Health food fads: Are they worth the hype?

Health food fads. We’ve all heard of the latest, whether it’s a celebrity claim or a nutritionist recommendation, but are they worth forking money out for?

Here are common superfoods that have all appeared on the radar at one time or another promising impressive benefits.  Are they worth the hype?

  1. Spiralized food
    What is it? The Spiralizer, a contraption that thinly slices your veggies, has made it easier for people to get more veg into their diet in different ways. What are the benefits? The most common vegetable used in the Spiralizer is the courgette, which is low in calories. A cup of spiralized courgette (also known as courgetti) contains only 20 calories, whilst normal spaghetti contains 220 calories per cup. Courgettes also contain dietary fibre, folic acid, potassium and vitamin A. Is it worth the hype? The hype surrounding the Spiralizer is justified, it can aid a healthy diet, just don’t be tempted to cut out carbs all together, your body still needs them.
  2. Drinking clay
    What is it? This hit the news when celebrities like actresses Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz admitted in interviews that they’d drank Bentonite clay to get into fighting shape for movie roles. What are the benefits? It may seem like a totally random thing to do but it’s said that, because the clay has a negative electric charge, when ingested it binds to the positively charged toxins in your body, forcing you to then excrete them. Is it worth the hype? Most doctors and nutritionists aren’t fans, pointing out that the body has a system in place to detoxify itself so there’s no need to rely on clay to do this for you. Also, the FSA (UK Food Standards Agency) found high levels of arsenic and lead in some of the different clays sold online, making it not only pointless in many cases, but dangerous too. This is perhaps one fad to give a miss.
  3. Swishing coconut oil
    What is it? Swishing or ‘oil pulling’, is an ancient practice involving swishing the oil around in your mouth. What are the benefits? It's supposed to draw out bacteria and micro-organisms and have a detoxifying effect on the body’s glands and lymph nodes. Is it worth the hype? Whilst experts say there is no proof that the practice can result in skin or health benefits, swishing oil has been proven to improve  oral health.
  4. Chia berry seeds drink
    What is it? These seeds grow from a plant that’s native to South America and become one of the world’s most buzz-worthy foods. What are the benefits? The seeds feel as though they’re filling you up because they absorb 27 times their weight in water and therefore grow into a gel-like substance that makes you feel full, making them a good option for dieters. Chia seeds have earned their ‘super-food’ name because they contain fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, iron and vitamin B1, B2 and B3, making these seeds one of most nutritionally dense food types in the world. Is it worth the hype? This is one fad that is actually worthy of the hype, but they cannot replace other food types. Simply introduce them as an additional boost to an already healthy diet.
  5. Buttery coffee
    What is it? This drink, also known as ‘Fat Black’, ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ and ‘Paleo Coffee’, is huge in America, but experts are divided on whether it’s actually good for you. To make it you mix strong black coffee in a blender with one teaspoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of unsalted, grass-fed butter. The end result should be a creamy, caramel coloured beverage. What are the benefits? Some nutritionists are on board with the idea of ‘using fat to melt fat’ and getting more Omega-3 fatty acids into the diet. However, others think it’s unnecessary to add fat to coffee when you could just get it from foods such as salmon and avocado, which contain lots of other nutrients alongside the healthy fats. Is it worth the hype? The coffee contains around 500 calories and that could make you feel quite sick whilst you get used to ingesting so much butter and oil in one sitting. Drinking it can also leave a film of oily residue on the lips. The jury’s out as to whether this will be a fleeting fad or become a mainstay of people’s morning routines.
  6. Bone broth
    What is it? What makes bone broth different from standard stock is that it’s cooked for anywhere between 24-48 hours (this is where a slow cooker comes in handy) whilst stock can be made in 4-6 hours. The long cooking time of bone broth is designed to draw out not only lots of protein, marrow and the gelatine from the joints, but also the minerals from the bones. The bones should actually crumble in your hands after the allotted cooking time. Most commonly chicken carcasses are used (ensuring that you’re really getting your money’s worth from your roast chicken on a Sunday), but lamb and beef bones work too. What the benefits? Fans of drinking bone broth say that extracting all of the goodness from the bones can help decrease cellulite, boost the immune system, heal a leaky gut, plump up skin and improve joint health. Is it worth the hype? Nutritionists and health experts mostly agree that the claims are ‘overblown’, saying that eating bone broth certainly won’t do you any harm and you may well be one of those who feel a real health improvement after regular consumption, but it’s not quite the ‘miracle’ food it’s made out to be.
  7. Skinny popcorn
    What is it? One of the big selling points of popcorn is how low-calorie it is, one 30g bag can have between 88 and 113 calories. And the good news is, it’s actually quite good for you compared to other ‘fast food’ snacks. What are the benefits? Popcorn is rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant which is found in plant-based foods and helps to neutralise free-radicals. In fact, popcorn contains more polyphenols than most fruit. It’s also a source of fibre whilst being gluten and wheat free. But, it’s important that you choose the ‘right’ kind of popcorn. Stay away from buttery varieties and microwave packs, go for natural popcorn with few additives. Buy kernels and pop it on the hob the old-fashioned way or, try the pre-popped healthy packs.
  8. cauliflower
    What is it? The white curd vegetable that resembles broccoli, cauliflower has always been a staple of the British diet. What are the benefits? Because cauliflower is low in both fat and carbs, it makes it a great food type for most dieters. The cruciferous veggie is also full of folate, fibre and vitamin C making it a bonafide health food. People are getting clever with their use of cauliflower and using it as a substitute for potatoes by making cauliflower mash or turning it into ‘rice’ by pulsing it in a food processor until it resembles little grains. It’s also being used as a pizza base by mixing it with eggs and cheese. Is it worth the hype? There are lots of recipes online so give it a go. But, whilst cauliflower is healthy, try to eat it in moderation or you may feel a little bloated and gassy.

Ashleigh Gibbs