Superfoods seem to be everywhere nowadays. Are you confused about all the superfood products out there? Not sure what superfoods are, where they come from, why you need them and what product to choose?
You are not alone! A whopping 80% of our social media following is right there with you. 3 years ago, after using superfoods already for several years myself, I decided to dig deeper… I wanted more transparency and I believed more education was needed. What I found out was shocking....
1. SUPERFOOD PRODUCTS ARE NOT ALWAYS HEALTHY
Ever noticed the huge price differences between brands? Wonder how that is possible? Turns out 99% of the brands out there add some crazy stuff to their products to trick you. Things I came across:
- Adding sweeteners like stevia to make the mixes taste better. Sweeteners trick your brain and can make you more hungry afterwards.
- Natural flavorings can basically be anything, including highly processed foods - not that healthy after all...
- Acai berry mixes that only contain 2% of acai powder - nothing super about that!
- Use of cheap ingredients as fillers - for example flax seed powder. I even came across brands where that is their main ingredient in green superfood mixes.
- Adding a couple of liters of cheap oil to the production process to make the product less powdery, which results in less cleaning costs of the factory afterwards. And no, they are not required to put this on the label!
Learning: Read your labels - and not only the nutrition facts but also the ingredient list (remember: the ingredients are listed from highest content to lowest content). Are all these ingredients actually nutrient-dense and natural?
2. QUALITY TESTING IS NOT THE STANDARD
You would think that every batch of superfood ingredients coming in is tested for at least pesticides, herbicides and bacteria? WRONG! Usually, the answers you receive from superfood wholesalers are: “We tested the batch from this particular supplier last year”, “we do some randomized testing, however, this batch was not included” or “you’ll get an ‘internal’ lab report”. This is very disappointing, because:
- They import tons of the same batch worth over hundreds of thousands of Euros and they are too cheap to do a 70 Euro test!
- These wholesalers will never tell you from which exact region or farm they get their ingredients, so you have absolutely no proof that what they are saying is true.
- Same goes for internal testing reports: if there is no external accountability, how can you know that what they say is actually true?
- These ingredients are sometimes shipped overseas in large containers for several weeks and there is always a high risk of contamination.
Learning: Superfoods are powerful nutrient-dense ingredients with many health benefits. However, many producers and wholesalers don’t really care about making sure that they retain all of these health benefits! Try to search for brands who require or do 3rd party lab testing on every single batch.
3. SUPERFOODS FROM CHINA ARE ALL ORGANIC
Isn’t that funny? Every country or region has their own organic certification laws and so does China. I am not saying every ingredient from China is bad, but their organic standards are generally much lower than in Europe and very few ingredients grown there would meet European organic standards. A hell of a lot of ingredients are all grown organically there lately: from wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina to chlorella - and all for a fraction of the price of those in Europe! Most superfood brands buy their superfoods from a handful of large wholesalers and simply choose the cheapest ingredients to optimize their profit. A couple of interesting examples I want to point out here:
- Until 2 years ago, organic spirulina and chlorella were only to be found in China. Why you might wonder? As these ingredients are algaes and not vegetables, there was no description in the European law of how these ingredients would have to be cultivated in order to be recognized as organic.
However, when organic spirulina and chlorella was imported, brands could say it was organic.In the past 12 months this has slowly started to change and there are some organic sources of spirulina available in France and chlorella in Germany. Yes, it is 5x the price, but clean farming, no fishy taste and amazing nutritional values makes it worth it.
- 75% of wheatgrass and barley grass comes from China. Yes, again it is waayyy cheaper than sourcing it from Germany or New Zealand, for example, but it also has a completely different color, smell and taste. Wheat- and barley grass from Germany actually taste like real grass!
Learning: It matters where your superfoods come from! Look for brands that are transparently sharing the country of origin on their packaging and on the website.
4. EXPLOITING PEOPLE AT ORIGIN
Many superfoods (not all!) come from developing countries like Brazil, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania… the soil is amazing in these countries and as a result, many nutrient-dense superfoods come from there. Are we stealing their healthy food? Turns out responsibly exporting these foods can boost the local economy and well-being of the people. However, not always…
- Larger wholesalers’ main interest is to buy the ingredients as cheaply as possible and sell them at the highest price to optimize their profit. Brands buying from these wholesalers have no idea what is going on at the source.
- Brands that source directly or from smaller independent suppliers and have a good relationship with them know exactly where the ingredients are coming from - more than just the country of origin.
Learning: Try to search for brands who source directly and sustainably, or work with smaller independent partners. Is giving back at the source one of their core values? Do they communicate transparently where the superfood ingredients are coming from?
5. THE LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY
Is your mind blown, too? The whole point of these superfood ingredients is to make you healthy! It was so disappointing to learn that a large number of people are in the superfood business to make a quick buck. My wish is that more people in the health food world start taking responsibility for their actions: as a health food company your role is to not only provide the highest quality health products, but also to educate consumers about how to live healthier and make the world a better place - everywhere!
Wondering who I am? Why I know all this information? Why I decided to share this with you? I am the founder of Your Super. Together with holistic nutritionists, we created 7 functional superfood mixes to healthy eating easier. Little did I know what I got myself into 3 years ago…
I am a health geek, super passionate and driven to change the current industry. At Your Super we do things differently and we do care! I am not saying that we are perfect. However, we are committed to making a change and doing things differently - even if it costs us more!
We are building a 100% transparent supply chain and source directly at origin whenever possible or otherwise partner up with farmer cooperatives. While 3rd party lab testing is done by all our suppliers, we test all our ingredients before and after production in 3rd party labs to triple check.
You can read more about my personal story here.
P.S. Why do you need superfoods?
80% of the western population doesn't consume enough micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) on a daily basis. Everyone knows they should eat more fruit and veggies, but life gets busy! I totally get it and that’s where superfoods can help you increase your natural vitamin and mineral intake one spoonful at the time. Simply add them to water, smoothies, breakfast or snacks.