2020: The Year Superfoods Die
Updated: Dec 25, 2020
It all started in 2010 when Saskatoon Farmers brought their berries to the den of fire breathing reptiles. That's when I knew it would soon be over. Saskatoons were the beginning of the recycled race up Superfood mountain.
It's time to let go folks. The Holy Grail of food does not exist. It only ever existed in the limited scope of 'nutritionism' and 'parking lot science.' This quest started when we decided to view food as the sum of its parts (nutritionism,) instead of just as food. It was cheered on greatly by what Michael Pollan has called 'parking lot science.'
"You measure what you can see, and you inevitably decide that what you can see is what matters. Cholesterol is a classic example. It’s the first factor related to heart disease that we could measure. So, the science got obsessed with cholesterol, and cholesterol became the cause of heart disease, and dietary cholesterol was what you had to eliminate. This is parking lot science. It’s based on the parable of a man who loses his key in a parking lot at night. He spends all his time looking for it under the lights even though he knows that’s not where he lost it, because that’s where he can see best." -Michael Pollan
Here is the best way I can fully explain this to you - it's a little exercise I do in my seminar 'There's no such thing as healthy food" The exercise is called "The Race up Superfood Mountain."
It involves me, a white board and 2 or 3 markers (dry erase markers please - not the permanent markers that I accidentally used all over MB Hydro's Whiteboards once - cause that was embarrassing.)
It looks a bit like this: I draw a mountain (I am infamous for my terribly drawn diagrams that still make sense) and we divide it up between decades. Then the audience shouts out all the superfoods they have ever heard of in their lifetime and we try to place it in the right decade - the decade the NY Times decided it was worth writing about. Haha.
The start of a badly drawn Superfood Mountain diagram:
We start with "An Apple a Day," in the 80s. You see, Vitamin C was the first real superstar nutrient that we could see under a microscope and we were pretty sure we knew why it mattered. You know, Scurvy and all that. So, Apple. Turned out Celery had negative calories, so clearly it mattered a lot for a while. Then Vitamin A appeared in the 'parking lot' and people ate so many carrots they turned orange. Milk was a superfood - after we added vitamins to it (eye roll emoji here pls.) Grapes and their Resveratrol surfaced in the 90s, giving red wine some slack. Then Acai, Gogi and Pomegranate (I think it was Pomegranate that came awfully close to saving us from Cancer, but alas, it was a false-positive.) Bananas had their 15 minutes for potassium but were later overshadowed by avocados, which sustained a much longer reign than bananas. Why? ...because we realized sugar wasn't awesome - and because avocados ALSO had good fats along with potassium and magnesium. Superstars. Coffee had a minute here and there, depending which study you read, on which day, in which coffee shop, and on which side of town. Almonds. Flax oil. Olive Oil. Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is worth a special mention - it has stayed on the charts like Debbie Boone's "You light up my life." It may never leave. Lastly, I'm in Canada, so we must end with Kale. It didn't really get here till the 00's. However I believe its rise up the mountain, to become the crowning king, started in the 90s in the US. Kale was the true end of the competition, but no one noticed. Then Saskatoons in 2010 happened and I knew FOR SURE it was over. Unfortunately, too many researchers needed to get grants so they had to keep rehashing EVERYTHING. Hence, we started recycling after that, and getting desperate. You know, like algae.
So, if you're in a room with me, this is what Superfood Mountain looks like by the time we are done - additional notes are some of the likely verbal comments I would have made as we went long:
At this point is where something magical (in a deflating kind of way,) always happens.
I ask the audience: "So, what do all of these super-duper foods all have in common?"
I never get the answer I am looking for and that I never get it is a testament to the point I am making here. The answers they give are logical, according to how we have all been trained to think about food by nutritionism: "they all have antioxidants?" or "they are high in certain vitamins?" "they all have omega 3?"
"Nope," I say to everyone and I pause..... "they are all just food."
"Every single food known to man has had it's 15 minutes. Can we stop now?"
Most of the participants at this seminar never think about food the same way again and they certainly never read a nutritional study the same way again. In fact, many stop reading them all together and just start eating food.
It's time to call it. Time of death, 2020.
Sonia (aka #theavocadolady)