Are superfoods super good or a super fad?
CAN I have a green, dairy-free smoothie with a dose of chia seeds, sprinkle of flaxseed, dollop of coconut oil and topped with bee pollen?
What might have been an order only overheard in a hippy-laden vegetarian café is now becoming a common request in cafes, restaurants and homes across Australia.
Australia's organic and health food movement has been steadily increasing in popularity for a while but the past few years have seen a considerable uptake in a range of strange sounding seeds, nuts and powders - otherwise known as superfoods.
No longer are these nuts, grains and foods suitable for intolerances contained to the bulk food shelves in health food stores - demand has pushed the products into the aisles of major supermarkets.
Social media - including Instagram and Facebook - have become platforms for healthy food sharing and online organic retailers are multiplying.
Nuts are being ground, blended and crushed into different forms to create wheat and bloat-free flours, breads and pastries.
That may explain why, according to the Australia Organic Market Report 2012, the farm-gate value for the domestic organic nut industry increased by 300% between 2010 and 2012.
But do these alleged wonder foods actually work wonders?
And are the wheat, dairy and gluten-free alternatives suitable for anyone vying to be healthy?
One of the hottest new contenders on the health food market is coconut oil - a product traditionally shunned because of its high saturated fat content but now trumped for its anti-fungal and high heat point qualities.
Also increasingly popular at eateries, grocery stores and the like are seeds, including chia, flax and hemp.
The South American- originating chia seed is a source of calcium and joins its flax friend in being high in healthy fats, including Omega 3s.
Raw cacao, which has four times the anti-oxidants than traditional cacao powder, has also emerged as a popular option for people to use in smoothies and baking.
Brisbane-based nutritionist Jessica Cox says the chocolate-tasting powder is high in minerals and noteworthy due to its anti-oxidant qualities.
But people should not be fooled - the health factor does not give way to indulgence.
"There is definitely a limit," Ms Cox said.
"Your good fats, like your avocados, nuts, seeds and oils, they are good for you but there is a certain amount your body can utilise as energy before your body will store them.
"If you are having a lot of extra fats in your diet, unless they are being utilised, they will be stored a lot quicker."
Ms Cox said her biggest concern was people self-diagnosing themselves with food intolerances.
"Testing isn't always the way, but you really should be seeing a professional to do a proper elimination," she said.
"Even if you figure it out on your own, say gluten
doesn't sit well for you and it makes you really digestively unwell when you have it, the problem is people cut it out and they don't know how to stay nutritionally balanced without it.
"That is definitely a scary factor."
While super foods have gained their own respectably sized following, organic produce is continuing to be the choice for a growing number of Australians.
Industry group Australian Organic's market report for 2012 predicts the organic industry to grow by 10-15% over the coming years.
In 2012 the organic industry in Australia was worth $1.276 billion with three out of four purchases made at major supermarkets.
QUT Associate Professor Dr Danielle Gallegos, a researcher in nutrition and dietetics, also highlights the popularity of farmers' markets but says consumers do not always differentiate between organic and locally grown foods.
"Some farmers' markets are just another retail outlet," she said.
"The asparagus you buy is still coming from South America.
"Consumers might not be aware of that and need to make sure they are asking the right type of questions if that is why they are going to the farmers' markets."
As for the number of coconut oils, chia seeds and nut butters being snapped off the shelves, Dr Gallegos said we needed to stop chasing the magic bullet.
"There is no evidence to say any of that stuff is absolutely necessary," she said.
"A handful of fresh nuts is good once a day but then to go into all of these other permutations of these things is really not necessary."
But one person who knows the benefits is Bec Ronald.
The born and bred Sunshine Coast girl was struck down with salmonella (with a typhoid strain) on a trip to Bali two years ago.
Ever since she has battled reoccurring health issues and has revolutionised her eating habits to rehabilitate her stomach.
That includes super foods like kale, hemp seeds and gluten-free products.
While the fit 21-year-old admits to trying most superfoods out there, she was not following any trend - the ones that did not help were immediately scrapped.
"I think that is what people have to be careful (about) with the superfood and health industry as certain things are fads," she said.
"For me, I listen to my body and know it so well now.
"Bee pollen - I had tried that and it disagreed with me. Also, quinoa (a South American grain-like seed) doesn't help my stomach.
"I don't expect things that I am eating now will always help me but it is helping my body for now."
Unlike many young women her age, Bec chooses to spend her hard-earned wages on food above all else.
"I haven't bought clothes or miscellaneous things in a long time. I spend a good chunk of my money on food but I don't regret it," she said.
"It is expensive to eat that way but I want to love myself from the inside out and give (me) the best possible life."
- Chia Seeds - substitute for eggs, high in calcium and popular in smoothies
- Coconut oil - anti-fungal qualities but high in saturated fat
- Rice malt syrup - alternative to sugar and honey, low in fructose
- Cacao - high in magnesium and anti-oxidants. Used as chocolate alternative
- Hemp seed - protein and omega-3 fats. Used in seed and oil form.
- Coconut flour - alternative to flour. Absorbs more moisture than normal flour.