Certain spring “superfoods” aren’t worth it—either because they’re not that nutritious, they’re hard to find, or they’re just too expensive. Here’s what to buy instead.
Coconut oil tastes like warm, tropical weather and goes well in plenty of spring recipes, from granola to smoothies. People claim it can help prevent heart disease, promote weight loss, and reduce the risk of cancer.
Why it’s not worth it: The health claims about coconut oil are unproven. Plus, coconut oil contains saturated fats—the kind of fat linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Adding coconut oil to a diet that’s already high in saturated fat from meat and cheese probably isn’t a healthy move.
What to eat instead: Olive oil and avocado oil are my preferred oils because they’re rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. You can also add fresh avocado to your meals and get the additional benefits of fiber, pantothenic acid, and vitamin K. Avocados are a good source of fiber (a fifth of an avocado contains about 11 percent of your daily needs), and eating plenty of fiber from fruit helps lower cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Pantothenic acid helps the body convert food into energy, while vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting and bone health. Find out which other 13 superfoods every woman should have in her diet.
Young nettle leaves are a leafy green that you can eat in salads or cook into dishes. People use the mature plant as an herb. Herbalists claim it has anti-inflammatory properties and can cure numerous diseases, including diabetes and cancer.
Why it’s not worth it: This tough-to-find plant overpromises and underdelivers. There isn’t enough research to support health claims, and the side effects are worrisome, including sweats, low blood sugar, and stomach issues. However, it does show some promise in helping reduce the need for pain medications in people with osteoarthritis.
What to eat instead: Mixing in some nettle as one of the leafy greens in your diet is fine, but don’t rely on it to overcome an unhealthy diet. Choose a variety of spring greens such as arugula, dandelion, pea shoots, and watercress. Not only are they easier to find, but there is evidence that they really can reduce inflammation.
These seeds contain plant-based omega-3s, as well as an impressive amount of fiber and some protein.
Why they’re not worth it: Your body has a tough time breaking down whole flax seeds—the shell is too tough—so you won’t get all the omega-3s inside. You can grind up flax seeds to get at the healthy oils, but that’s time-consuming and messy. You could buy ground seeds, but grinding exposes the oils, so the seeds go rancid much faster. You have to keep ground flax in your fridge or freezer or it will develop an off-putting odor and flavor.
What to eat instead: Chia seeds offer all of the nutritional benefits of flax seeds but in an easy-to-digest package. Because there’s no grinding involved, you can store your chia seeds in your cupboard for months or in your freezer for years. Later in the year, make sure you know which fall superfoods aren’t worth your time.