Everything is relative. That phrase couldn’t be more true when it comes to “Superfoods.”
In my new parody, Yours in Wellness, Krystal Heeling, Letters from the Wellness Industry, I write about wellness being a luxury brand and how “superfoods” is a buzzword used to sell shakes, supplements, pricey detoxes, manicured meals and more. While it’s true that some foods are more nutrient-dense than others, for many people on our planet, anything edible or potable is super. Americans don’t often appreciate how good we have it. But even in America, many people have reduced access to healthier foods. I mean, it’d be a super-duper feat for everyone in the US to have access to locally-grown or organic food at affordable prices, but we’re not there yet. It’d be super if everyone found a way to eat a budget- and health-friendly diet between work, long commutes and raising kids, but we aren’t there yet.
The concept of “superfoods” is nonexistent in developing nations. It’s absurd. Such a concept could only succeed in a rich country with an abundance of food choices. But even here, people are living on tight budgets, in underserved areas with little access to healthy food options, and the influencers and warriors of all-things wellness essentially ignore them.
In the US, a large amount of people live in food swamps, areas where there’s a paucity of healthy, organic foods but an abundance of low-nutrient, processed crap. There are also folks stuck in food deserts, areas that lack locally-grown, healthy, organic foods. Usually there’s a lack of green space in both food deserts and food swamps, meaning that there isn’t a lot of safe places for kids to play and adults to exercise. Then there are the long commutes to and from low-paying jobs. Then there’s financial stress. I mean, what a combination for long-term chronic health conditions, right? It’s unfortunate we don’t aggressively tackle these issues before the chronic health conditions start. Not only would we cut down on our health costs, but people would feel better too. Figuring out how to expand access to healthier food options and teaching people how to eat healthy on a budget are just as super as microalgae supplements, elixirs and Detox bundles.
It’s also important to remember that calories still matter when it comes to superfoods. Some would argue that makes them “less super,” but still: like all food, they can pack on the pounds if you don’t monitor your calories. You might be better off eating less of cheaper food that is not considered super than ingesting a bunch of superfoods.
While our first-world ways have given rise to the privilege of superfoods, they also created major health issues that would make our hunter-gatherer ancestors cringe. I often consider the irony of the wellness industry growing out of a need to address the chronic health conditions that come with being a rich, industrialized nation. There’s the inescapable, super-sophisticated food industry that showers us with endless fattening and sugary goodies. There’s our marriage between sitting & technology, either for work or pleasure, that has contributed to the obesity epidemic, Type 2 Diabetes, sleep disturbances, chronic back pain, eye issues, high blood pressure etc…. in both adults and kids. When I was growing up, obesity in kids was rare. Now it’s commonplace. And much like dominos, one or two health issues often lead to more. It’s also not limited to physical health. A plethora of mental issues is linked to overuse of social media, too much sitting, not enough time in nature, poor sleep and inadequate exercise. For example, depression. That’s something I’ve struggled with off and on, and I know that the best thing I can do for myself when I find myself slipping into a depressive mode, is turn off my phone and go for a run in the woods. I mean, we evolved with trees and plants and grass and animals. Our nervous system “knows” this. Nature is the healing rhythm that can help reset troubled nerves. But too often people choose screens and scrolling over trees and walking, to the point that some people have Nature Deficit Disorder.
In addition to superfoods, there are tons of wellness products on the market that people with money can buy. Folks who hoard such products are endearingly called Wellness Junkies. The amount of expensive products is why wellness is not only a luxury brand but fundamentally reductive. It reduces health to juices, mixes, high-tech workout gear, capsules, ingredients, avoiding toxins, digital Apps, essential oils, nontoxic furniture and pillow cases… when, perhaps, the most ideal brand of wellness is much more simple, minimalist and getting back to the basic principles of common sense, moderation and movement. True wellness isn’t expensive, nor is it reductive. Anyone, on any budget, can take part in wellness and live a healthier life. Sure, there is a time and place for all that “stuff” and the saunas, fat wraps and superfoods, but don’t let it cloud the bigger picture. Think of the forest, not the tree.
Thanks for reading,
To read more about my take on “Superfoods” and this idea that wellness is a luxury brand, I invite you to read or listen to my short comedic parody, Yours in Wellness, Krystal Heeling. It’s available on Amazon, and the audiobook is available at several other places. If you google “Yours in Wellness, Krystal Heeling” and audiobook, you’ll find it. 🙂
Also, hope you guys consider subscribing or checking out my health podcast, Causes or Cures. I’ve been fortunate to have some great researchers and top doctors come on and discuss trending health topics. Speaking of wellness products, I just posted a series of podcasts on popular commercial supplements and natural health products. Specifically, I did a podcast on CBD products, Spirulina and Chlorella and the most popular supplements for male infertility and erectile dysfunction disorder. Check them out! And if you guys ever have a topic you want me to discuss, write me. I love suggestions.
Someone recently wrote me and asked me who sponsors my podcast. Oh Lord, no one. It’s a side project, and while I research each topic and guest thoroughly before doing each episode, it’s not high-tech, and I don’t have any sponsors or anything like that. I do it myself from my living room in New York City and call each guest via Skype or Zoom. This means that I can assure you that I am not being paid by anyone to say or do anything that would influence you one way or the other.
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