Book Review: Unmasking Superfoods

Unmasking Superfoods: The Truth and Hype about Acai, Quinoa, Chia, Blueberries and More
By Jennifer Sygo, RD
HarperCollins (2014)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD


This book isn’t as much a diet plan as it is a ‘user’s guide’ to the environment of over-hyped and under-performing ‘foods’ (as well as those that live up to the name) available to anyone with an Amazon account.  Written by a Canadian Registered Dietitian, Unmasking Superfoods seeks to inform readers of the facts and give them her own ‘bottom line’ about each supposed ‘superfood.’

Synopsis of Diet Plan:

Sygo arranges the book into five chapters, beginning with the most mainstream and talked-about foods, such as acai and goji berries, to the classics, like almonds, and even those that fly under the radar, like oysters and pistachios. For each item discussed in the book, Sygo presents ‘the science’ behind its nutritional claims, often debunking them due to lack of actual scientific evidence. Additionally, Sygo includes the nutritional information for each food, a little background as to why it may be considered a superfood, and a ‘bottom line’ from a dietitian’s perspective.  Her typical advice?  Eat real food instead of supplements, practice portion control, and don’t believe everything you hear/read/see.  She also addresses countless health- and nutrition-related concerns throughout the book, such as cholesterol and eggs, peanut allergies and caffeine intake.

Nutritional Pros and Cons:

Perhaps the best chapters of this book are those that remind readers of the ‘true’ superfoods, from the ones that have gotten a black eye recently, (beef, cheese, cocoa, eggs, peanut butter), the classics (almonds, avocados, beans, chickpeas, lentils, beets, blueberries, broccoli, green tea, oats, kale, strawberries, spinach, sweet potatoes, walnuts) and those that aren’t recognized as being ‘super’ (amaranth, collard greens, kiwi, oysters, mussels, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds).  Readers are presented with unbiased information about each food and related health and nutrition concerns that are backed up with references for studies throughout.

Bottom Line:

There is so much to like about this book.  If you’ve ever fallen into the trap of a ‘superfood,’ consider doing a little homework before buying expensive supplements or putting too much emphasis on one food over another.  While some foods are certainly more nutritionally dense than others, ALL real food (I’m talking meat, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some dairy) ARE super in their own right.  Whole foods are packed with everything we need for our bodies to function: carbohydrates, healthy fat, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. It’s always best to eat a well-balanced diet full of variety in order to meet all your nutritional needs, rather than rely on pills, powders, smoothies or a single food with over-hyped health claims.