Acai Berries, and Ancient Grains, and Chia Seeds, Oh My!
With so many products touted as superfoods, it can be tricky to separate health claim-hype from reality. And with outsized price tags for many of these foods, it can seem like a gamble to spend extra cash on an item you don’t know will deliver any health benefits. To help shoppers sort out superfood fact from fiction, the Washington Post enlisted the help of Lauren Fowler—a registered dietitian and nutritionist—to provide a cost-benefit analysis of a few popular superfoods:
Acai berries. Noted for high antioxidant levels, there’s limited research to support recommending them over other berries. Plus, acai berries tend to be hard to find and may be more expensive than fresh blueberries or blackberries, which also contain antioxidants. The verdict? If you just can’t do without acai, try to find whole, frozen acai berries to get the most antioxidant bang for your buck—however, berries found fresh in your produce section might be your best bet.
Ancient grains. These grains include amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat, which are also naturally gluten-free. This makes them a good choice for people with dietary restrictions (although not every grain considered “ancient” is gluten-free). Many ancient grains are also excellent sources of fiber, and rich in various vitamins and minerals. And although these grains can be pricier, studies point towards the health benefits of including whole grains generally in your diet. Be sure to buy in bulk to spend less.
Chia seeds. These tend to be affordable and last a while—keep them in the fridge or freezer to prevent them from going rancid. They are worth it if you want a convenient fiber-source to add to smoothies or oatmeal, but other seeds, such as flaxseeds and hemp hearts, have similar benefits. If you’re looking for omega-3s, fish-based sources are probably the better way to go.
Spirulina. Often recommended as a vegan source of vitamin B12 and protein, an average dose of spirulina doesn’t provide much protein, and the form of B12 found in spirulina isn’t absorbable by the body. Spirulina can also be expensive. So, if you eat a plant-based diet, a B12 supplement is likely a better choice.