Keira Stephensonkstephenson@nzdoctor.co.nzWednesday 01 February 2017, 4:07PM
Commodore Pharmacy and Health store owners Lew and Sharron Johnson have been selling superfoods since before “superfoods” became a buzz word
Superfoods - Some people think of them as mostly
plant-based fodder, foraged in the wild or grown in the back
garden, others can only envisage them in powdered form, added to a
Basically, they can be described as a nutrient-dense
food, high in vitamins, minerals and balanced amino acids, which
are considered particularly good for health and wellbeing - think,
beetroot, greens, blueberries, pea-protein.
Although processed forms of various superfoods have
been around for a long time - spirulina for example, which
Lifestream started selling in the 1990s - superfood sales are now
starting to take off in pharmacies.
Commodore Pharmacy and natural health shop
co-director Sharron Johnson says in the pharmacy context superfoods
are: "processed, concentrated fruit and vegetables, which are
tested for the claims made on the packet."
Mrs Johnson and her pharmacist husband Lew (pictured
below)have been running Commodore Pharmacy and natural health shop
in Auckland's Browns Bay since 1989 and now run a successful online
store as well.
They have watched health product trends come and go,
and have seen ones that have stood the test of time. Mrs Johnson
says the superfood market has expanded from Lifestream being
basically the only provider, along with Vitafit, to encompassing
about 10 brands.
In the past three or four years, she has seen the
superfood line branch out as more companies start creating their
own products. So, while sales are up, there is a lot of
experimenting going on to see what products sell well. Lifestream
is still ahead in sales and Nuzest and Vital Greens sell well on
the internet too, she says.
Powdered coconut water hasn't taken off, and Mrs
Johnson suspects cricket flour, which has just come onto the
market, will be a hard sell - despite being an ideal food in terms
of protein and nutrients versus carbon footprint.
One of the major drivers of the superfood craze is
peoples' lifestyles, which now often involve going to the gym, and
skipping breakfast - making superfood smoothies ideal.
They are definitely more popular with the younger
generation, but Mrs Johnson would like to see older people taking
"Elderly people will take products like Ensure and
Fortasip, but that's like your meat, and you should be taking
superfoods, to get your greens and fruit in there too."
"If Ensure is your meat, superfood is your
Part of the problem is that GPs aren't encouraging
"It's about educating mainstream medicine that
there's a place for all of these superfoods, vitamins,
supplements," she says.
They are also good for children who won't eat their
greens and vegans and vegetarians too. "There's always coleslaw,
but if you don't like cabbage, well, that ship has
"Superfoods will ensure you get what you need on a
Why take them?
When someone comes into the pharmacy asking about
superfoods or supplements, the first thing Mrs Johnson asks about
is lifestyle, if they are under stress, eating on the run, having
too many takeaway and processed foods…The next question is, do you
take any supplements already and what do you hope to get from
However, she believes most people could benefit from
superfoods even if they eat healthily.
Most people try to eat a healthy diet, but the way
fruit and vegetables are stored and transported and grown for
appearance and shelf life, rather than nutrition, means they are
often not left to develop and ripen slowly and naturally to ensure
maximum uptake of vitamins and minerals, she says.
"A balanced diet of the correct food doesn't always
mean a balanced diet of vitamins and minerals."
Then when you take in consideration stress and
lifestyle effects, many people require more vitamins and minerals
to counteract these effects.
"It doesn't matter how you sugar coat it, we actually
have an unbalanced diet. I'm not saying superfoods are going to
cure everything, but they will certainly enhance wellbeing and
Superfoods also have the advantage of having had the
number and levels of vitamins and minerals verified, so you know
exactly what you're getting and can make sure you're not overdosing
on certain nutrients - for example, too much kale can affect the
Mrs Johnson says the nicest way to take superfood
powder is to add it to almond milk "for that nutty
She recommends blending them in a smoothie, but you
can also just use a shaker, with a ball in it.
Cooking with them, adding to baking or sprinkling on
cereal works too.
Commodore Pharmacy's young pharmacist Mina Geris is a
great advert for the products his pharmacy sells. Mr Geris works at
the pharmacy and has a Nuzest protein shake after he goes to the
gym as well as for breakfast sometimes.
"Protein is a great substitute when you get sugar and
salt cravings and you feel just as full, but it's better for you,"
Naturopath Angela Haldane
goes by the name of Natural Ange
What the naturopath says
Former registered nurse, turned naturopath and
medical herbalist, Angela Haldane, says as a starting point for
health, she will always go back to the Mediterranean diet.
"Evidence-based medicine shows the Mediterranean food
pyramid and vegetarian diet promotes longevity," Ms Haldane, also
known as Natural Ange, says.
The Mediterranean diet is basically 80% vegetables
and a palm-sized piece of protein with some wholegrains and a
couple of pieces of fruit.
However, in her 20 years of naturopathy, Ms Haldane
has discovered Mediterranean isn't the norm for most people. She
says they aren't getting enough vegetables due to being busy and
not liking the effort and leftover scraps of preparing them.
"People tend to be very carb oriented these days,
with a lot of sugar."
Rather than powdered superfoods, she would prefer
people to eat per the Mediterranean diet. Eating whole food suits
the digestive system as chewing turns on the amylase in saliva
which is the first step in digestion and in turn switches on all
Ms Haldane pushes leafy green salads and slaws, which
not only contain lots of nutrients but are economical and locally
However, she concedes if someone is time-poor, then
smoothies are great because you can pack them with superfoods such
as blueberries, spirulina, goji, maca powder.
They are also great for people who need energy before
But Ms Haldane points out that people can end up
paying a lot for exotic products with superfoods, when beetroot and
dark leafy greens from your own garden are equally as
"As a herbalist, there's something special about live
plant and the vital essence of a leaf picked in your garden versus
something that's been processed in a factory."
While you've got your vitamins and minerals in
powdered foods, some of the vitality of the live plant might be
lost in the processing.
"Marketing companies bamboozle
people into buying fad products which can be an unnecessary expense
when you can get just as good stuff locally," she
Superfood smoothies can be a good
way to sneak vegetables into children's diets who won't eat their
greens. However, feeding them steamed broccoli trees with balsamic
and olive oil as pre-dinner finger food also works remarkably well,
Ms Haldane says.
Mums who come to her are often
surprised that their kids start eating them with no complaints, she
In the same way, superfood smoothies
are good for convalescents, but soups work too.
If she had to recommend one
superfood product it would be spirulina.
"It's seaweed-based and really good
for vegans and vegetarians as it contains protein, is rich in
gamma-linolenic acid and is generally a broad