Every so often I’ll come across a new product at the grocery store in the supplement section labelled as a “Super Food”. The package usually contains multiple health claims advertising high levels of antioxidants, fiber, protein, etc. The product is usually derived from some exotic plant native to a country outside of the U.S. This marketing of “super foods” is nothing new. Some previous products marketed as “Super Foods” include quinoa, chia seeds, acai berries, and Goji berries. It’s easy to see how these clever marketing techniques can catch the eyes of an unsuspecting health enthusiast. The latest “Super Food” that has caught my eye is Baobab Powder. I will spend the rest of the article uncovering how accurate its proposed health claims are.
So what in the world in Baobab Powder?? Baobab Powder is derived from the fruit of a Baobab tree. This tree is native to Africa and has been known as the tree of life. This tree is very unique due to the fact that it’s reported to be able to survive up to 2000-3000 years, making it one of the longest living trees in the world. Different parts of the Baobab tree are used for various things. The bark is fire resistant and is often used to make rope and clothes, the leaves are used the make medicines, and the fruit is eaten as a local delicacy. Baobab is reportedly high in antioxidants, calcium, and vitamin C and has been associated with digestive health, blood sugar control, and immune function.
So from the sounds of it, it seems like this may actually be a “Super Food”. But as a nutrition enthusiast, I always have a pessimistic view point regarding health claims of food products that I’m not familiar with. I always want to know “why”, when a statement seems too good to be true. So let’s take a closer look that the health benefits that are reported on the package of Baobab Powder.
The first thing I look at is the Nutrition Facts, which provides a foundation for evaluating the accuracy of the health claims. According to the Nutrition Facts, one serving of Baobab powder is 1 tablespoon. This amounts to 30 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 40 mg of calcium, 210 mg of potassium, 14 mg of vitamin C, and 0.72 mg of iron.
Evaluating the Accuracies of Some of the Health Claims
- 2x the calcium of milk – 1 serving of milk is 8 fluid oz. which contains 300 mg or 30% of daily value. How is 400 mg or 40% of daily value found in Baobab powder twice the amount of 300 mg??? Just wait lets go further.
- 6x the vitamin C of oranges – One medium orange contains 51 mg of vitamin C. How is 14 mg 6x more than 51 mg??? Are you starting to the get the picture? Let me address the rest of the health claims.
- 6x the potassium of a banana – One medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium, compared to 210 mg found in one serving of Baobab powder.
- 3x the iron of spinach – One cup of spinach contains about 0.72 mg of iron, which is the same as this product.
- 12x the fiber of apples – One medium apple contains 4.4 gm of fiber, compared to 4 gm of fiber in one serving of Baobab powder.
One obvious question to ask after taking a closer like at this product is where are they coming up with these health claims? What they’re not telling you is that these health claims are based on specific serving sizes. For example, the health claim about the fiber can only be true if you take 12 Tbsp. of Baobab powder. That’s almost half the bag. Every other nutrient such as calcium, vitamin C, potassium, etc. needs to be consume at various amounts to make their health claims accurate. This a very deceptive marketing strategy to fool unsuspecting consumers.
To wrap up the article, I want to say that I do believe that Baobab powder may have potential health benefits. I just want you as a consumer to take a closer look at food products touted extraordinary health benefits.