Ask the Diet Doctor: Superfood Powders


Q: Are any of those superfood powders like lucuma, camu, and maqui worth adding to my diet?

A: The trap that we fall into with many of these superfood powders has to do with their exotic origins and the nutritional buzzwords attached to them. There is something alluring about these foods being used by ancient cultures in faraway jungles that causes us to assume that they must be better for us than the "regular" foods we are currently eating.

However, research has not shown these foods to be any better for us than more familiar superfoods like wild blueberries or almonds, which have more scientific evidence to support eating them daily. [Tweet this fact!]

One example of a popular exotic superfood is lucuma powder, which experienced a growth in sales from $11,000 in 2010 to more than $1 million in 2013. It is often touted as a low-glycemic, low-sugar sweetener that is safe for diabetics. But some lucuma powders are listed as being 100-percent sugars, while others only list 16 percent of the carbohydrates as being sugars. These discrepancies are major red flags on their own, and then there is little published information about the types of carbohydrates and sugars that make up lucuma powder, plus any analysis of its glycemic index seems to be nonexistent. This is especially concerning considering that being low-glycemic seems to be one of lucuma's main claims to fame.

(For any food, super or not, be wary of any "low-glycemic" claims. The term is not a synonym for healthy but rather a reflection of the types of carbohydrate in a food and how fast your blood sugar will rise after consumption.)

Another often-touted benefit of exotic superfoods is that they are more nutrient-dense and contain trace minerals and vitamins. "Trace" minerals is just a fancy way of referring to minerals needed in smaller amounts (such as iron, copper, zinc, and iodine) when compared with major dietary minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Trace minerals are not necessarily rare and can be readily acquired by regular foods like meat, seafood, iodized salt, and nuts.

Once you look past the marketing hype, you will find that these exotic superfoods do not contain dietary components that you can't get other places, like your everyday but still "super" wild blueberries and almonds.

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