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6 Superfoods, Put to the Test—Part I

Fed up with saying, 'what the hell is that?' in Whole Foods, we channel our inner Gwyneth and become guinea pigs.

It all began the way these things usually do—sitting around TC HQ, sipping on a round of iced coffees at that specific time in the afternoon where our minds (admittedly) begin to wander. Rather than turn to our usual Net-a-Porter screenshop (it's virtual window shopping, duh), our thoughts started drifting towards the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, as well as our home-and-native equivalent, May 2-4. Anticipating the upcoming onslaught of beer, barbecue and lazy brunches coming our way; we got to thinking about actively taking preventative measures to combat at least some of those empty (but so incredibly worth it) calories. 

As we aimlessly flipped through a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Good that just so happened to be laying around the office (we mean, without it, how would we know when we need to feel bad about ourselves? Kidding.) we learned not only that has kale been replaced by collard greens (our time together was short, but sweet, well, not really sweet, but bitter and really crunchy), but that there were a whole lot of superfoods and supposedly-life-altering ingredients we were completely clueless about. And while we're well-versed in all things açaí and avocado toast (give us a little credit), after clicking through some particularly Pinterest-ing food porn and swiping through the accounts of some of our particularly Insta-fit friends (ahem, Hannah Bronfman, Mary Helen Bowers), we realized that there was a lot of ground to cover. Chia, goji berries, matcha, spirulina... oh, and an entire laundry list's worth of other health-conscious additives that we struggled with pronouncing. Are you there, Tracy Anderson? It’s us, The Cov. 

We realized there was only one thing to do: enlist the entire office in a week-long, somewhat-mandatory science experiment. While the levels of familiarity with our various foods of choice varied, we nonetheless dove headfirst into the health food abyss in hopes that we'd resurface with detoxed insides, glowing outsides and, who knows—maybe even a Rosie Huntington-Whiteley physique. At the very least, we could feel a little less guilty about inhaling said barbeque at lightning speeds all weekend. Oh, and kale, we can totally still be friends, right? 

—Amanda Elizabeth Smith

The Panel

Emily:

As far as my regular diet goes, I love food and I love eating, but I have to admit that I’m not the most conscious when it comes to what I’m actually putting in my body. While I don’t eat junk often, I depend on carbs for energy and definitely don’t think about whether I’m getting all my nutrients and vitamins and all five food groups (elementary school health class is a very distant memory). Pretty much, I eat what I want, when I want. Without a lot of thought. 

Meagan:

A few things: I alternate between highly skeptical and incredibly gullible when it comes to the health food section of the grocery store. I've dabbled in both pseudo-veganism and vegetarianism, and still try to avoid dairy (especially milk and regular yogurt) but could never give up eggs (or cheese, because, like, I'm not an asshole) and meat, especially beef (I eat one steak-slash-beef carpaccio situation a year) but never met seafood I didn't like. I drink too much Diet Coke, but I eat enough vegetables, so I like to think that everything balances out in the end. 

Nikki:

Disclaimer: I was brought up with two doctor parents and more skepticism than Bill Nye and Richard Dawkin’s hypothetical love-child. My thoughts on oil pulling and compost bins are one and the same: they’re both garbage. A balanced diet and light exercise and you're basically Cindy Crawford, right?

Rachel:

Saying that I’m slightly more on the unhealthy end of the scale is an understatement, I'm kind of the poster girl for bad eating habits. The majority of my diet consists of fast food, pre-made meals, and instant noodles. And drum roll, please, for the lame excuse: I’m constantly on the go and there’s really hardly anytime for me to prep meals otherwise. 

On weekends, though, I do let out my inner Julia Child and occasionally create elaborate dinners for my friends and family. Exercise isn't really in the picture unless its walking my dog or shopping (that counts, right?). However, in high school, I was constantly exercising, whether it be swimming, track, or soccer. Because of this, I sort of feel like I have a high metabolism and can get away with eating poorly in my 20's.

Katie:

I try to eat healthy and exercise regularly, however, I love a nice, stiff cocktail partnered with a Malboro when the day is done. It's all about balance, right?

Emily: "I’m curious about this one—I read on some blog that one can survive on spirulina and water alone because it’s actually that packed with nutrients. We’re trying it for it’s supposed energy boosting properties, though—and after trying it, trust me when I tell you you would NEVER want to survive on this alone. When the 3 PM slump arrives, I mix one heaping tablespoon of dark green powder into a glass of water from a promising-looking bag touting many healthy side effects; I somehow miss the part where it says you should only use one small teaspoon. (Also the part where it says it’s best served in smoothies.) I watch as mix turns into goopy, clumpy, very green mixture. I sniff. It smells like dog food. Or one of those fetid tide pools close to the ocean that’s been baking in the sun for a few hours. I suppose I should have expected as much: I’m about to drink algae, the floaty green stuff I usually avoid when swimming in a body of water that’s not a chlorinated pool. And it looks like one if those chunky green drinks that hungover protagonists drank in ‘90s movies. I attempt to drink, am fully turned off, but slowly sip it anyway in hopes of the promised rejuvenating effects. I feel slightly more alive—though not as much so had I just chugged an ice coffee. Verdict: I will not try again unless it’s disguised in a banana-filled smoothie where none of the sea creature taste can get to me."

Meagan: I made the decidedly major mistake of interpreting (as in, like, not reading the package at all) the intended one teaspoon of this stuff as one (heaping) tablespoon, but chugged it down nonetheless. Oh, and then I also advised several other people that a tablespoon was indeed the designated serving size, too. It's not really a surprise, then, that both of my experiences with spirulina this week were negative, taste-wise. It tasted like a combination of fish food, seaweed and pond water, a sentiment that was pretty much universal across the office, I think. That said, when I drank it in place of my afternoon iced-green-tea-slash-coffee, I skipped the whole afternoon slump thing. Oh, and I also felt super virtuous and Gwyneth-like for doing so, which is probably half the point. But was it worth it? Nah. 

Nikki: Despite looking almost black in the bag, this powder turned a shocking (!) shade of green akin only to swamp water, which (surprise, surprise) was also how it smelled. Taste wise it was pretty bland. I’d consider mixing a teensy (like ½ teaspoon teensy—this stuff is pooootent) bit into a green smoothie, but otherwise Imma’ have to pass.

Rachel: Generally, I'm not a fan of algae, but spirulina is supposedly good for you, so I’ll try it! It smelled of strong green tea and turned into a seaweed green color when mixed with water. I slowly sipped on it throughout the day and it actually did make me feel more, uh, 'cleansed'. My diet consists of a lot of junk food, pizza and burgers galore, so something like Spirulina made me feel better about my unhealthy choices. It's a good first step into making a change to a healthier diet because it's easy to make and fun to drink, especially if you like the color green.

Katie: Grassy taste, kind of clumpy and accompanied with washroom-related commentary around the office, which wasn't the most pleasant thing to be listening to while gag it down (you can use your imagination on this one). I also had gross, grassy burps, which would go on for hours... just typing this makes me feel gross. One hour later, still sleepy? Falling asleep at my desk wasn't really an option, so I went and got a delicious iced coffee. I feel as if I probably should have gone through with a couple more days of this, but the very thought of it the next day brought back its taste in my mouth...

Emily: So hemp hearts supposedly make you feel fuller faster (they do some other things too, but let’s focus on the important stuff here). This is good for me because I’m the kind of person who will literally eat until I’m completely stuffed. So the less it takes for me to get there is nothing but positive. The hemp hearts we get from our local health food store (a fascinating place in which I could probably spend hours looking at the labels of things I’ve never even heard of), come in an ounce pack, which, according to the nutrition facts on the back of the packet, is one serving. It looks like far too much to me, so I end up putting maybe a third of it on my tuna and avocado salad, a leftover from my dinner the night before. (I should note that the salad would typically serve as my first course. I have about ¾ of a cup of it, which isn’t nearly enough to satiate me on a normal day.) I sprinkle a thin layer on top of my day old salad. I don’t mind the taste or the added texture—in fact it’s quite nice (I’m generally a fan of nuts in salad and the hemp hearts add a similar crunch). Plus, that little tiny salad actually fills me up! I could get into this, you guys.

Meagan: Hemp hearts are totally one of those things that I always make a little mental note of when lurking obscure Australian raw food bloggers on Instagram as something that would probably drastically enhance my life. So, you can likely feel my disappointment when I didn't understand the appeal. I threw a tablespoon or so on a weird quinoa-kale-goat cheese-pepperoncini Frankenstein of a salad I'd brought for lunch, and was a little turned off by the slightly-bland, nutty taste and texture. It was... too soft? Is that a valid critique? I'll have to try bee pollen or goji berries before I get 'gramming, I guess.

Emily: These are innocent enough. We pretty much just have a baggie of dried fruit on our hands. They’re supposed to do almost everything for you, though—these are no basic berries. They might even give the all-powerful blueberry a run for their money. Like seriously, they’re antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic and (weirdly) anti-histamine. So I’m thinking they pretty much undo all the damage I do to my body on a regular weekend. I also read that they help to regulate stress levels. Sign me up! I eat a few handfuls of them: they’re extremely tart and a bit sour, but sweet and totally fine to munch on. I’m not a huge fan of dried fruit in general, so my response is a shrug at most. But, I mean, if a few handfuls of this can help keep the big C away, I could deal with them as an occasional snack or in a bowl of granola. And they’re known as Incan Gold (to whom, I don’t know), so, there’s that. 

Meagan: Two confessions: I'm obsessed with weird, gritty textures in food (anything with seeds), and prefer bitter, umami-ish flavors over sweet. As a result, I kind of hate candy. I just don't care for it. That said, these were probably my favorite out of everything we, ahem, experimented with. I was expecting these to taste a little bit more like straight up dried fruit, but they had this super sour, tart kick at the very end; and this seed-y texture I wasn't expecting at all. I probably took the portion sizes slightly too liberally, but I figure the sugars did something for me, energy-wise? I mean, I can only assume. Would snack on again.

Nikki: Okay, so these weren’t bad in a very raisin-y way. They’re kind of like healthy-ish Warheads in that all of a sudden you have a Renee Zellweger pucker (minus points for fine lines) and tears in your eyes. I could see how if you have weird taste buds you could be super into these as an afternoon snack. They’re apparently chock full of antioxidants, but so are like blueberries and blueberries, which also taste way better, so I’ll likely stick with those, thanks.

 Katie: One was enough. #supergross. I'm actually a little surprised that I didn't really take to either the berries or the spirulina. I feel like I would prefer the spirulina in a green juice, or with something else that would dilute or at least somewhat mask its taste. Where's that Vitamix when you need it, right?

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