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28 Superfoods That Actually Aren't So Super

Açai Berries

The diet industry has lauded the açai berry as a weight loss cure, but the truth is there’s nothing to back up that claim. The antioxidants in the açai berry don’t contribute to weight loss any more than the antioxidants in other berries. These berries may have more antioxidants than any other berry including blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries. Açai berries may also be good for reducing inflammation and fighting the free radicals that damage our bodily tissues. One of the biggest issues with açai berries is that they're added in juices which are high in sugars, which can actually contribute to your waistline. Some may also have caffeine, so make sure to read the label of anything with açai berries to make sure it's a healthy product.

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Garlic

You’ve probably heard that garlic can heal just about anything, including heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, yeast infections, and enlarged prostates. Sounds too good to be true—and it is. Mostly because there isn’t any solid scientific evidence to support these claims. Additionally, garlic is known to interfere with HIV medications.

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Goji Berries

Goji berries allegedly cure a whole range of problems, including diabetes, sleeplessness, and even aging. While some people claim to have seen improvements in these areas, there is no substantial evidence to back up the claims. So, it’s more likely that goji berries are not any healthier than other berries and don’t have any super powers. They can also interfere with certain medications, like blood thinners, diabetes drugs, and blood pressure drugs.

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Pomegranate Juice

Like many of the other alleged superfoods, pomegranate juice is supposed to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, prevent prostate problems, and serve as nature’s Viagra. While it might help for some of these conditions, it’s not a miracle cure, and there’s no evidence to support otherwise. Instead, drink pomegranate juice because of the vitamins (C, B, K, and potassium) it provides you.

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Coconut Water

Coconut water is low in calories, has more potassium than four bananas, and is fat- and cholesterol-free. It’s allegedly better for rehydration after intense workouts, but most of us don’t exercise strenuously enough to need it over regular water. While it does provide potassium to drinkers, consuming it in excess introduces unnecessary calories into your diet—unflavored coconut water has about 5.5 calories per ounce. That’s not to say that having one glass a day will pack on the pounds, but drinking it in place of water all the time can. So, drink a glass if you truly enjoy the taste, but don’t do so for health reasons.

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Chia Seeds

These little “miracle” seeds are everywhere recently. You can find them in smoothies, yogurt, and granola bars because they’re supposed to control cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease. Studies have shown that chia seeds can do this in animals alone. Human studies show no change in blood pressure, cholesterol, or heart disease risks. 

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Agave Nectar

Sadly, this all-natural sugar substitute isn’t as healthy as we’ve been told. While it does score low on the glycemic index (the ranking of how the carbohydrates in foods affect blood glucose levels), it’s full of fructose, which contributes to belly fat when broken down. If you want to lose weight, don’t turn to agave nectar for help.

(Image via Heather Kennedy

Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten has been branded the black sheep of the nutrition family, and, while it does pose some issues for certain individuals, it isn’t all that bad. Conversely, gluten-free bread can actually contribute to weight gain because many of these products are high in calories, sugar, and fat to improve the taste. Frequent consumption of things like this can cause you to gain weight over time.

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Almond Milk

We may sing almond milk’s praises like it can do no wrong, but it’s actually not as healthy as we think. Raw almonds are essentially a “perfect” food. They’re full of protein, healthy fats, and riboflavin, but unfortunately almond milk doesn’t pack all those nutrients. In the process of becoming milk, the protein and high fiber benefits are lost. So, don’t chug almond milk for its health benefits.

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Wheatgrass

A lot of people drink a shot of wheatgrass every day, but it isn’t a cheap “superfood.” The claim is that it’ll reduce fatigue and boost your immune system. Wheatgrass contains some vitamins and minerals, but it mostly has no nutritional value. Plus, some people report adverse side effects like headaches, nausea, hives, and constipation. 

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Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice can be considered a superfood because it can help lower blood pressure and rev up your metabolism. That much is backed up by research, but studies have also found that it can cause gastric cancer. Losing weight may not be worth cancer.

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Quinoa

Quinoa claims that it’ll cut cholesterol and help with weight loss. While this grain is good for you, it can’t actually do either of those things. It may help weight loss because it’s healthy but no more than other edible grains or seeds. If you like quinoa, eat away, but otherwise, it isn’t worth the price.

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Baobab Powder

Baobab powder claims to boost energy and immunity because it has so much vitamin C. Several studies have found that vitamin C doesn’t do a whole lot for immunity unless you have scurvy. If you really want to get a lot of vitamin C, you can buy mangos or kiwis, which have tons of the nutrient and don’t cost as much. Not to mention, the baobab tree is endangered so you won’t contribute to its extension.

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Margarine

Margarine is a superfood that was huge decades before the term “superfood” came around. It’s supposedly better for you than butter, or at least that’s what we were told. It’s actually higher in bad fats, making you more likely to experience health issues down the line. It’s best to stick with regular butter.

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Red Palm Fruit Oil

First of all, red palm fruit oil is just regular palm oil. Second, it is a good alternative to some other cooking oils, but that doesn’t mean it’s a superfood. Most red palm fruit oils are highly processed and can be unhealthy for your body.

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Buffaloberry

What is a buffaloberry anyway? It’s a tiny red berry that can be found in the Dakotas. They’re slightly sour and rich in lycopene, but not higher than other foods that are cheaper and easier to obtain like guavas and watermelon. Tomatoes are another source of lycopene.

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Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is lower in calories and sodium when compared to regular bacon, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excellent choice. It’s extremely processed and contains significant amounts of fat. Think about it, which part of the turkey looks like bacon?

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Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is supposed to be an antioxidant that decreases your risk of cancer. While it does have antioxidant properties, it has little to no nutritional value. You can also become more sensitive to the sun while taking the supplement. Other foods can give you the same effects without the price, including spinach and collard greens.

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Kombucha

Kombucha is fermented tea. That’s basically it. It comes with a vinegary flavor that you’ll either love or hate. It’s said that this “superfood” can help boost your immune system, increase energy, and detoxify you. Actually, it can do quite the opposite. There are issues with contamination that leads to a weakened immune system.

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Couscous

Couscous was the perfect marketed “superfood” for one reason: it’s no different than spaghetti. The base ingredient of couscous is wheat semolina. You’re better off grabbing brown rice or whole wheat pasta if you want to live a healthy lifestyle. 

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Spirulina

The biggest reason spirulina became popular was that it said it would help you lose weight. That “fact” has never been properly researched. Furthermore, spirulina can be dangerous depending on where it comes from. The blue-green algae absorbs heavy metals around it and requires careful farming. 

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Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is healthier than regular yogurt, but it isn’t packed with as many nutrients as you’d expect. Each brand makes Greek yogurt differently, so one might have 10g protein while another could have 18g. There are also no regulations about who can slap “Greek” on their yogurt. 

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Seaweed

Seaweed is a snack that has a cocktail of ingredients that can supposedly help control your blood sugar and keep you regular. Researchers do know that seaweed has nutrients, but it isn’t a superfood by the basic definition. Additionally, too much seaweed can cause thyroid issues due to the amount of iodine in the food.

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Raw Milk

Raw milk is a popular superfood that can boost your immune system, but it isn’t for everyone. For some, raw milk can contain Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Some deaths have been attributed to drinking raw milk, so it may be best to avoid it.

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Sprouted Millet

Sprouted millet is a common ingredient in “fad” diets, like the Paleo Diet. It’s supposed to reduce the risk of chronic disease, but studies have shown otherwise. Sprouted millet has shown to increase the incidence of thyroid issues and metabolism problems.

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Mangosteen

Mangosteen was popularized by Dr. Oz because it can supposedly reduce the risk of cancer. Well, the American Cancer Society shut that down saying there just wasn't enough evidence to support the claim. It doesn’t have higher vitamins and minerals as other fruits and vegetables like blueberries and butternut squash. 

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Nutritional Yeast

Unless you’re a vegan, there’s no real reason to eat nutritional yeast. It can provide protein, vitamin B, and other trace minerals, but you can easily get these by eating a healthy, complete diet. Nutritional yeast has about 9g of protein per serving, but you can get nearly 40g with a cup of chicken.

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Activated Nuts

Activated nuts is a newer superfood that’s already super expensive. Soaking your nuts (the process that activates your nuts) supposedly decreases the number of phytates and makes them easier to digest. There are no studies that have proven this to be true. However, other studies found that phytates are good for you because they reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

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