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Commentary: 'Superfruits' don't have superpowers

January 31, 2013|By Terisha Gamboa

Just like fashion, foods have trends, especially when it comes to the promotion of good health.

This is strange because we usually think of food being just food, nothing too special. However, our society has recently been on a health watch, and foods high in antioxidants, vitamins, proteins and phytochemicals (also known as "superfoods") have been all the rage to the U.S. population. This is especially prevalent as the New Year commences; many people make resolutions to get on a health kick.

One type of food that has the "super" seal is exotic fruit. According to the January 2013 issue of Time, odd-looking fruits with unheard-of names are the hottest food this year. For example, the pitaya fruit from Latin America was featured because it is high in fiber and antioxidants, helping reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

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Other emerging fruits include golden berry, baobab fruit and mangosteen. These fruits contain all sorts of nutritional benefits that somehow supernaturally transform our bodies. Although we all would like to believe in this supernatural transformation, it is not the case. "Superfruits" and "superfoods" are misleading to the public because they may not be as healthy as they seem.

A reason these fruits may not be as healthy is simply too much hype. The term "superfruit" is just used to label these natural products. According to Tufts University nutrition professor Jeffrey Blumberg, marketers, not the FDA, established the label "superfruit." Also, most of these exotic fruits are imported from other countries, which means they are expensive and high quality, and when people usually hear this, they automatically think it is worth consuming. On the contrary, marketers of these fruits use labels to make a profit.

Also, "superfruits" contain little to no additional health benefits compared with commonly eaten fruits. Blumberg stated that marketers trick the public into thinking these foods provide additional health benefits, such as more fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, which is not entirely true. Research has shown that these exotic fruits are just as healthy and contain the same nutrients as the everyday apple or banana.

Some "superfruits" may have additional benefits to specific areas in the body. For instance, lingonberry contains a photochemical called arbutin to fight urinary-tract infections. This is helpful, but it won't hurt sticking to pomegranates or cranberries, both of which help this problem and are easier to purchase.

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