Food & Fitness

Guest post: The Problem with Superfoods (and a giveaway!)

This guest post is courtesy of Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment blog. Enjoy!

sushi platter

Can you spot the superfood in this picture? Look closely!

Vomit. That’s what you get when you combine two tasty “superfoods” in excess and swallow. The e-mail, which arrived cryptically from an unknown sender, promised a whole slew of benefits for consuming this “Bam ran medicine” including the grammatically incorrect “saving the patient from heart attack”, the miraculous “curing chronic arthritis”, the dubious “killing germs in the bladder”, and the enigmatic “strengthening the white blood corpuscles,” not to mention everything else from pneumonia to influenza to acne. But the one that got me was, naturally, weight loss. Ready for the recipe?

Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach and at night before sleeping, drink 1 tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

Cinnamon and honey! What’s not to love?

Those of you who are better cooks than I am (i.e. everyone) are probably slapping your screen right now and yelling, “For the love of little green apples, Charlotte, one whole teaspoon is a lot of cinnamon!” You would be correct. But the poorly worded e-mail specifically said I could eat a high-calorie diet and still lose weight! And both honey and cinnamon are known superfoods, with research on the former proclaiming its antibiotic properties and research on the latter extolling its ability to improve insulin sensitivity. Besides, everyone knows that badly written e-mails just mean the writer is some kind of savant who simply can’t be bothered with grammar. Or fact checking.

Here’s how it went down (and then up): Tasted like dirt. Burned going down. Overly sweet. Nausea. Reappearance. End scene. For the record, not only did it look exactly the same the second time around but it tasted the same too. I suppose I ought to consider myself lucky though. If I’d been looking to “kill germs” in my bladder the prescription is “Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it.” Nature’s emetic is what that is.

Despite starting my day with a good food that harmed me, paradoxically I ended my day with a bad food that healed me. This afternoon I got a phone call from an old friend I had not talked to in ten years. We had parted under less-than-ideal circumstances. In fact, it doesn’t get much worse than what drove us apart. But then in a fluke of the universe that can be described as downright Providential or the biggest confluence of coincidences since the Lincoln/Kennedy affair (also known as the reason why Snopes was invented) we were brought together again.

The conversation, involving two international phone calls and the phrase “I wish I’d known that then” repeated at least 100 times, lasted almost two hours. By the time it was finished, I was a jittery shaky worked-up, albeit relieved, bundle of nerves. My normal respite from such anxiety is, of course, exercise. But due to a napping baby and child due home soon on the school bus, this wasn’t readily available. I sat in a patch of sunlight and meditated until my breathing evened out. And then my body said, “You know what I really want? Buttered popcorn and a good book in this patch of sunlight.”

“But nooooo!” I argued schizophrenically. “What about the kids? And the chores? I am busy! Besides, buttered popcorn is pretty much the apothesis of evil according to every diet in print! The only thing worse would be if I deep fried it, wrapped it in bacon and slapped it on a stick!!” (Someone somewhere has undoubtedly already done this I’m sure.)

My body answered, “This is what I want.”

And so I did. I ate buttered popcorn in the sunlight and immersed myself in a biography of Albert Einstein (fascinating book, totally recommend it) until my muscles unclenched and my thoughts stopped racing. I felt soothed in ways I didn’t even know needed soothing.

While the ability of food to heal physical ailments is widely discussed, one does not often hear of food’s remarkable power over mental illness. Another book I recently read, Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down, Sunshine, a memoir of his daughter’s psychotic break and subsequent struggles with Bipolar Disorder (fantastic read, totally recommend it), gives a poignant example of the ability of food to help heal the mind. The doctors in charge of Greenberg’s daughter Sally’s fragile mental state recommend she follow “the manic-depressive diet” described as “as little refined flour as possible, but potatoes are okay. Lots of vegetables and protein. Two tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day, nine hours of sleep without interruption, and no naps.”

There is a reason food holds so much power over us.

I’m curious – have you ever eaten something “healthy” that in fact made you sick? Conversely, have you ever found a food that acted as a cure, particularly for a mental problem? And yes, of course, chocolate counts;) Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a contest to receive a copy of my book!

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2010. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!


  1. Tracy

    I have tried nearly every superfood in the “natural” market…my current superfood of choice is Chia seeds. I have a vanilla almond meal morning shake with 2 tablespoons of ground chia seeds in the morning. The Claim: helps with digestive ailments (i.e. — slow and no go (LOL))–

    Bee Pollen–claim to fame–boosts the immune system..cures acnes..helps with infertility..And about the only thing that I did get from it, was the immense amount of energy before a grueling workout. That it did do. But my skin still broke out and I don’t have kids (LOL). This is a SF that I will continue to occasionally incorporate as my workouts can get pretty intense.

    Acai and all those other teeth staining superfood drinks….just didn’t get into it because it caused me IBS symptoms. I do like the taste of the noni juice though that they sell at Wholefoods….but honestly, you have to be a millionaire in order to afford this.

    And one of my favorites, that I still do love to eat, are the good old goji berries. They are my substitute for raisins in my oatmeal, and love to presoak them and incorporate them into cookie recipes or muffins, or into a granola. They are loaded with Low Glycemic Carbs and fiber and they are delicious.

    I am over the superfood world….as much as I, and most people, would love to believe that by taking this one little pill, food, or potion, I strongly believe that it is our overall lifestyle that will make the difference. I run my own business and have a tremendous amount of stress. No superfood is going to take that stress away….however a good superfood for that stress maybe to sit in the sunlight with a bowl of buttered popcorn and a good book. Maybe instead of looking for the perfect cure for all of these things that we have created, if we rewind and go back to where we were prior to all the stress, physical ailments, and diseases…perhaps by doing things by treating ourselves and stopping the insanity with this diet, and that diet, and this exercise program and that program, and this operation and that….and just be…..perhaps that is the superfood for you.

    Good for you for realizing that your superfood was your popcorn…..sometimes that is all it takes.

    1. Sagan Morrow

      Tracy… I adore you.

      This is so true: “Maybe instead of looking for the perfect cure for all of these things that we have created, if we rewind and go back to where we were prior to all the stress, physical ailments, and diseases…perhaps by doing things by treating ourselves and stopping the insanity with this diet, and that diet, and this exercise program and that program, and this operation and that….and just be…..perhaps that is the superfood for you.”

  2. Gingersnapper

    I see hot peppers recommended frequently – they’re supposed to improve metabolism, prevent cancer, treat arthritis. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know this: Foods that are hot going in are also hot going out. Be warned.

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  4. Carly

    Ugh, I shudder at the thought of that much cinnamon!
    Coffee is my personal “self soother” and I find it can fix a poor mood I find myself in. For stomach aches or digestion problems, I take peppermint extract or just have a glass of peppermint tea and it seems to be a great help as well!

  5. Erika

    I read that acai berries, raw cashews, and raw cacao beans together were a “perfect food”s snack. I have IBS – raw nuts and beans went down like lead bricks and I was attached to the bathroom for a few weeks until my system settled down.

    I also read that blue-green algae, aka spuirulina, was an amazing superfood. Tried it. Within a week I was feeling off, within 2 weeks I was hospitalized for “upper GI pain, unspecified.” Came to discover I had contracted some odd, unusual, and persistent stomach infection. Required massive antibiotics followed by probiotics to “reset” my entire GI tract.

    I think I’m done trying superfoods and specialty nutrients!!

  6. Dr. J

    Yes, brewer’s yeast on my beloved popcorn! Blech!!

    I don’t need no stinkin super-food! I would be very happy if the regular ole food just didn’t have all the added poisons that they seem to have to put in them!

  7. Abby

    Breakfast. Yes, as a concept. I know it’s healthy and everything but in reality it makes me sick, even something like juice. Until I’ve been up for a few hours my body does not process calories I have learned.

  8. Geosomin

    most foods before I workout make me queasy… I have a protein shake because I don’t get enough protein and it’s all futuristic to get my nutrition from a jar. It seems to be OK.
    I find the healthier I eat the less crap I can eat. Plus have too many “hippie” friends constantly giving me a something new to try and I’m all superfooded out…at the moment I’m just going for tasty and nutritious. 🙂

    1. Sagan Morrow

      SO TRUE about being unable to eat “crap” when you’re eating healthy. My stomach usually turns somersaults when I eat junk – I always know when I’ve been indulging a bit too much if the unhealthy stuff stops making me feel queasy, haha.

  9. Joob

    If I have been eating clean for a while and take a cheat meal (mostly cheat days instead of meals…whoops) it definitely makes me a bit ill. When I’m done prepping for this contest I am terrified of what my first cheat is going to be like after over 6 months of clean only eating!!

  10. Morgan

    I can’t think of any superfoods that have made me sick, but I have a “superdevice” whoopsie: I was using my neti pot during a particularly bad allergy day and absentmindedly stirred in waaaaaaay too much salt (2 teaspoons when you’re only supposed to use 1/4 tsp). My stuffy nose turned into a full-blown sinus headache for days — ouch!

  11. Jody - Fit at 53

    You are too much Charlotte! I have seen lots of YouTube video of people trying to down a teaspoon of cinnamon alone & it ain’t pretty!!!!!!!!!!

    I just try to eat healthy & include different fruits & veggies & healthy fats & all. Too many things turn out to be the exact opposite of the “study” 10 years after the fact. I may try something BUT in general, I just try to eat a balance of healthy stuff.

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  13. mary

    My superfood = water! I drink so much water now, and it makes me feel much better. I still have coffee and tea and the occasional glass of juice, but for the most part I just drink water.

  14. Gaby

    I think stress causes more physical ailments than any food could, so if you’re stressing that you have to have so much of this and none of that and only at a certain time and only combined a certain way, etc etc, your body will freak out way more than if you just gave in and ate the damn buttered popcorn and enjoyed it.
    I like some “superfoods”, I don’t like others. Plus they tend to be expensive. I’ve tried getting into green tea but just don’t like it at all. I also bought this aloe vera drink thinking it would help me with my digestion and stomach aches, and after trying to drink the little capful a few times….it’s still sitting in my fridge a year later. I do love berries, and coffee (yes, some studies say it’s good for you!) and seaweed. But I also break a ton of “rules”. I eat tons of baked goods, my diet is probably about 40-50% fat, though it’s the healthy kind and I think that’s perfectly ok. I like kiddie cereals, I don’t like popcorn. I also rarely get cravings for chocolate, I like it and all, but it’s not high up on my list. I have to eat a huge snack before bed or else I just can’t sleep, or if I fall asleep I’ll wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Crazy metabolism!
    I’m sure there are more, but I think the “whatever makes you happy” diet is the healthiest 🙂

  15. Jennifer

    I love love love aloe vera. I would actually take an entire stalk, peel it, and blend the innards and drink it straight. I did this for about 3 weeks every day, and my chronically irritated digestive system thanked me so much. Please enter me for the giveaway!! I want your book!

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