With all the craze of superfoods, healthy eating, disease prevention and anti-aging fads, trends, advice, and research that we’re constantly bombarded with, there’s rarely ever talk of the dangers of these same superfoods. I recently was made aware of the potential dangers of high kale consumption due to the ability of kale (and other brassica vegetables like broccoli and cabbage) to take up high amounts of thallium from the soil. Thallium is a heavy metal that can cause toxicity when accumulated in the body causing symptoms such as brain fog, chronic fatigue and skin and hair issues. Read the thorough article describing these findings on MotherJones.
Here is a list of 5 other, so thought “superfoods” that need to be consumed in moderation:
- The Good: Touted as an ancient seed. It is gluten-free which is perfect for the gluten sensitive folk (which seems to be almost everyone these days) and is believed to contain higher protein content than most other grains. The Bad: Compared to brown rice, it is equal in calories and only 3 grams more protein than rice per serving. Meaning, although a seed, it behaves much like any grain in the body; that being contributing to blood sugar imbalances, metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation if consumed in large quantities.
- The Good: Filled with vitamins (namely folate & vitK) and anti-oxidants as well as minerals like iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium among others. The Bad: A compound called oxalate may contribute to the formation of kidney stones for those who are prone to it. This is a potential risk as researchers and dietitians have conflicting views as to the extent of dietary oxalate’s influence to the formation of calcium oxalate stones. Cooking spinach reduces it’s oxalate content by 10-15% and so if you have a personaly and/or family history of calcium oxalate kidney stones, you may consider making the daily spinach consumption a twice weekly intake instead!
- The Good: rich in anthrocyanins -a potent antioxidant also found in grapes and other purple’ish fruits- with cancer fighting abilities. It is low in sugar and so a wonderful fruit for those with diabetes and those conscious of their overall sugar and simple carbohydrate intake. The Bad: There’s no real danger in high blueberry consumption other than the potential indigestion and symptoms of yin excess (see here) which are only transient. The only real danger is the high pesticide consumption that comes with consuming any fruit (especially those with thin skin). Over 52 pesticide residue’s have been found on blueberries which is why they make the dirty dozen list. This can be remedied by consuming organic berries as often as possible.
- The Good: These fatty vegetables have been grouped together because they both contain essential fatty acids that can’t be readily found in other sources. Avocado is not only rich in good fats but also minerals like magnesium and vitamins and antioxidants. Coconut oil has a unique fatty acid called medium chain triglycerides that has been found to help increase energy, increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol (source), and has been found to boost brain function in those with Alzheimer’s (source). The Bad: Like any other oil, these need to be taken in moderation. A daily consumption of 1Tbsp of coconut oil and 1/4 of an avocado are sufficient to receive their health benefits and anything in excess of that can contribute to ill-health due to their very dense calorie content leading to weight-gain and its associated comorbidities.
- The Bad: Unfortunately I personally cannot promote Greek yogurt as being superior to any other yogurt! Greek yogurt as it’s traditionally made is plain yogurt that gets strained removing the whey and liquid that goes with it giving a denser, more solid end product. Whey is a protein which ones it leaves the yogurt along with the liquid takes out some of the natural dairy sugars as well as the calcium and other minerals that go with it, rendering the end result with a relatively higher fat content and lowered nutrition; in other words a more empty calorie product than plain yogurt since you consume the same calories but take in less nutrients! This makes for a less superior product, let alone a superfood! However, if you like your yogurt thick and rich, sure, make your own homemade version but do not buy into the hype created by the marketing ploys used to make you believe you’re purchasing a more superior product!