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Beware of health and wellness industry rip offs

This post is about supplements, in particular, so-called superfood supplements, and how they are being sold to health-conscious consumers at extortionate prices. This post looks at the prices of these supplements, pound-for-pound compared to the price of real, natural, whole foods.

This is a topic that personally really gets me fired up. The ethos behind MotherNaturesDiet is all about living in harmony with our natural world, it’s all about eating real, whole, natural food, enjoying the great outdoors, avoiding the poisons of modern living and embracing natural movement and exercise. So one of my pet peeves is the over-complication of good health. There is a segment of the ‘diet, health and wellness’ industry which seeks to profit from having you believe that the answers to good health, good clear skin, youthful abundant energy, vibrant wellness and graceful, painless aging are locked in complex scientific solutions, hidden away in little-known secrets that these elite chosen few have somehow, after millions of years of evolution, finally unlocked right now in the 21st Century.

Your local health food shop

When I was a kid, 35 years ago, there were no ‘health food’ shops, no shops in market towns across rural Britain selling protein powders, vitamin supplements or powdered superfoods. If I had asked my grandmother if she was raised on foods from ‘the health food shop’ she would have looked at me like I was talking a foreign language. At most, the local pharmacy sold bottles of cod liver oil, but otherwise, dietary supplements were virtually unknown to the masses, and the word ‘superfood’ was not yet in popular usage.

If you regularly read this blog, you will know I have a problem with the word ‘superfood’. It’s not a real word, it’s marketing-speak, it’s b/s, it’s a story that food companies have made up to sell more supplements. Look it up in the dictionary. It’s not there. In the Oxford English Dictionary you will find ‘superhuman’, ‘superwoman’ and ‘superman’, but not ‘superfood’, because it’s a made-up word. Superfood does not exist. Superfood is a con. You are being ripped off.

In this post, I will not mention specific names, brands and companies, because I do not want to get into the business of putting anyone else down, I hate that bickering and in-fighting. I am writing this just to illustrate my point – you can learn from this what is useful to you, and apply this thinking to the products you are offered by the makers and promoters of dietary supplements.

Making movies

A few years ago, in 2008, a couple of capable and likeable young movie producers/directors, put together an excellent documentary movie about healthy living and natural, vegetarian diets. This movie was a hit, and they followed it with a second similar movie in 2012. These are both great movies, and they promote clean living, and they promote many excellent aspects of good health – such as quitting smoking, drinking, junk food, prescription drugs, dairy, processed food and so on. These movies are very good, and the messages are excellent, I thoroughly recommend them.

The movies strongly recommend eating a vegetarian diet. They urge us to eat large amounts of clean, organic vegetables and fruits. They generally use the term “plant-based diet”. When writing for MotherNaturesDiet I recommend you “go to your local shops, a farm shop if possible, and buy lots of vegetables, and some fruit, and get as much organic as your budget will allow, especially things that you don’t peel, or things like broccoli with its un-washable surface. These movies recommend you eat “a plant-based diet”. At times, I wonder why they say “plant-based”, instead of “vegetables and fruit” or “vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds”.

From the success of these two movies, the people who made them have built a very nice business, selling books and DVDs, and they have established a community, the fans and followers, of these movies. These followers are people who have bought the movies, who follow the makers on social media sites and who have subscribed to email updates from this movie production company.

Selling supplements

Now they have built a substantial following, they are selling us supplements.

I, for one, am disappointed by this action.

In particular, the company is selling a ‘superfood greens’ supplement – this is a powdered blend of organic ‘superfoods’ and ‘greens’, such as wheatgrass. Many other health companies around the world also sell blends of ‘super greens’, this is a staple of the healthy-living supplement business.

I am shocked and disgusted by the price of this supplement.

This particular brand of green powder costs $69 USD per tub!

I did some maths on that, so I could understand just what it is they are selling, and what it costs compared to REAL, whole, LIVE, natural food.

  • At the time I am writing this, $69 US Dollars = £43.24 GBP Sterling per tub
  • The tub contains 312 grams of the green superfood product
  • This means the green product costs £0.138589 per gram
  • That equates to £138.60 per kilo! (For my US readers, that’s almost exactly $100 bucks per pound!!)

Oh my word that is INSANE!!!

These people built a business off the back of telling us to ‘eat natural food, eat raw, avoid processed foods and to avoid drugs, preservatives, chemicals and additives’ yet here they are selling a product that is clearly processed and no longer remotely ‘alive’ in any way, it is processed, powdered, packed into little plastic tubs for shipping all over the world, it has a long shelf life and it costs a staggering £138.60 per kilo!!!

Let me give you some perspective on that.

If you want “natural green plant-based food dense with quality nutrients”, try:

  • Waitrose broccoli = £2.50 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s organic broccoli – £4.14 per kilo
  • Waitrose organic green beans – £7.20 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s organic carrots – £1.33 per kilo
  • Waitrose organic savoy cabbage – £3.73 per kilo
  • Tesco organic cauliflower – £1.50 per head

I openly invite ANY qualified doctor or nutritionist to explain to me how a powdered, packaged green supplement can pack nutrient density and overall health benefits that make it worth more than 50 times the price of fresh organic broccoli.

Now I know why those movies are ‘working so hard’ to tell us that if we want to be healthy, we should eat a ‘plant-based’ diet. They don’t stipulate ‘eat vegetables from your LOCAL shops or farmer’, they stipulate that you should eat a ‘plant based diet’. Now I understand what they are trying to say.

When you visit the website that this movie production company calls home (at time of writing), the first words that appear in the middle of the screen are “you are what you eat”. Well, I reckon that makes them “artificial”.

Protein

The next product they sell is a protein powder. Ah but they don’t just call it ‘protein powder’, that doesn’t make it sound up-market enough, this one is a ‘superfood protein blend’. They are currently (at time of writing) selling this product under a special offer as a launch promotion (down from $59 USD):

  • 454 grams for $49.00 USD
  • $49 USD = £30.71 GBP
  • 454 grams in the tub
  • That’s a cost of £0.06764 GBP per gram
  • Scaled up that’s = £67.64 per kilo!! (Without the launch discount, it works out a little over £80 per kilo at regular price)
  • To my US readers, that stuff is $49 USD per pound!

To put that in context, I searched for the best of the best in pasture-raised, organically farmed meat. I found these wonderful folks down in Devon: http://www.higherhacknell.co.uk/

They sell beef from organic, outdoor reared, Soil Association GOLD award cattle.

  • Finest beef fillet steak is £49.95 per kilo. Fillet steak!
  • The rest of their beef – pasture raised, grass-fed, free range, organic, hormone free, humanely treated animals, this is GOLD standard organics people – ranges between £10 and £25 GBP per kilo
  • A hefty joint of organic free range outdoor reared pork belly = £10 GBP per kilo delivered to your door in a cool box

I continued looking at prices for other sources of top quality protein.

  • Tesco organic beef fillet steak (fillet!) is £33 per kilo
  • Tesco organic beef sirloin – £30 per kilo
  • Tesco organic leg of lamb = £12 per kilo

Eating a balanced healthy NATURAL diet

If you want to load your diet with quality, organic, vegetable (plant based), nutrients, then why the heck would anyone buy a powdered, de-natured (yes, it’s processed into a powder form, by machines in a factory) supplement costing £138.60 per kilo, which has to be ordered from the US and flown half way around the world, when you can buy a broad range of fresh organic vegetable in your local supermarket priced between £1.33 and £7.20 per kilo?

If you want to increase the quality protein in your diet, why would you buy a powdered, processed supplement in a plastic tub, costing £67 (or £80) per kilo, when you can buy the finest organic , pasture raised meat on the market for considerably less than half the price? In many cases, considerably less than a quarter the price!

AND, unlike these powdered supplements, the real, whole, natural, fresh food is actually a meal, it comes complete with fibre and it fills you up! When you take these supplements, you still need to buy all your food too!

Common sense

I believe that these supplements, and just about ANY product for sale that incorporates the made-up word ‘superfood’ are a complete rip-off. In my personal opinion, these companies are just trying to make money. I am saddened by this, because I did, and still do, love those two healthy documentary movies, but the sad reality is, that now, to my eyes and ears, they have lost all credibility and all integrity. How can I believe a word they say, when it seems the whole thing is staged to sell exorbitantly expensive powdered supplements? I feel as though I can never again trust the output (books, DVD’s, blog posts, recipes, etc.,) from this company (and there are many others) because their ‘opinions’ are tainted with self-interest. If they tell us to eat a ‘plant based diet’ and they tell us ‘superfoods are good for us’, they are standing to gain financially themselves, and their advice is therefore tainted by the almighty dollar. In my eyes, they have gone from health-hero’s, to health zero’s, which is a real shame.

Tomorrow, providing I have time, I shall post Part 2 of this discussion.

I welcome your feedback and opinions…please, comment below!

Stay healthy, stay happy, MotherNaturesDiet.com

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. On the news here recently (like, this week) they showed some new research about the ingredients in common supplements here. 60% contained plant ingredients not listed on the packaging, 20% contained unlisted fillers like wheat and soy, and 30% contained substitutions in which an ingredient listed on the package had been replaced with a similar, unlisted ingredient. Scary stuff! I’ll stick to my broccoli, thanks!

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/do-you-take-herbal-supplements-find-out-what-s-really-in-that-bottle-1.1493311 (Source)

    October 13, 2013
  2. Jenny Vickers #

    Hi Karl,
    You talk a massive amount of sense and I agree totally that their are a lot of people in the health food arena whose sole purpose is monetary gain. We live in a greedy society – and these people who live off that greed are reprehensible.
    Everything you say is so obviously based on common sense something we as a society, seem to have lost! We need to get back to basics!

    October 13, 2013
  3. Thank you!! 🙂

    October 13, 2013
  4. great post! if you want to try a great device to track your calories burned all day i recommend body media fit, check out my post if youre interested http://healthadvocation.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/your-own-personal-motivator-body-media-fit/

    October 13, 2013
  5. Bankll a #

    You don’t mention the names of the films. Please let us know what the films are.

    October 16, 2013
    • Hi Bankll a,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As the post says
      “In this post, I will not mention specific names, brands and companies, because I do not want to get into the business of putting anyone else down, I hate that bickering and in-fighting. I am writing this just to illustrate my point – you can learn from this what is useful to you, and apply this thinking to the products you are offered by the makers and promoters of dietary supplements.”
      The movies are very well known in the ‘healthy living’ industry, but I have no axe to grind, I do not want to be in the business of putting anyone else down by name, that’s a negative mindset and something I want to avoid.
      Warm regards,
      Karl

      October 17, 2013
  6. This is brilliant Karl, well done! Lots of food for thought here.

    October 22, 2013
  7. elliegrahamphotography #

    I have been researching online how to be as healthy as possible and there are lots of people recommending I spend my money with them. I found you and my basic philosophy and lifestyle are what you promote. I am training for a half marathon in March and just want to be at my best.
    I wonder if I should be taking a supplement like Juice Plus to be healthier because I have heard for example we cannot possibly eat enough vegetables to equal what nutrition would be provided in Juice Plus Greens capsules and that the capsules’ nutrition is in a more easily absorbed than whole food.
    I am impressed that Juice Plus is the only supplement company that actually states nutrition
    al information on their labeling that is regulated by the FDA. I have heard many supplements contain only trace if any amounts of what they claim. Btw, I have no connection at all to any supplement company etc. I am just a 44 year old woman who wants to be super healthy.
    I have also been considering doing a master cleanse after getting off prescription meds. to help my liver. I have acne and thought since I have tried everything else, that a cleanse might help.
    Will you please share your thoughts?
    Thanks so much!
    Ellie

    November 14, 2014
  8. Rebecca #

    Love this post. What do you recommend for those of us who have “child like” taste buds but still want to eat well and be healthy? I really believe there must be such a thing as under developed taste buds! Please don’t tell me to suck it up (I wish I could). I would like to get the variety in my diet that is recommended but have turned to powders as an alternative, which I know is not ideal.

    July 27, 2015

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