One of the classic hero/villain tropes is when the hero, who you thought to be righteous and perfect all along, turns out to be the villain in disguise. They pull a bamboozle, as Gen-Z would say, and leave us betrayed (and intrigued about the plot). This betrayal is worst felt when the ‘bamboozlers’ are nutritious foods, and the ‘bamboozled’ are our bodies. This article talks about 5 superfoods that you don’t know are bad for you, and explains just why these supers need a second glance.
Since When Has Super Become Bad?
Let’s just stop you before you sneak a quick Google search for ‘what are superfoods’ – superfoods are those foods that naturally have a high content of nutritive elements. They are usually rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and flavonoids (yes, you can Google this), among other things. Rather than an official category of food, the term ‘superfoods’ is used for marketing purposes. But coming to our main question, if they’re bad for health, why are they still called superfoods?
The nomenclature itself is non-scientific, thus worded to gain people’s attention and make them buy these foods in larger quantities. Much like shining a spotlight on your average Joe-with-a-conscience and portraying him as a hero. The worry is that people will consume too much of these superfoods, unknowingly throwing their bodies into disarray. Plus, while superfoods are certainly good, they do have a streak of bad in them as well, much like our big-screen heroes. It is important to know about these so that you can maintain a balanced diet.
1. Chia Seeds
Chia is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”, and the health benefits of this tiny seed are exactly why the Mayans and Aztecs valued it. Fast-forward to today and practically every Instagram influencer has mentioned chia seeds at least one. Talk about popularity! It has antioxidants, great for health and useful to prevent ageing. Their high soluble fiber content enables them to absorb large quantities of water and expand in your stomach. This should theoretically make your feel more full, discouraging you from eating more and helping in weight management.
However, what most people don’t realize is that eating chia seeds often requires adequate hydration, as your digestive system needs the water to work on the fiber. You may be on the receiving end of abdominal issues and pain, constipation, gas and digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Due to their ability to soak 10 to 12 times their weight in liquid, chia seeds can easily obstruct your oesophagus or cause choking sensations by lodging in your throat. Lastly, studies suggest that the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds, may be linked to prostate cancer. We wonder what the Mayans would think of these discoveries.
Kale salads and smoothies are all the rage, trending as much as the Kardashians usually do. While we’d rather not say whether or not it is harmful to ‘keep up with the Kardashians’; it sure can be harmful gobbling down kale. Kale is definitely a healthy and nutritious food, containing vitamin C, iron and phytochemicals. However, it can lead to hypothyroidism. Plus, eating non-organic kale means you could be eating kale contaminated with harmful carcinogenic pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Gleeful children will delight to see broccoli up on this list. Broccoli contains loads of vitamins, minerals, bioactive compounds and fiber, and is great for your body whether eaten raw or cooked. The chemicals in broccoli help to regulate estrogen levels in the body. However, eat too much, and you throw your hormones for a toss. It is high in vitamin K, which makes blood thinners practically ineffective. Broccoli is a type of cruciferous vegetable that makes a chemical called sulforaphane in self defense. This is said to be harmful, and people with liver problems or sensitivity to chemicals may experience side effects. It also interferes with the functions of the thyroid, which is why people with hypothyroidism must be careful of their broccoli consumption.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are hailed as the better potato as it is lower on the glycemic index. It is also very nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin B6, calcium, vitamin C, proteins and potassium. However, hold back on your consumption of sweet potatoes as it can lead to spikes in your blood sugar. Roasting or baking them, which happens to be the popular way of preparing them, actually increases the sugar content. People who have or have had issues with their kidneys also need to exercise caution (though some regular exercise is beneficial too). With high amounts of dietary oxalate and potassium, these ‘sweet’ guys can actually lead to more obstructions and impair the function of your kidneys. Not so sweet after all, are they?
One last thing to be aware of is that sweet potatoes can easily be contaminated by pesticides. Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases a ranking of products according to how likely it is that they are contaminated. Sweet potatoes came in at number 30 for 2020.
5. Brazil Nuts
Let’s get real, all of us have been guilty of eating one too many nuts while absent-mindedly watching Netflix at some point. While that isn’t a problem with most common nuts like cashews or pistachios, it starts getting problematic with Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts contain loads of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. They have been known to have health benefits like helping reduce inflammation, improving thyroid and heart functions and helping your brain as well. They have a particularly high content of selenium, a type of mineral with antioxidant properties.
But this is why they’re also dangerous. Too much selenium can lead to breathing problems, kidney issues and selenium toxicity called selenosis. Even if it isn’t this bad, too much selenium can still be harmful, potentially leading to diabetes. Limit yourself (that’s right, enforce some self-control) to one to three Brazil nuts a day, and you’re good to go.
The Final Verdict
Of course we have a say, and of course we’re going to call it the final verdict. In reality, it’s just some sound advice we’ve heard several nutritionists give – unfortunately they don’t trend as much on Instagram. Eat any of these superfoods in moderation and as part of a balanced diet and you should do fine. Any major changes are best when recommended by a professional, even if the 1 million hashtags recommended you do it. There’s no real villainy here, except when we choose to blindly follow trends and make our bodies deal with the aftermath. Stay smart, stay healthy.