You’ve probably seen them in health-focused and gourmet establishments all over in Mount Pleasant and Charleston: SUPERFOODS.  Generally beautifully packaged and plenty pricey, these magical ingredients promise to boost energy, enhance your mood, improve your memory…sky’s the limit.  But do these superfoods actually live up to their reputation?

We picked our three favorite superfoods and consulted our favorite sources to find out.

SuperFood #1 Coconut Water

According to WebMD, “Coconut water is fine for recreational athletes — but so are plain water or sports drinks. In general, most adults don’t exercise strenuously enough to need sports drinks or coconut water because good, old-fashioned water works just fine.  If you enjoy the taste and your budget allows it, coconut water is a nutritious and relatively low-calorie way to add potassium to your diet and keep you well-hydrated.” 

However don’t give in to ALL of the coco-water hype.  An article in Time explains: “‘While it’s certainly safe to drink coconut water, it’s been overhyped and even mislabeled,” says Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent tester of health products  ‘If you plan on using it for mild hydration, it’s fine. But if you are doing prolonged physical exercise, you are losing sodium (not potassium) in your sweat, and coconut water is not a good source of sodium.’”

SuperFood #2 Kale

While coconut water may fall short of its media hype, Live Science explains that kale actually lives up to its popular reputation: “Kale is a leafy green that appears on many lists of trendy superfoods, and probably with good reason. Kale is highly nutritious, containing high levels of vitamins, minerals, and brain-boosting phytonutrients.”

Men’s Fitness also extolls the virtues of this cabbage cousin: “Kale is the best green in terms of antioxidants on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) chart—scoring 1,770 units while spinach clocks in at less than 1,500, says Ruth Frechman, R.D., a Burbank-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics…It’s also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, plus it’s high in carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been proven to prevent macular degeneration.  Kale has tons of fiber —one cup of this vegetable packs 90 mg into only 36 calories—while also helping to regulate enzymes that assist in detoxing your liver.”

SuperFood #3 Acai Berries

The acai berry pronounced (ah-sigh-EE) has become extremely popular in its frozen form, the acas bowl. Cool and refreshing (think of these purple-hued treats as a hybrid between a smoothie and granola bowl), acai bowls are a great post-workout pick-me-up.  But are these “super-fruit” bowls as good as they’re hyped up to be?  According to the Mayo Clinic, sort-of.  “Acai berries contain antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats. They may have more antioxidant content than other commonly eaten berries, such as cranberries, blueberries and strawberries. But, research on acai berries is limited, and claims about the health benefits of acai haven’t been proved.” 

Dr. David Katz, on continues, “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that antioxidants are powerful health promoters but, so far, only when they are consumed in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate. The thing to remember is that juice adds calories and sugar to your diet. Consider that you can probably get the same antioxidant bang from whole fruit that is less exotic and less pricey. And wash it down with a big glass of naturally calorie-free water.”

The SuperFood Takeaway

While all three of these “superfoods” are perfectly healthy (and fun to add into a wellness diet!) they are not necessarily the end-all-be-all of nutrition.  While kale appears to score the highest on the hype-meter, none of these three superfoods are a dietary magic bullet.  It’s important to remember that there is more to a diet than simply including these “super” ingredients. 

Take it from The American Heart Association: “‘The truth’, said nutrition expert Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD, ‘is that most myths about super foods are perpetuated by marketing efforts…a lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems,’.”  So just be aware that many foods beyond the “super” variety can be just as good for you (and less expensive).  For more information on that topic, checkout THIS ARTICLE by Men’s Health