supporting their claims or beliefs.

So what does the evidence suggest?

Studies on folks who consume larger amounts of fruits and vegetables as a whole show a myriad of health benefits that are almost certainly not a consequence of those fruits' antioxidant levels given the disappointing results we've seen on studies of antioxidants. And while indeed there are studies on fruits and vegetables as a whole, with free-living humans and all of their wonderful dietary and lifestyle differences, there's unlikely to ever be robust, well-controlled studies that are able to look at the consumptions of individual types of fruits or berries.

Of course it's possible one or more of these "Super" fruits are in fact "super" healthy. More likely though if you eat them you're just buying hope and more often than not in the case of so-called superfruits, super-expensive hope, often in the form of a large multilevel marketing campaign.

I'd stay away from things advertised (and priced) as "super" and remember Michael Pollan's 7 word healthy eating manifesto, "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants". Follow those simple instructions and you'll do super.

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  1. Yoni,

    Since you mention it ... super fruits. There's a fellow that I do radio interviews with and he emphatically states that because he takes an acai-berry juice (purchased at Walmart), his arthritic knee is 100% better.

    1. He has no reason to lie to me
    2. Is it real or imagined
    3. Is it possible he's experiencing a placebo affect

    Just askin'

    On another note, I use the Pomwonderful as the poster child for misguided labeling.

    Kindest regards,

    Ken Leebow

  2. Anonymous11:19 am

    What about that nuval front of package labeling system - isn't that supposed to rate foods by level of nutrition?

    are fruits all the same in this system?

  3. Nuval has scored fruits, but only a few are available on their website.

    While there are some outliers, it seems the majority of fruits score between 90-100 (though "husked coconuts" only scored 24).

  4. Anonymous11:35 am

    One also has to wonder about the environmental impact of harvesting these "super" fruits that tend to come from far off tropical rainforests-not to mention the added impact to have them shipped to Canada. This is entirely unnecessary in a country where we are fortunate enough to be able to grow a surplus of delicious, healthy fruit.

  5. Eat blueberries. They're pretty "super" too, not as expensive, and native to Canada.

  6. That's a pity, I could really go for some "superfruit", great tips thanks for posting!

  7. You make a lot of sense, Yoni.

    On a ralated note, even the American Diabetes Association has a list of top-10 "superfoods," several of which have the ability to spike blood sugars pretty high.


  8. Have you read Pollan's latest--I think it's called Food Rules?

  9. I leafed through it in an airport bookstore - looked very sage.

  10. While I agree with some of the things you've said. Do you think super fruits can have the same effect as a placebo?

    If we think its going to work it usually does?