Put the label "superfood" on the wildest food item you can think of and it could be enough to start a craze.

Products we've overlooked in the past are now some of the most coveted by those of us constantly on the hunt for foods to improve our lives.

An example is coconut oil, which used to be looked over by many of us. It's now believed to be a magical cure for many things: weight, metabolism, digestion, diabetes, immunity, skin and it can reduce cravings.

Likewise, apple cider vinegar is now seen as a beauty cure-all and is claimed to possess
powers akin to a miracle healer.

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The answer to optimum health has never seemed easier, with peculiar foods such as goji berries, charcoal and activated nuts all featuring in the solution.

But an Australian dietician, Paula Norris, wants to warn people there are issues with our current understanding of what makes something a "superfood".

There are six in particular that she points out don't actually have the backing to prove the claims of their healing properties.

Coconut oil

Health fanatics swear by coconut oil. From substitute eye makeup remover to teeth whitener, and an aid for weight management, the oil from the humble coconut is seen as nature's miracle elixir.

But Norris explains that the proof is not exactly there yet.

"Health claims about coconut oil and immunity, boosting metabolism and appetite suppression are not supported by evidence.

"It also has the highest level of saturated fat of all oils... at around 90 per cent. While the jury is currently out on how detrimental this is - if you choose to use for flavour then use sparingly."

Coconut oil became popular because of its saturated fat content. Photo / Getty Images
Coconut oil became popular because of its saturated fat content. Photo / Getty Images

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar as a weight loss aid has risen in popularity recently.

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To give your stomach a boost and kick your metabolism into gear, many of us have been told to take a morning shot of this gut-healing superstar. But is the advice legitimate?

While Norris concurs "It has been shown to reduce the GI of high GI meals - but so does any vinegar.

"It does contain pectin which is a prebiotic fibre that feeds good bacteria but so do apples and a bunch of other fruits.

"ACV has been shown to be damaging to teeth when taken like a medication (dentists recommend using a straw)."

The belief is that a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning is the answer to optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. Photo / Getty Images
The belief is that a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning is the answer to optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. Photo / Getty Images

Charcoal

We're used to this black stuff being used in products to get rid of impurities on the outside such as stained teeth. But more recently activated charcoal pills and powders have become the trendy new way to cleanse our insides of toxins such as pollution and chemicals in food packaging.

Again Norris notes there are "a lot of claims and still not a lot of evidence". ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

"If you find it works for you in some way then great - but don't waste your money for the sake of it."

Ingesting activated charcoal is seen as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we’re exposed to. Photo / Getty Images
Ingesting activated charcoal is seen as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we’re exposed to. Photo / Getty Images

Green Powders

Somehow, we've managed to convince ourselves these mixes are actually pallatable. Often added to smoothies for an extra boost of goodness, they are now commonly found on our supermarket shelves.

"While they can be rich in antioxidants they are super expensive and you'll get the same benefits from eating whole fruits and veg," she explained.

"In fact, there are other compounds in fruit and veg likely to help the action of nutrients that you won't get from green powders because they're removed in processing."

Some of the benefits of ingredients in green powders are lost when the mix is being processed. Photo / Getty Images
Some of the benefits of ingredients in green powders are lost when the mix is being processed. Photo / Getty Images

Goji berries

There are many claims about the benefits of goji berries due to their high vitamin A and C content. These are important for building immunity and preventing illnesses, from the common cold to cancer.

However, it's not actually clear if goji berries are better than other more common types.

"Yes they contain antioxidants but are no better than what you get from other far cheaper (and many would say far more tasty) berries," Norris explains.

In Asia, goji berries have been eaten for generations in the hope of living longer. Photo / Getty Images
In Asia, goji berries have been eaten for generations in the hope of living longer. Photo / Getty Images

Activated nuts

You can activate nuts by soaking them overnight in water and salt which allows the seed time to germinate. This is done to apparently make it easier for your digestive system to process and enhance nutrient absorbtion.

"There is very little evidence to show that you get any additional benefits from activated nuts compared to standard nuts," Norris admits.

Nuts are good sources of healthy fats, vitamins E and B, fibre and protein, which you can absorb easily, whether or not you're eating activated or standard nuts.