Superfood Myths: 20 Foods That Aren't as 'Super' As You Think

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Woman drinking green juice surrounded by green produce
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Marketers are good at getting us to go after the latest "superfood" with claims they'll keep us healthy or help us lose weight. But there is actually no standard or definition of what constitutes a superfood, and most such foods that come with health benefits also come with caveats -- after all, too much of anything can be damaging, even kale. Here are some so-called superfoods and how consuming them can go wrong.
Handful of cherries
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Possible health benefits: Sleep aid, anti-inflammatory
But: Sweet and tart, cherries can be addictive when they are ripe and in season. It's easy to overindulge, which can cause serious stomach problems. Along with severe pain and cramping, eating too many cherries can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Steamed Broccoli
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Possible health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, lower cholesterol, regulate estrogen
But: To the delight of children everywhere, there is such thing as too much broccoli. This powerful vegetable contains chemicals that help regulate excess estrogen in the body, but too much of it could actually disrupt the natural balance of hormones, leading to unstable moods and bodily functions. Those at risk should avoid eating more than two servings of broccoli a week.

green, yellow, and red bell peppers
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Possible health benefits: Vitamin C, reduce the risk of cancer
But: As part of a group of vegetables in the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, bell peppers can cause inflammation in the intestines for some. If you notice bloating, gas, or discomfort after eating nightshades, skip the bell peppers.

Chili peppers
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Possible health benefits: Stronger eyes, hair, and skin, lower blood pressure
But: Spice makes food interesting and more pleasurable for many people, but their stomachs may not agree. Excess spice can inflame the digestive track and lead to diarrhea as well as painful cramps and elimination.

Woman eating watermelon
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Possible health benefit: Diet aid, Vitamin C
But: With no fat and a high concentration of electrolytes, watermelon seems like a dieter's best friend, but there is a downside. Delicious, sweet watermelon has a high glycemic index without much fat or protein to balance it out, which could lead to blood sugar spikes. Those who try to stick to a low-glycemic diet should limit watermelon intake to small portions after a meal or a snack rich with protein and fat.

Beets
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Possible health benefit: Stronger immune system, reduced risk of cancer
But: Along with containing a lot of sugar, which could be problematic for people with blood sugar issues, beets contain an element that can cause constipation. If you find yourself stopped up after going hard on the beets, ease up and add plenty of fiber -- like the greens that comes with the root.

Cabbage
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Possible health benefits: Diet aid, gastrointestinal cleansing, reduced risk of cancer
But: Cabbage, like broccoli, is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and can be a hormone disruptor, especially when consumed raw. Cabbage salad and soup are often used as diet foods to make up a large percentage of the day's food, which can lead to imbalances in mood, digestion, and endocrine function.

Bowl of white and brown eggs
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Health benefits: Energy stabilizer, protects nerve cells
But: Over the years there have been a roughly equal number of studies showing eggs as good or bad for cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. While popular thought these days points to eggs being a healthy part of a balanced diet, too many eggs can still raise all levels of cholesterol, including the "bad" LDL.

Black Beans
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Possible health benefit: Gastrointestinal tract cleaner
But: Black beans are high in carbohydrates, which can work against those looking for a low-carb lifestyle with plant-based protein. Black beans can also be difficult to digest, leaving many with painful gas and bloating for up to 24 hours after ingesting.

Quick-Cooking Oats
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Possible health benefits: Heart disease risk reducer, diet aid
But: While higher in fiber than most other grain-based options, oats are still a relatively high-carbohydrate food, particularly the quick-cooking or instant oats. Single-serving flavored packets add to the problem by adding sweeteners, creating a snack or meal that actually spikes blood sugar.

Brussels Sprouts
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Possible health benefits: Vitamin C, reduced risk of cancer
But: Similar to cabbage, these delicious little morsels can be bad news for anyone prone to hormone imbalances. If not well cooked, they can also lead to bloating and sulphuric gas, which is as unpleasant inside the gut as outside.

nuts mix in a wooden plate
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Possible health benefits: Better brain function, smoother skin
But: Nuts are wonderful in moderation, offering plenty of plant-based protein and fat. These same qualities are what make them a problem food when eaten in large quantities. A healthy serving of nuts is just under a quarter-cup -- way less than most people eat at a single time. Nuts can also be carriers for unhealthy amounts of salts and other additives.

fresh green tea with tea leaves in the water
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Possible health benefit: Brain function, diet aid, free radical elimination
But: Packed with antioxidants, green tea is a go-to for many health conscious people. But anyone sensitive to caffeine knows that green tea can be a one-way street to jitters, upset stomachs, and headaches, especially when consuming more than one cup a day.

raw sweet potatoes on wooden background
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Possible health benefit: High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
But: While lower on the glycemic scale than potatoes, sweet potatoes are still a high sugar food, which can lead to blood sugar spikes. Particularly when roasted, the sugars caramelize and become even more prone to spiking and crashing blood sugar.

turmeric powder on a wooden spoon
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Possible health benefits: Improved brain function, lower risk of cancer, anti-inflammatory properties
But: A little turmeric goes a long way. When overused it can cause digestive issues, particularly diarrhea, which leads to dehydration and an inability to absorb other essential nutrients from food passing through the gastrointestinal tract. A maximum of one-half teaspoon a day of dried turmeric is a good place to start.

garlic
Photo credit: Maks Narodenko/shutterstock

Possible health benefits: Lower blood pressure, cold and flu protection
But: With so many lauded qualities, it's hard to imagine anything wrong with garlic, but many people have found they are garlic sensitive or downright intolerant. Garlic, especially when raw, can cause unpleasant bloating and irritation in the intestines, along with intense stomach pain. If you're taking it but suspect a sensitivity, try eliminating it for two weeks and see how you feel.

fresh organic carrots on wooden table
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Possible health benefits: Blood cleaner, blood pressure stabilizer
But: If you eat too many carrots you may turn orange, thanks to the large amounts of beta carotene in the sweet root vegetable. This is not easily done, though; relying too heavily on carrots as a vegetable of choice is more likely to result in a diet too high in sugar. Juicing carrots can be especially tricky, since it removes all the fiber that helps balance the sugar.

peeled and cut banana with five bananas
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Possible health benefit: Hangover relief, high energy, diet aid
But: While bananas are delicious, eating more than one a day can lead to constipation. For those who watch their glycemic index and starch intake, these fruits can be major culprits, and should be kept to a minimum.

Fava Beans
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Possible health benefits: Reduced risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and birth defects
But: The larger the legume, the harder a time the body has digesting it. These large and meaty beans can be taxing on the digestive system, requiring a lot of energy and producing a lot of uncomfortable gas in the process. Think of these as a small-portion side dish, rather than the main event.

Woman eating chocolate
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Possible health benefits: Improved brain and heart function, gentler PMS
But: Chocolate is a complex food with many compounds, some of which can make migraines or constipation worse. Mostly it's the sugar combined with the chocolate that is the problem, making chocolate a high-fat and high-sugar food that needs serious moderation to be considered healthy.

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