How to Judge a "Superfood"

Most nutrition trends aren’t worth your time. But there are a few exceptions.

Nutrition trends usually have no bearing. The superfood trend, on the other hand, might be a different story. (Photo: Hannah McCaughey)
Nutrition trends usually have no bearing. The superfood trend, on the other hand, might be a different story.

I love food. Not just because it tastes great, but because it’s fuel for my body. When it comes to powering my life in the water or on the beach, proper nutrition is just as important as my training regimen. And while I tend to take a fairly simple approach to my eating habits, focusing predominantly on nutrient-dense and locally sourced whole foods, I also believe in occasionally challenging my body and trying out new ingredients or methods that seem promising. Once I give something a reasonable shot, I’m quick to move on if I don’t see results.

Take the fruitarian diet, for example. Years ago, people were calling it a surefire way to detox, so I decided to see for myself. For a few weeks I ate only fruit and low-starch vegetables for breakfast and lunch. I'd heard that it might give my digestive system ample chance to rest and reset on a daily basis, so I could put more energy toward supporting my physical efforts. The effects were disappointing: mood swings, bloating, and sluggishness during my workouts. Shortly after, I returned to my normal routine.

Nutrition trends get a bad rap—and for good reason. We’re constantly crowning a new superfood and celebrating different supplements before there’s sufficient research to back up the claims. However, every so often a certain food or way of eating does, in fact, offer serious health and performance benefits. I am a big believer in butter coffee, turmeric, and medicinal mushrooms. These items have a material impact on how I feel and perform, and I’ve made them part of my daily diet.

When it comes to deciding what to test, I stick to real foods, steering clear of anything that seems like it was made in a factory. I’d rather eat fish eyes than a manufactured substance whose name I can’t pronounce. I live half the year in Hawaii, where there are a huge number of ingredients that aren’t readily available on the mainland—like cherimoya—and many of them are extremely nutritious.

Thankfully, our collective culture has begun to focus more on what we put into our bodies and where it comes from, and grocery stores are reflecting that shift. With a large selection of products that align with a whole-foods-only approach, it’s easier than ever to experiment healthily.

From Outside Magazine, September 2018
Filed To: NutritionDietWellness
Lead Photo: Hannah McCaughey
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