Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Superfruits or Super hype?

Source: NY Times, is this in your fruit bowl?

Recently, I was contacted by one of my favorite writers who was working on a story about superfruits.  She asked me if I had time for an interview and said “I'll be talking to some hard core sciencey types, but also was wondering if I could get your Laurenly real world insight (a la, "do you really think a Dunkin Donuts Acai Slushee will keep cancer at bay?"). While I was fairly very insulted not to be regarded as “hard core and sciencey” (why did I bother with the whole Masters of Science? Do I need a PhD?) I obliged. My Laurenly opinions:

Most fruits are super:
When it comes to produce (and not gummy candy or “juice” drinks) brightly colored means beneficial. There are food trends much like fashion trends. While we’re hearing about maxi skirts, minis are just fine. The same goes for acai and blueberries. Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is inferior.

Don’t look to vodka for your vitamins:
Did you see the article, last month, in the New York Times about Dragon fruit? There’s a new superfruit on the block (see photo above, not sure I want to eat that). “Skyy is introducing a dragon-fruit-flavor vodka spring. Celestial Seasonings, the Colorado-based stalwart of herbal infusions, recently began pairing powdered dragon fruit with green tea. There’s a Sumatra Dragon fruit version of Bai, a thirst quencher made from the unroasted fruit of the coffee plant; a line of Lite Pom that blends a few swigs of dragon fruit with pomegranate juice; and a new pitaya-tinged cream liqueur called Dragon Kiss.”

This is where popularity turns into perversion. To answer the question above, nothing at a doughnut shop is improving your health. The same goes for flavored vodka with a smidgen of fruit (the real sign a superfruit has arrived). Quality counts and if you sample superfruits seek out a something as close to the original source as possible.

Superfruits and foods may be new to us but not necessarily new:
Though superfruits may seem to suddenly pop up, many of them have been consumed for thousands of years. I am a big Goji berry fan (though a client almost ruined them for me saying they taste like feet). Lest you think superfruits are only about heart health and cancer prevention gojis are also sexual tonics. I wrote about them last year for Valentines Day. I love the cocoa dusted gojis.

Pomegranates are also on my shopping list when they are available. With a family history of heart disease, I put on rubber gloves and shell those slippery seeds. I also add an ounce of pure pomegranate juice to seltzer every so often.

What ever happened to eating seasonally and locally?
It’s strange to me that on one hand we’re encouraging people to shop at farmers’ markets and join CSA’s. In another breath we’re mentioning mangosteen. There’s no mangosteen at my local market or anywhere close. There are delicious fruits and vegetables that I recognize and can pronounce. 
It’s fine if you want to try dragon fruit (though the Times didn’t rave about it’s taste despite its “good looks”), just don’t forget about the plums, blackberries and cherries that are all “super” right now.
What’s your verdict on superfruits- super or hyped? What’s the most silly superfruit use you’ve seen? Have you tried goji berries, acai or dragon fruit?


  1. Agreed. Suggesting that the only worthwhile fruits are the ones you have to pay $10+ for at specialty health food stores isn't so helpful, especially when people should be encouraged to eat more produce in general! Good ol' berries and apples and oranges are more affordable (even the organic ones) and accessible.

    BTW, I don't love goji berries on their own, but i really love putting them in my banana bread or granola. Go figure.

  2. The fruit looks cool...but it doesn't taste at all, not to mention it's pricy.

  3. Angie, that's the confusing part. No matter how interesting or nutritious, why should we consume tasteless or uninteresting fruits/foods? Justine, you bring up a good point- should I eat a conventional/sprayed mangosteen or an organic apple? I vote apple.

  4. "Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is inferior. " - So true!
    Dragonfruit isn't even all that "super"; it's not that high in antioxidants (a study concluded you're better off eating a banana-, it doesn't taste like much, and is expensive. Being exotic and pretty warrants a NYTimes article?
    If people become more open to produce from trying "new", foreign things, that's great... but with all these funky fruits, based on my people watching while grocery shopping (nutritionists version of a cafe? hah), most just get sucked into the hype and replace produce with sugary juices or powder/supplement versions.
    I'm sure mangosteen and star fruit shipped from asia are great, but when berries/peaches are in season at the farmers market, nothing tastes better... the best fruits/veggies for you are whichever ones you actually eat, right?

  5. Carolyn it's like the wife versus the girlfriend. I would suggest, more times than not, men stay with their wife! And yes, we can't use the superfruit designation to justify drinking juice or eating things we usually wouldn't.

  6. I agree that most fruit is super! For that reason I usually don't pay much attention to the "superfruit" crazes. In some ways though I guess they are good PR for fruit, which generally doesn't have the greatest advertising budget. If people are going to jump on a trendy food wagon, may as well be for a superfruit.

  7. Thank you! I find this 'super fruit' concept so annoying. I've always felt it was just a marketing ploy. Having said that, I agree with Lisa above, it's fruit that the term is glamming up and if that makes more people eat fruit then there's no harm in that.

    I usually stick to what's familiar so I have not tried acai or dragonfruit but I have tried Goji berries in baked goods and they are delicious.

  8. I was just reading Fitness magazine and saw you got a mention!! That was really cool to read! I dont have time to read this whole post but I'll come back!

  9. I agree with you completely! Like you and Rebecca said, all fruits are super fruits! :)

  10. I'm pretty tired of all the hype surrounding super fruits and super foods. I think if everyone would focused on eating whole veggies and fruits that are (mostly) locally grown, people would be a lot healthier. And I think it's a shame that super this and super that can make "regular" fruits and veggies seem less than "super."

  11. "Most fruits are super." Love it! I'm all for learning about new fruits and their benefits, but that shouldn't diminish the value of the antioxidants in a simple fistful of blueberries.

  12. Yep! All fruits are super fruits. Soon we'll see more "super" crazes like super vegetables, super nuts...

    Also agree with you about local vs. organic. I would much rather eat an non-local organic apple than a local apple sprayed with pesticides.

  13. I think they are super-hyped. They are in the spotlight for 15 minutes and then "experts" will move on to something else. I can't keep up!

  14. I know Ameena and that "can't keep up" feeling sends many people (of course not you) away from the fruit and headed toward the junk...

  15. Oh I love this post!! I agree most fruit are super!!

  16. Lauren,

    I totally agree. I loved what you said about the hype. I have to laugh when I realize the fruit has been on the planet for uh I dono, a millennium. *chuckles* The acai berry for example is lower in antioxidants than the blueberry. Wouldn't ya know, blueberries are in my own backyard! Must less expensive then flying it frozen for the Amazon LOL. I do admit I still put it in my smoothie! Have I bought the hype? My vita-mix blender would say, "Yepper!" I have the on going debate in my mind about blending vs juicing. I can see the benefit of ingesting the "entire" fruit and vegetable. Blending does a wonderful job in aiding the mastication process. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the pros/cons of each. I just feel I'm missing something by juicing. Then again I feel you can get more nutrients in your system by juicing. Then again, how much can I digest in one serving anyway?

    BTW Lauren, you are gorgeous! What is your secret?