Friday, June 4, 2010

Superfood Burnout

I think that the Baby Boomers, concerned about preserving their health as they age, are responsible for our obsession with "superfoods" that can protect us from disease. A while ago, the superfood of choice was antioxidant-packed pomegranate juice - particularly when marketed as the Pom Wonderful drink - which might prevent hardening of the arteries and prevent Alzheimer's disease (although the Pom Wonderful website is careful not to make these claims).

More recently, the acai berry, whose antioxidants might prevent cancer and heart disease, has pushed aside pomegranates as the food of choice. Other holier-than-thou, nutrient-rich foods that we should be eating include quinoa, spelt, and heirloom tomatoes.

Of course it's important to think about what you eat. This Sunday's New York Times had a cover article on the horrifying amount of salt in many processed foods, and salt's role in increasing the rates of high blood pressure in Americans. The food industry, meanwhile, is fighting to keep the salt in their foods to cover up the true flavor of their products' ingredients.

I support the slow food movement, avoid processed foods, and cook from scratch as much as I can. I prowl for stone fruit, corn on the cob, strawberries, and figs at the local farmers' markets when I have time. I have a budget, though, and I don't have hours to cook, or shop for the perfect ingredients, each day.

When exactly did eating healthy morph into an obsession with eating the perfect foods? I want my family to eat well, but that doesn't mean I'm sprinkling acai berries on their oatmeal in the morning.

And can you really enjoy your meals if you're too busy either feeling guilty for eating the wrong things, or self-righteous for eating the right ones? What does this superfood obsession say about us as Americans, who always seem to demand simple answers for complex problems such as heart disease?