4 superfoods that might not be so super

Quinoa by Steven Jackson

Quinoa by Steven Jackson (CC BY 2.0)

Just eat some of them on a regular basis and they will boost your health. The so-called superfoods are increasing in popularity worldwide and you too have probably tried spelt bread, blueberries, kale or chia seeds lately. Most superfoods have proven positive effects on your health, but what people often forget is that there can be downsides as well. After all, the term superfoods wasn’t invented by medical professionals and is mostly used as a marketing tool. We’ve made a short list of superfoods that can also have negative effects on your body when eaten to excess or incorrectly.


This seed, originating in the Andean region of South America, is known for its high protein levels. This makes the seed popular, especially amongst vegetarians and vegans. Apart from the protein, it is also gluten and cholesterol free. The seed contains saponins, a bitter coating (part of the plant’s defense mechanism), and these molecules can cause irritation to the stomach by making small “holes” in your gut. However, in most cases the saponins are removed when the grains are processed for commercial use.

Goji berries

Goji berries by Foodista (CC BY 2.0)

Goji berries

Also known as the wolfberry, native to China, these berries have been eaten for generations to boost longevity. Improving eyesight, protecting the liver and boosting the immune system are often mentioned when discussing the effects of these dried red berries. The berries contain lots of antioxidants and are even supposed to help cancer patients respond better to treatment. A downside of goji berries is that they can have adverse interactions with some drugs such as blood thinners, diabetes drugs and blood pressure medication. Besides, one red apple usually contains just as many antioxidants as 13 glasses of goji berry juice.


This green vegetable is seen as one of the healthiest foods there is. It is said that kale can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, that it makes your bones stronger and that it can protect you from developing asthma and other diseases. However, experts said that raw kale can have some negative side effects: when eaten frequently, it can cause hypothyroidism in which the thyroid does not produce enough of certain hormones which are essential for the regulation of metabolism. The risk of developing hypothyroidism is supposed to be significantly lower when cooking the vegetable.

Kale by David Berkowitz

Kale by David Berkowitz (CC BY 2.0)

Chia seeds

Although they mostly have positive effects, there is one thing that you should know about chia seeds. They contain phytic acid which interrupts the absorption of other vitamins and minerals that are taken at the same time. However, you can prevent this by adding some vitamin C to the meal or juice that you prepare.

Of course we don’t want you to get rid of all the superfoods in your kitchen cupboard now, but do always keep in mind that, in the end, superfoods are just like any other food. They may have plenty of health advantages, but excessive use is probably never a good thing.

“A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems,” nutrition expert Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD told the American Heart Association. “They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet.”

Eating too much of one type of food may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need, Kris-Etherton said. Most importantly you should have a varied diet which includes some of these superfoods.