If we each find our individual reason to live long and prosper, medical science may allow us to live significantly longer. That said, we’re understandably concerned about how to keep going with vitality and panache.
But life is busy, and who has time to pursue the kind of diet and exercise necessary for optimal, sustained health? Well, if we want to be happy, we all need to find it.
And we all have the time — it’s a simple matter of priorities. Still, it’s easier to pop a pill or down a souped-up smoothie rather than plan and prep a diet of fresh, whole food and regularly work out.
And that’s where the hucksters come in. Welcome to the snake oil of our times: the multi-billion dollar superfoods and supplements industries.
In the quest for food with high nutritional value, so-called superfoods fit that bill. They’re often native to foreign lands with exotic names like açaí or goji. More importantly, health benefits enjoyed by the locals — like low cancer rates or greater longevity — are attributed to the food.
That’s the ticket to a sexy health shortcut that sells. Just ask any copywriter.
Thing is, plenty of everyday items — including most berries, whole grains, leafy greens, and many nuts and legumes — have just as many essential nutrients. In other words, there is no such thing as a superfood:
The idea that the profound influence of diet on every aspect of health can be decocted down to one exotic silver bullet (or, alternatively, a scapegoat) would be rather analogous to counting on tiny, super fragments of our favorite super heroes — a Black Widow eyelash hair, or a clipping from Thor’s left middle toenail — to save the day. No, one isolated fragment cannot substitute for the whole.
In other words, you are the totality of what you eat. So the idea is to mix it up with lots of naturally nutritious foods, not hang your hopes on the superfood du jour.
Supplements suck, too
This also goes for those of us — about three out of every four Americans — that believe vitamins, botanicals, probiotics, or protein powders can help us make up for a poor diet. There are some, like pregnant women and the elderly, who can benefit from a multivitamin, which leaves a whole bunch of people who are flushing their money down the toilet.
Worse, thanks to a lack of enforceable FDA oversight, supplements are frequently contaminated and not tested for efficacy or safety. Furthermore, our bodies may convert an overabundance of certain antioxidants into “prooxidants,” which can potentially activate cancer pathways.
The value of supplements and superfoods is solely in their carefully-crafted mystique, not their nutritional makeup. It’s time to stop letting marketers cash in on our hunger for an easy answer, and start realizing the true hero of longevity is what your mom told you all along:
Eat your veggies, and lots of them.