Superfoods have become a big trend lately, but is there scientific backing to the nutrient contents of these foods?
The reason some foods are termed superfoods is because their nutrient content exceeds in comparison to other foods. Let’s take a look at two popular superfoods and weigh out their benefits and drawbacks.
This is Part 1 of a series we will be publishing. In upcoming blog posts, we will evaluate maca powder and hemp seeds.
Blue Green Algae - most commonly known for its help with weight loss and cancer, has grown popularity over recent years.
Blue green algae are microscopic plants that grow mostly in brackish ponds and lakes all over the world. They can vary considerably in shape, color and size.
The most common type of blue used for human consumption is spirulina. Spirulina has been proven to have a superior nutritional content in comparison to other foods. Spirulina is 65%-71% complete protein; in comparison beef is only 22% protein.[i]
Little scientific research has been conducted on blue green algae using human subjects, but animal and laboratory studies have shown the plant can be beneficial in treating several different conditions.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center says that blue green algae are used to both prevent and treat cancer. Again, although no human studies have been done, studies done on animals suggest that blue green algae can help to protect healthy tissue from the damaging effects of cancer drugs, radiation and chemotherapy.[ii]
According to Medline Plus studies, spirulina has been shown to reduce sugar levels for people with diabetes and lower cholesterol levels.
Many recommend blue green algae to aid with weight loss. It seems to act as an appetite suppressant and supports your body in weight management. At this time there aren’t scientific studies to help prove this, only anecdotal evidence (individual success stories).
Studies on animals have shown results with cancer prevention and treatment, lowering sugar levels, reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol levels. That´s the good news. But there have also been studies done on blue green algae’s negative side effects.
Blue green algae supplements could be contaminated with toxins called mycotoxins as well as harmful bacteria. A study published in May 2000 by Environmental Health Perspectives found that 85 of 87 samples of blue green algae supplements tested contained mycocystins, which are toxic to the liver.[iii]
So when choosing supplements make sure you are choosing a company you trust.
In addition, according to The University of Maryland Medical Center, people with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis, should beware of taking blue green algae products because they stimulate the immune system, potentially worsening these conditions.[iv]
Wheatgrass- known for its support with boosting the immune system, purifying the blood, improving digestion and fighting chronic illness.
Wheatgrass is a young grass that is part of the wheat family. Though many connect wheat grass to the wheat grain which contains gluten, wheat grass is actually considered to be gluten free since it isn’t sprouted.
Wheat grass is usually pressed or blended in to a juice and served as a 2 ounce shot accompanied by an orange slice. It is also used in supplement form.
The active ingredients in wheat grass are vitamins A, B, C and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, natural enzymes and chlorophyll. Wheat grass is said to be 70% chlorophyll.
Many say that wheatgrass has miraculous benefits. According to the American Cancer Society, the plant was used in folk medicine to help treat chronic skin problems, cystitis, constipation and gout.[v]
Wheat grass has also been linked with helping cancer patients. Nutrition and Cancer published a study in 2007 which found that breast cancer patients had lowered blood toxicity with regular wheat grass juice administration. [vi]
Columbia University's Health Internet service states that wheatgrass helps to neutralize body odors. In addition, the high chlorophyll levels can help reduce bad breath and dental decay. Dentists sometimes use wheatgrass juice to treat patients with mouth infections.[vii]
Many people have individual success stories with this superfood; unfortunately there have also been negative accounts with it as well.
Since wheatgrass is grown in moist conditions it can lock in mold which after ingested can lead to sickness. In additio,n wheatgrass can breed bacteria which can cause headaches and gastrointestinal issues. To avoid this, make sure to wash the wheatgrass carefully before juicing.
Even though wheat grass itself does not contain gluten, there is potential for cross contamination in the growing process, leaving it unsafe at times for people who have celiac disease or an allergy or intolerance to wheat.
Wheatgrass has also been said to cause nausea for some people. According to Harley Matsil, president of wheatgrass grower Perfect Foods Inc., wheatgrass juice doesn't mix well with other foods. Wheatgrass should be ingested on an empty stomach, plus you should also wait at least an hour to eat after drinking/taking a wheatgrass supplement.[viii]
There have been amazingly positive results and some negative results with these superfoods. With more research done in the near future we can assess the power of these superfoods and how to best incorporate them without any negative accounts.
Until then make sure that you trust the supplement company that you are purchasing from and that you do your research on how much to ingest.