Exotic “super foods” are very much in vogue. The business with exciting sounding seeds, berries, nuts and other highly-promising vegetable ingredients has in recent years developed into one worth millions in Germany. The sales of chia seeds alone have developed in recent years more than a thousand-fold.
The discussion about the alleged healing effects and health-promoting ingredients of the products has long been kindled. Numerous experts, including doctors and nutritionists, are critical of these statements.
However, one thing is certain: all of these are high quality, healthy food products. They have a high proportion of vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, fibres and mineral substances.
But the real problem with these products is another one: lack of sustainability. Due to the frequently very long transport routes, many “super foods” have an ecological balance that is anything but super. The proportionally largest production countries of “super foods” are Peru and Bolivia (quinoa), Mexico (chia seeds and avocado), the Dominican Republic and Colombia (avocado) and Brazil (açai-berry). These products have already travelled by ship and truck many thousands of kilometres before they end up in our kitchens.
Another problem is the drastic agricultural and social change in the cultivating countries – something which is taking place unnaturally fast due to the rapid increase in demand. In Mexico, thousands of hectares of forest are being cleared in the shortest possible time to plant avocados under monoculture conditions. The high water demand of the avocado plant (approximately 1,000 litres for 2.5 Avocados) means that droughts become increasingly likely. In addition, the increased use of pesticides in the monocultures contaminates the sparsely available drinking water.
Despite the considerable demand due to the large amounts of money coming into the production countries, the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing rather than decreasing. This is because small farmers cannot compete on the international markets. In addition, due to the increasing demand prices are also increasing. As a result, the local population can no longer afford these products – something which represents a major problem especially for basic foodstuffs such as quinoa.
But there is also a good side: you don’t have to do without these healthy helpers because there are alternatives. On the one hand, one should at least buy certified fair trade or organic products when looking for both these products and others. After all, this will reduce the negative local impact.
On the other hand, the way to healthy “super foods” does not have to involve plantations thousands of kilometres away. Because at our doorstep also, there are local and regional products which can effectively compete with the exotic competition from Latin America. Besides a better ecological footprint, the domestic products also impress with their quality and freshness since the exotic “super foods” are often harvested too early to withstand the several weeks of transport in containers. And after this, they need to be treated and allowed to mature in Germany.
Here are some examples of how exotics can be replaced by domestic “super foods” with similar ingredients and effects:
Linseed instead of chia seeds
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Millet instead of quinoa
Blueberries instead of aronia berries
- Vitamins C and E
Pumpkin seeds instead of açai
Lupin instead of papaya
- Unsaturated fatty acids
Dandelion instead of matcha
- Bitter substances
- Essential Oils
- Vitamin C
Nettles instead of goji berries
- Vitamin C
Cabbage instead of pomegranate
- Vitamins A, B, C and K
- Trace elements phosphorus, iron and manganese
- Hardly any calories