Five Superfoods Worth Reconsidering

In recent years, a plethora of “superfoods” have come and gone, and it seems every six months to a year we’re introduced to the latest food staple which will answer our prayers for a one stop solution to healthy living. While none of these foods are by any means unhealthy, they do come with oft-overlooked consequences both nutritionally and culturally which make them worth taking a closer look at. For those with big-picture wellness aspirations, here are a few reasons to rethink making these 5 superfoods a staple of your daily diet.

1. Almond Milk
When it comes to protein rich foods with just the right portion of healthy fats, almonds belong right at the top of the list. Unfortunately, you really don’t get a whole lot of them in a standard serving of almond milk. In fact, Business Insider recently discovered that an entire carton of almond milk contains a mere handful of actual almonds, so in order to get the nutritional benefits of these nuts you’re much better off eating a few handfuls as a snack. Quasi rip-offs aside, the production of this increasingly popular diary alternative isn’t doing the state of California any favors, as it takes about 1.1 gallons of water to harvest a single almond, and most of them are grown in California–which is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its history.

2. Salmon
It stands to reason that those who are concerned with a clean and healthy diet might also advocate for a clean and healthy environment. After all, nature is the ultimate source of all our nutrients. It is worth noting, then, that while this protein rich food is an excellent alternative to red meat, it shouldn’t be overlooked that only a very small percentage of Salmon these days are caught wild while the overwhelming majority is farmed. Farmed salmon are harvested in overcrowded cages which create conditions that spread disease and ultimately ravage the surrounding ecosystem. Anyone concerned with eco-friendly forms of sustenance ought to reconsider choosing this superfood.

3. Coconut Water
Dubbed “Nature’s Sports Drink,” Coconut water is an all-natural alternative to popular pre and post workout drinks such as Gatorade or PowerAde. While coconut water is certainly high in electrolytes and low in sugar, like salmon, its distribution practices make it a questionable choice for advocates of environmental awareness as well as those sensitive to economic inequality. A 2012 article by TIME highlighted the plight of those at the bottom of the coconut water production line, and their exploitation may be reason enough to second guess this as a go-to sports drink alternative.

4. Kale
Considered a superfood staple over the last several years, it’s recently come to light that this versatile green might be contributing to hyperthyroidism, a disease characterized by sudden weight loss, irregular heartbeat, and nervousness or irritability. Admittedly, people prone to such diseases generally need to consume extraordinary amounts of the vegetable in order to be adversely effected.

5. Quinoa
Often confused for a grain, this rock-star superfood has become a juggernaut among health-food lovers over the last year or so, and for good reason. It particularly appeals to vegetarians, as it is one of the few non-meat complete proteins out there. Health-wise, there is very little downside to this superfood. However, much like coconut water, the cultural and economic ramification of brining this product to the masses shouldn’t go overlooked. The demand for this superfood has increased its price dramatically, leaving the poorer people of Peru and Bolivia (who once counted on Quinoa as a staple of their own diets) essentially in the dust. As a result, they must resort to unhealthy imported junk food as a go-to source of nourishment, ultimately spreading malnourishment and other potential health problems to already troubled areas of the world.

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