Anyone following a superfood-rich diet knows there's a litany of information surrounding the benefits of various ingredients—things like new clinical studies, antioxidant ORAC levels, essential fatty acid balance—the healthy details are endless! And although this data is motivating from a wellness standpoint, let's just say the minutiae doesn't exactly make for edge-of-your-seat reading. But superfoods aren't all cut-and-dry facts and figures! Read on for a taste of some superfood info that definitely errs on the side of fun.
1. Um, what did we do to chia?
While chia was a staple superfood for many ancient Central American cultures, we culturally forgot about eating the healthy seed for several centuries. When it finally came back in the U.S. in the 1970s, instead of being a food, it was turned into a novelty item, known as, yes: The Chia Pet. Even weirder, the first Chia Pet to market in 1977 wasn't even a pet at all—it was just a “Chia Guy,” a sculpture of a man's head with the ability to grow an impressive height of chia sprout hair. Luckily, chia has since made its way off terracotta figurines and back onto our plates.
2. Mushrooms: they're just like us.
Mushrooms—including all of the incredible medicinal varieties—are more closely related in DNA to humans than plants and produce vitamin D by being exposed to sunlight just like human skin. Mushrooms also have their own immune system, which may partially explain why they're so good for immunity, too.
3. At one time, money really grew on trees.
Have you ever felt like chocolate was the most valuable thing in the world? In Mayan times, they really did! The cacao bean, which grew on large cacao trees, was used as currency and considered to be worth more than gold dust. In fact, cultivation of the beans was even restricted at one point so the value of cacao would not go down.
4. If you're a camu berry farmer, you'd better have a canoe.
Camu grows in floodplains of the Amazon and the berries float to the water's surface once ripe. The best method to harvest the fresh berries is also the oldest way: farmers must paddle out on canoes to collect the camu, which they still do to this day.
5. There's no such thing as chocolate flavor.
You may think of chocolate as just “chocolate,” but its taste is actually remarkably complex, composed of more than 600 flavor compounds. Even an intricate drink like red wine pales in comparison, coming in at only 200 flavor compounds!
6. Acai has a not-so-sweet tradition.
We like to think of acai as being a sweet treat in the form of acai bowls or smoothies, but the berry itself is remarkably low in sugar. And in the northern regions of acai's native Brazil, tapioca is often added to acai puree rather than fruit or syrup. What's more, the true original recipe is said to be savory rather than sweet, with dried shrimps and guarana added on occasion.
7. America was literally founded on hemp.
What's more ridiculous than the fact that culinary hemp is still illegal to grow in many places in the U.S.? The fact that the country was built on the plant! Not only did the founding fathers grow hemp, but it was legal to pay taxes with hemp until the early 1800s, and refusing to grow hemp in the 17th and 18th century was actually against the law!
8. Of course, there's a kale-eating contest. Of course.
Think you eat a lot of kale? With “Kale Yeah,” the self-dubbed “World's Healthiest Eating Contest” in Buffalo, N.Y., you can put your greens-eating skills to the test. But, be warned: their 2017 winner consumed twenty-two-and-a-half 16-ounce kale salads in just eight minutes. Yeah, we'll stick with the green smoothies, thanks.
Author Bio: Julie Morris is a Los Angeles-based superfood chef and New York Times best-selling author. Julie is also the founder of Luminberry, the world’s first online superfood cooking school, where she leads courses on how to use cutting-edge ingredients in recipes. Julie works as a recipe developer and consultant for various health companies, restaurants and media outlets, and has published five cookbooks that have sold around the globe.