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Navitas Organics Blog

Ask the Chef: Is it Possible to Overeat Superfoods?

Posted by Julie Morris, Navitas Organics Executive Chef on Jul 25, 2016 4:03:01 AM


Is it possible to eat too many superfoods? Is there a set serving size I should follow for certain foods?

Raised temperature. Headache. Nausea. Diarrhea. Vomiting. Even potential fatality.

These are some of the serious symptoms of hyponatremia. Or, as it's more commonly known outside of medical circles: drinking too much water.

The idea of moderation and avoiding “too much of a good thing†applies to literally everything we put into our body. When it comes to food, in most cases, the healthier the food, the more difficult it becomes to over-consume -- have you ever found yourself having to lay face down on the couch after a big meal … of vegetables? Unlikely! Overdosing healthy foods is possible, but also downright hard. You'd need to go to extreme and unbalanced measures to experience detrimental biological problems, such as drinking nothing but green juice for 6 weeks, or consuming 40 bananas a day.

In the case of superfoods, the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, their advanced benefits require a little additional respect to their use. It is this hyper-concentration of nutrients which brings us to the two golden rules of using superfoods:

Golden rule number one: A little goes a long way.
One ounce of goji berries has 120% RDA of Vitamin A. A 100 gram serving of cacao powder contains around 150% RDA of Magnesium. Hemp seeds contain 5 grams of protein in just 1½ tablespoons. It's easy to see that you really don't need much in quantity to enjoy the impressive health gains superfoods can offer. And that's the whole point of them!

Golden rule number two: More is not better.
Although some discrepancies around the Recommended Daily Allowance set by the FDA do exist, these guidelines are still set within a reasonable range of what is most beneficial for your body.

Deficiencies in nutrients are vastly more common than overabundances, but overdoes can still occur, resulting in consequences that range from uncomfortable to compromising organ function. Too much vitamin C in one sitting (such as over 1000mg) is difficult to digest for many people, and may result in a minor stomachache. Too much fiber can create a laxative-type of effect. Or, an ongoing excess of immune-boosting zinc (such as around 35-40 mg daily instead of the recommended 9-11mg) can lead to heavy metal poisoning over time. Your body is equipped to handle the moderate amounts of nutrients within a balanced superfood diet seamlessly, but ongoing excessive quantities of supplements and superfoods will only put a strain on your system.

There are four ways for you to determine the right serving size for superfoods. The first is the easiest: use the set serving size on the back of the package as a template. Start with the recommended quantity, see how you feel, and if you wish, slightly exceed it from there (the serving size of superfoods usually errs on the side of slim rather than generous). For example, an extra ¼ teaspoon of wheatgrass powder will certainly not do you any harm - quite the opposite!

The second way is to read the nutrition facts. Look for extremely high levels of certain nutrients, to help you determine how much to use to meet your personal health goals. For example, a 2 tablespoon serving of chia seeds has almost a quarter of your daily fiber … so while an extra tablespoon may be fine, perhaps it's not such a great idea to eat a recipe with ½ cup of chia seeds in one sitting.

The third way to find the perfect serving size is to listen to your body. This is really important - what may work for one person may not work for you! When I first started using maca, I could only consume about ½ teaspoon at a time without feeling too amped up. Now I use about 1 tablespoon a day … either because I've had a chance over time to become more accustomed to it, or perhaps just because life is more stressful and my body needs the extra support.

Lastly, and most essentially, exercise balance and common sense. Use a broad spectrum of superfoods, and mix them up! There is no biological reason to restrict every single food that enters your body to top-shelf superfood status. But, using an array of healthy foods and superfoods that you can regularly switch up, ensures that you're giving your body all the nutritional wealth that nature offers in an even-keeled manner. (And always check with your primary care physician with additional concerns or questions.)

Remember, it's much more common to have nutritional deficiencies than it is to have nutritional overdoses, but even with superfoods, moderation still reigns supreme.

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