Superfoods, once a niche nutrition trend, have become so mainstream that even those who aren’t interested in health and wellness know what they are. And that’s definitely not a bad thing. “In general, I like the superfoods trend,” says Liz Weinandy, R.D., a registered dietitian in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It really puts the spotlight on healthy foods that contain multiple nutrients known to be important for optimal human health.” Yup, that sounds quite positive to us.
But there is a downside to the superfood trend, according to health professionals. “It is absolutely essential that people remember eating one or two superfoods will not make us super healthy,” Weinandy says. Wait, so you mean we can’t eat pizza all the time and then top it off with a superfood-filled smoothie?! Bummer. “We need to eat a variety of healthy foods on a regular basis for super health,” she explains.
What’s more, trendy superfoods that come from exotic locations or that are lab-manufactured can be pricey. “Superfoods are often more expensive because they are highly processed into a powder or pill form and travel from around the world to get to your plate,” notes Amanda Barnes, R.D.N., a registered dietitian. And sometimes, you can find the same substances that make those superfoods so beneficial at a much lower price—in foods you commonly see in the grocery store.
Plus, there’s the fact that the marketing around superfoods can be somewhat misleading. “While I don’t diss superfoods in general because they may be dense in healthful nutrients, these foods may not be right for everyone because nutrition is not ‘one size fits all,'” points out Arti Lakhani, M.D., and integrative oncologist with AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale. “Superfoods may only deliver on their promises if consumed in the right quantity, prepared properly, and eaten at the right time. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how well nutrients from these foods are absorbed. Everyone is unique in the way they process the foods that they eat.”
With that in mind, here are some popular superfoods that have been overhyped for their health benefits, either because the research behind them is lacking or because you can get the same nutrients from less expensive, easier-to-find foods. While most of these superfoods aren’t bad for you, nutrition pros say you shouldn’t sweat it if you can’t (or don’t want to!) fit them into your diet.