The term superfood has been abused across the globe and is being phased out, or not used at all, by dietitians. A superfood is generally a food marketed as something with additional benefits beyond what can be proven by science. For instance the superfood that started it all, the blueberry, can be found being marketed as a brainfood, as the high levels of antioxidants are thought to decrease mental decline and dementia and increase cognitive behavior in the elderly by fighting oxidation of the brain cells. While that neuroscience is a little advanced for my knowledge, there are studies that have indicated there is a link, while detractors suggestion the evidence has been exaggerated.
Other claims exist that anthocyanins, water-soluable vacuolar pigments that give the berries their blue color, help neutralize free radicals in the body. These advances in research are exciting but can be confusing when looking at how anthocyanins react in plants when consumed. There exists a volume of scientific research that indicates the unlikeliness of plants’ anthocyanins retaining their antioxidant qualities after consumption, however, berry anthocyanins have shown in lab studies the ability to turn off genes involved in proliferation and inflammation and turn on genes that support apoptosis, the process by which the human body expedites controlled cell death. Apoptosis is responsible for us having fingers and toes and insufficient amounts of apoptosis can result in uncontrollable proliferation, leading to cancer.
The Blueberry Council markets the blueberry as high in vitamin C, as a good source of fiber and manganese, and touts its antioxidant powers. As is, adding blueberries, at about 80 calories per serving, to one’s diet is highly beneficial for those seeking to pad their micro-nutrient stats. However, due to the increased positive media attention blueberries have received as, rightly or not superfoods, prices have increased, marketed gimmicks have arisen, and blueberries got a lot more company in Team Superfood.
This Web MD article lists beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkins, salmon, soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt as superfoods. The article claims superfoods will not only improve your health in the long term, but can make you feel better immediately after consumption. They point out that these foods are best for the body unprocessed and can be added and substituted for less healthy foods in the diet for immediate health benefit. Those claims I can understand. The list essentially is a compiled greatest hits of a hunter-gatherer’s feast and most, I’m looking at you pumpkins, are pretty delicious in their natural state. But as pointed out earlier, the superfood label has been applied to many other things, making them more desireable and thus more expensive without significant scientific research behind these claims. One such superfood is the wolfberry, more commonly known in the United States as the Goji berry.
Goji berries gained fame through marketing that the (disputed) oldest man to ever live, Li Ching-Yuen, believed to be 197 or 256 depending on the record, used to consume Goji berries daily as part of a preservation diet.
I had never heard of Goji berries before I walked into Holly Hills Health Food Store earlier today. The staff was very nice and, when I spoke to them of my goals of maintaining lean body mass while looking for a low calorie, nutrient dense snack, I was given the Goji berry pitch. I was told several anecdotal tales of its anti-aging abilities, about its ability to fight cancer, it’s array of trace minerals and vitamins including zinc, iron, phosphorus, B2, and E, the fact that it is among a very elite club of fruits that have 4+ grams of protein, and its 3 grams of fiber. And apparently, the last man to purchase these from Holly Hills apparently went from pale to perfectly tan skin, from flabby to fit, and from balding to blooming hair. Jesus. This was my ticket to the cover of Men’s Health.
It has been a few hours since I tried the Goji berries, and honestly, I haven’t turned into Kellan Lutz. For the price, I have tasted much better things. At $16.99 for a bag, I feel
quite a bit of buyer’s remorse; 16 oz. per bag with 1 oz. serving sizes make this over a dollar a serving. That’s the price of delicious single-serving of Greek yogurt with blueberries on the bottom. These Goji berries taste like even further dried raisins with about half, or less, of the taste. These berries aren’t bad for you, but the nutritional value can be had through better tasting options. I’m having major second thoughts about the $17 I spent and may write a strongly worded letter to Navitas, their distributor, if this product magically doesn’t burn all of the fat off of my body, give me a sunkissed-skin tan, and/or makes me live until I’m 150+ years old. I guess the joke is on me.
These berries do have benefits, though. They are certified organic, are kosher, vegan, and raw. It contains an abundance of trace minerals and vitamins, contains a vegetarian form of protein, and has 140% of the DRV of Vitamin A. It also has 3g of fiber and only 13g of sugar. Check back for an update as consume these twice daily until the bag runs out. I might just turn into Kellan Lutz.