"Super" is the new trend, but is it just that—a trend? Our health editor-at-large, Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., CNS, weighs in on popular foods and products to tell you if the added “super” ingredients make your purchase worth the money.
“It’s great to have yogurt, but it’s more important that it’s lower in fat and lower in sugar than if it has acai or blueberries in it,” she says. Read your ingredients—blueberries and acai aren’t in the top five for Yoplait’s Yo-Plus Acai Blueberry yogurt, so you probably won’t benefit from them.
“There’s a lot of evidence that omega-3 [fatty acids] are good for heart health," says Fernstrom. "The problem to adding it to different foods is how much of it is actually there that is going to make a difference.” Smart Balance's Omega peanut butter is still great for protein, but don’t eat it specifically for the benefits of omega-3. The best way to get your omega-3 is through foods that naturally have it like salmon or walnuts.
“This is sort of the worlds-colliding type of superfood," says Fernstrom. "Kashi's Heart to Heart cereal contains green tea, but why don’t you just drink green tea [to get the benefits of it]?” To add something that’s not naturally found in a product can be okay, but you’re not looking for that in cereal. It’s more important to look for something that’s low in sugar and high in fiber.
“It’s a nice mini-protein bar," Fernstrom says. "There’s nothing that is particularly health-promoting about these, nor is it a bad choice.” Only eat foods with superfood ingredients because you really enjoy them. If you’re eating them for the "super" benefits, the only thing you’re getting from it is extra calories.
“Pomegranate juice is excellent," Fernstrom says. "It’s a dark juice that’s filled with antioxidants, but very high in calories. The Pom people did something very smart by diluting it with tea.” Again, it’s not particularly health-promoting, but it’s a tasty beverage for less calories. Buzz words catch your attention, but may not necessarily help your health.
Do the addition of blueberries, Kamut grain and omega-3s make this cereal better than others? “The important thing is to read the labels and find the buzz words and see how much of it is there,” says Fernstrom. With Kamut or not, you’ll reap the benefits of whole grains in any cereal. All three components are great for you, but you shouldn't turn to cereal as your primary source of antioxidants or omega-3s.
“Herbal Essences shampoo has the same ingredients as any other shampoo," Fernstrom points out. "The sixth ingredient is a fruit extract that will contain some acai. How much is there? Does it even matter if it’s in there?” We’re wary of the idea that a hint of fruit extract will help keep the color in your hair, but hey, if you like the scent, go for it.