Example of superfood breakfast featuring pitaya, açai and coconut bowls.

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As the prevalence of diseases like type-II diabetes or heart diseases have increased across the western world, concerned consumers have begun a new search for a healthy diet. This has led to a rise in the consumption of products branded as “superfoods”, imagined to have properties that improve the health of consumers but also related to a romantic origin typically from native communities within biodiversity-rich ecosystems.

However, superfoods, like any product in high demand, are now experiencing an increase in their production, leading to important social and environmental impacts. Increased demand means producers are clearing more land to increase production and they are employing agrochemicals and heavy machinery. These practices have consequences for the long-term sustainability of “superfood” production.

Our analyses of the paths taken by six popular superfood crops shows that we need to invest more resources in quantifying the effects that rapid land conversion is having in the areas where these crops are grown. The challenge of achieving a sustainable food production will only be met if action is done on several fronts: from changing production practices to consumer diets and governance.