You often hear about superfoods that promise health, wellness and tons of weight loss. It irks nutritionists like me to no end that the media or society hypes the health benefits of these foods. That’s not to say the foods aren’t healthy. But their health benefits are exaggerated, misleading consumers to believe they’ll see immediate or dramatic results by eating them. I asked top nutritionists around the country which foods they believe are most overhyped. You’ll be shocked by their answers.
Ellie Krieger, a nutritionist and author of “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less,” says, “While agave has its advantages – it has a low glycemic index, it is vegan and it dissolves well – it doesn’t deserve its health halo. Agave is still an added sweetener that contributes virtually empty calories and is up to 90 percent fructose, a form of sugar that has been linked with fatty liver when eaten in excess. If you like it, use it sparingly, like any sweetener. Personally, I prefer local honey or pure maple syrup, which are less refined and offer at least some antioxidant and mineral benefits.”
According to Melissa Joy Dobbins, known as “the Guilt-Free RD,” “When it comes to cinnamon, the spice just doesn’t stack up. Although it’s touted as a natural way to reduce blood sugar levels, the research just doesn’t support this. As a dietitian and certified diabetes educator, it troubles me that people with diabetes might be swayed into thinking this is an effective tool to manage their blood sugar instead of putting their efforts toward proven strategies such as carbohydrate counting.”
3. Egg Whites
“Many people only eat the whites of eggs and avoid the yolk, thinking it has too many calories and fat,” says registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, who wrote “The Flexitarian Diet.” “Yeah, sure, yolks have more calories and fat than whites – 55 calories and 4 ½ grams of fat versus 17 calories and no fat – but yolks are packed with nutrition such as choline for brain health. I recommend eating at least one yolk every time you have eggs.”
Even I was taken aback by this response by Elisa Zied, a registered dietitian and author of “Younger Next Week.” But after seeing why she feels kale is overhyped, I agree that Zied has an excellent point! She points out: “Kale has been THE hot vegetable as of late, so much so that a recent ‘More’ magazine article asked, ‘When Did Kale Get a Publicist?’ I’m not saying kale, a cruciferous vegetable, doesn’t have its virtues – 1 cup of cooked kale is an excellent source of magnesium and vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of fiber and copper. And, as a cruciferous vegetable, kale has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.” However, Zied reminds us, “1 cup cooked broccoli is a good or excellent source of nine nutrients and 1 cup cooked Brussels sprouts is also an excellent or good source of nine nutrients.”
So who is to say kale is the healthiest of the cruciferous vegetable family? Based on the nutrient content, both broccoli and Brussels sprouts outshine kale. That’s not to say you should avoid kale; rather, it can be part of a healthy eating plan along with the other cruciferous vegetables.
Registered dietitian Carrie Dennett, who writes the “On Nutrition” column for “The Seattle,” also weighed in: “The acai berry, for all its exotic luster, is badly overhyped. It’s a classic example of aggressive Internet marketing at work. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are rich inantioxidants and phytochemicals, and they’re readily available fresh or frozen from your local farmers market or grocery store. You can even grow them in your own backyard, depending on your climate!”
6. Coconut Oil
According to Melissa Halas-Liang, a registered dietitian, nutrition educator and founder of Super Kids Nutrition, “Coconut oil is touted as the cure for so many things, such as weight loss, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. I teach ‘functional foods’ and get questions about its ‘super powers’ all of the time. Of course, I love coconut milk and use in it my oatmeal and smoothies, and I also enjoy coconut water. But I don’t want every dish to taste like coconut after cooked in its oils. Yes, it does have medium chain fats and a high smoke point so it’s less likely to be oxidized, but let’s not go overboard. There are many other healthy fats to choose in moderation.”