There probably isn’t a topic in nutrition that’s more tangled up in misinformation than calories, so let’s blow up some of those myths.
As I’ve often mentioned, we at Biotest make supplements that we want to use. Yeah, stuff the boss wants to use, stuff I want to use, stuff all the other people who work here want to use. By doing it that way, we usually create supplements a lot of you want to use, too. It’s a simple strategy and it keeps us on track.
There was one time we deviated from that approach, though. Well, we almost deviated from it. We saw that most other supplement companies made some sort of vitamin or multivitamin product, so we tried to come up with our own multivitamin formulation.
It wasn’t easy. Most companies throw in every vitamin and mineral from A to Z, thinking that all they need to do is throw in as much as they can fit into a single capsule or pill (because Joe Average doesn’t want to take multiple pills) without any regard to how they might interfere with each other’s absorption and/or efficacy.
Doing it right involves making multiple pills to be taken at different times of the day, or at least not at the same time, to avoid these possible interactions.
But after we were done with our multivitamin formulation, someone thankfully remembered our core strategy and asked the following questions: “Is this something we’d use? Do we feel comfortable that this supplement will address most people’s nutritional needs?”
The answer to both questions was pretty much a universal “no.” While we had the makings of a serviceable supplement, it still had a glaring problem – one that’s intrinsic to all commercially available vitamin pills:
Any vitamin and mineral formulation consisting of lab-made ingredients lacks all the phytochemicals – the polyphenols and carotenoids – that are just as important, if not more important, than the vitamins and minerals contained in whole foods.
That’s when somebody – I don’t remember who – said something close to the following:
“What if we just took a bunch of the most powerful fruits and vegetables and took out all the water – dried them into a concentrated powder? That way, you’d retain all or most of the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals of natural food. It’d be like a multivitamin, but it would also have antioxidant capabilities that were off the chart.”
So we did. Enter the original Superfood formulation. It was a combination of 18 different berries, fruits, and vegetables. It was powerful, too. Just two scoops had an ORAC rating of over 5,000.
In case you’re not familiar with it, science uses the ORAC scale to measure the potency of an antioxidant. The term stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity,” and the measurement is expressed as ORAC units per 100 grams of a given compound.
For instance, the USDA determined an “average serving of fruits and vegetables” has an ORAC rating of between 400 and 500. But all fruits and vegetables aren’t created equal. Some, like coffee berry, acai berry, and goji berry (all of which were in the original formula) are off the chart on the ORAC scale.
What all this means is that the one serving (about a teaspoon) of Superfood had the antioxidant equivalency 10 and 12 average servings of fruits and vegetables, along with most of the vitamins and minerals contained in those fruits and vegetables.
But was there room for improvement?
An ORAC rating of over 5,000 was great, but we wondered if, by substituting just a few fruits, along with tweaking the amounts of the various ingredients, we could make Superfood even better.
We didn’t have to wonder long. Simply by adding two new nutritional powerhouses – dragon fruit and maqui berry (plus tomato) – and tweaking the amounts of various other ingredients – we were able to triple the ORAC rating from a little over 5,000 to approximately 15,000.
More than triple really, because the serving size is now one scoop instead of two, and each of those servings is equivalent to about 20 servings of fruits and vegetables. What’s more, a single pouch now lasts 60 days instead of 30.
We also boosted the potency by including 60% more coffeefruit and 10 times more green tea extract. We replaced watermelon, wasabi, and passion fruit with the three higher-performing ingredients.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or strawberry pear, is a tropical fruit that comes from a cactus that’s indigenous to Mexico and South America. It’s oval-shaped with green scales. It looks kind of like the body of Pete’s Dragon (hence the name), only pink. The flesh is white with little black seeds.
The scaly fruit is cool not only because of its looks, but because it boasts a hefty complement of carotenoids, most prominently among them lycopene and beta-carotene, along with formidable amounts of magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. Various studies have found the fruit to have powerful immune system strengthening, blood sugar stabilizing, and anti-inflammatory powers.
While dragon fruit is clearly a nutrient powerhouse, it may well take a backseat to maqui berries, which are a dark-purple fruit from South America that have been harvested for thousands of years by the Mapuche Indians of Chile.
While blueberries are typically regarded as the big cheese of the berry world, maqui berries have been found to have triple the antioxidants of blueberries. They’re tremendously rich in the anthocyanins that give the fruit its deep purple color, some of the same anthocyanins that are the engine that drives the nutrient partitioning supplement, Indigo-3G® (cyanidin 3-glucoside).
As such, various studies have found the berries to have blood sugar-stabilizing powers, along with the ability to support heart health and gut health and fight inflammation.
Here’s a rundown of the 18 different ingredients in Superfood, including the new ingredients.
- Raspberry (20% ellagic acid)
- Wild Blueberry (1.5% anthocyanin)
- Acai Juice (1.5% phenolic acids)
- Coffee Fruit Extract (50% phenolic acids)
- Goji Juice
- Pomegranate (40% ellagic acid)
- Broccoli Sprout (5000 ppm sulforaphane)
- Spinach (700 ppm lutein)
- Wild Yam (20% diosgenin)
- Green Tea Extract (95% polyphenols, 40% epigallocatechin – EGCG)
- Dragon Fruit
- Orange (20% vitamin C)
One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of Superfood is because I’m stoked on the science of phytochemicals, specifically polyphenols, which are bioactive compounds that can repress inflammation by inhibiting damage from free radicals and interacting with the immune system, thereby conveying such health benefits as lowered blood pressure, lessened endothelial dysfunction, reduced cholesterol, lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, less damage from environmental estrogens, and even improved recovery from training.
But the reality of polyphenols (and carotenoids) is a hell of a lot more complex than just mopping up free radicals. Some actually modulate gene expression, whereas others have a direct or indirect effect on hormones and various metabolic pathways.
As such, foods rich in polyphenols like those found in Superfood have been found to be protective against a multitude of diseases.
More recently, though, polyphenols have been found to have a role as sports supplements, with effects ranging from reduced muscle damage (without interfering with post-exercise adaptations) and post-exercise pain, along with speedier recovery from exercise and even enhanced athletic performance.
Some, like those found in pomegranate, actually enhance nitric oxide availability, thereby improving oxygen usage and, consequently, exercise performance. Others, like the anthocyanins found in blue-colored foods (maqui berries and blueberries, for example), affect metabolic pathways (e.g., enhancing insulin sensitivity, increasing blood flow, and lessening muscle fatigue).
As mentioned earlier, each of the ingredients in Superfood has been freeze-dried.
Freeze drying is a process by which water – and nothing else – is removed from the fruits and vegetables. Each product is individually quick-frozen so all the water turns to solid ice. The fruits and vegetables are then subjected to warm temperature and a vacuum so that the water turns to vapor and is pulled out of the fruit or vegetable, leaving everything intact.
That means the pigments, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals have been largely preserved and the ingredients retain virtually the identical phytochemical content, enzymatic activity, and bioactivity of fresh products.
- No added sweetener, natural or artificial.
- No food coloring.
- No added flavoring.
- No fillers or added chemicals of any kind.
- No allergenic grasses or testosterone-lowering herbs like those found in many “greens” products.
Superfood is highly concentrated, so all you need is one small scoop per day. It has a mild, natural flavor, much like an unsweetened berry tea. It can be used in several ways:
- Stirred into water or juice.
- Added to protein shakes, smoothies, or workout drinks.
- Add it to hot water to make a fruity tea.
- Stirred into oatmeal or yogurt.
- Added to pancake or waffle mixes, muffin recipes, chili dishes, and just about anything else.
Let me be really clear about this. Superfood, as good as it is, is not a substitute for a healthy, well-rounded diet. It’s not meant to take the place of all fruits and vegetables and individual vitamin and mineral supplements (e.g., vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, etc.). Neither will it take the place of certain individual polyphenol supplements (e.g., curcumin, resveratrol) that, when taken in high(er) amounts, may have specific medicinal properties.
However, Superfood affords a good deal of dietary insurance and helps fill in any gaps you might have in your day-to-day nutrition.