It seems that everybody is trying to eat a little bit healthier these days. In fact, our national focus on health and exercise seem to almost have become a national obsession. However, many of us remain ill-equipped to make healthy choices at the grocery store or when going out to eat. The reason so many of us have trouble making choices are that the list of “healthy” foods seems to be constantly changing! Sorry to say, but your view on healthy foods might be altered here once again. The following list contains 10 foods that are often touted as being healthy. Unfortunately, these 10 foods also contain elements that make them more harmful than healthful choices. Check out this list and see if your favorite food you thought were healthy but are not!
10. Fruit Juice
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A glass of apple juice a day may contribute to unwanted spikes in blood sugar and weight gain. The primary problem with fruit juices are sugar content. Drinking a glass of juice often has as much sugar as a soda! While you can argue that juice does contain valuable antioxidants that soda does not, you would be better off just eating a piece of fruit. Whole fruit contains fibber which slows down the rate in which we absorb sugar into our blood stream. That’s not to mention that you will get full faster by eating a piece of fruit than by drinking empty liquid calories.
9. Energy/Protein Bars
It is counter-intuitive that a bar designed to be consumed in conjunction with exercise could be unhealthy. Unfortunately, this is the case with many energy/protein bars. It ranks high among food you thought were healthy but are not. To start, energy and protein bars often contain protein isolates, fractional oils, and countless preservatives. That is not to mention that many “healthy” energy bars have just as much sugar as your standard candy bar. To be frank, you might as well just buy a candy bar, they usually taste better anyway.
8. Breakfast Cereal
Breakfast cereal, food you thought were healthy but are not. It seems that every box in the cereal aisle is an advertisement for some new health benefit. Cereal boxes claim to help lower cholesterol while others claim to be heart healthy. Furthermore, most all cereals claim that they provide a mix of essential vitamins and minerals. However, most cereals are sugar laden, refined, processed junk. This includes cereal that claims to be “natural,” like granola. To start, the sheer amount of sugar in most breakfast cereals is enough to remove this commodity from any healthy diet. Furthermore, the vitamins that are contained within each box have been added by the manufacturing company. That is, the vitamins are man-made and injected into your cereal. This has actually proven dangerous for children who overdose on these vitamins. Yikes!
7. Low Fat Yogurt
Low-fat dairy must be better than full-fat dairy, right? Not necessarily. A study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who consumed full-fat dairy products were not more likely to be obese or have cardiovascular problems when compared to people who consumed low-fat. The problem with yogurt isn’t the fat. The problem with yogurt is the usual unhealthy culprit – sugar! If purchasing yogurt, look for a brand with no sugar added. You can then add honey or fruit on your own to sweeten it just right.
This sugar substitute may appear in the health food sections at your local grocery store. We like to substitute sugar because of the metabolic problems that excessive consumption of sugar can cause. Most of these metabolic problems arise from sugar’s fructose content. However, agave actually contains a greater level of fructose than both sugar and high fructose corn syrup! Thus, gram for gram, agave is more harmful to your metabolic system than just regular sugar! With time, fructose can damage the liver and promote type II diabetes, problems you would rather avoid. In general, be wary of anything claiming to be a healthy sweetener.
5. Whole Wheat Bread
If your bread says its whole wheat but it still has the consistency and taste of white bread, you don’t really have whole wheat bread. You have most likely fallen for a deceptive marketing ploy in which companies add just a little bit of wheat flour to their bread in order to market it as healthy. It’s among food you thought were healthy but are not. If you eat real whole wheat bread, you will be able to tell the difference. It will be hearty and filling unlike its refined counterpart. When choosing bread, ignore the “whole-grain” stamp. The requirements to get this mark are quite low and does not guarantee that your bread is anywhere close to 100% whole grain. As always, check the ingredients. Avoid enriched flours and choose bread with high fibber content. The less ingredients the better!
4. Vegetable Oil
It is counter-intuitive to think that something derived from vegetables could be unhealthy. However, vegetable oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, etc can actually be harmful to your health. To start, vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. Humans, must maintain a delicate balance between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids for proper cellular function. Today, many of us have become unbalanced in these fats due to the consumption of vegetable oils and other processed products high in Omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to structural changes within our own cells which consequently lead to inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body is one of the greatest risk factors for developing a chronic disease. Try using olive, coconut, and avocado oil when you can.
3. Certified “Gluten Free” Products
There exists great confusion over gluten and its actual role in the human diet. Gluten is simply a protein that is contained in wheat and other related grains. Gluten actually helps keep your baking goods together and is thus a vital component in bread, pasta, cookies, etc. However, many people have sensitivities to gluten. In the most severe cases, people with gluten sensitivity are diagnosed with an autoimmune condition known as Celiac Disease. Those with Celiac Disease are unable to properly digest gluten which causes damage to their small intestine.
On a less severe scale, there exist people who have adverse allergic reactions to gluten. These people are said to have gluten intolerance. You can think of this as a food allergy. However, if you are not allergic to gluten there is no need for you to avoid it. Often times people equate “gluten free” with healthy because they are unsure what gluten really is. Also consider that in order to achieve the same texture as gluten containing products, gluten free foods often have excess ingredients and have undergone additional processing. Just because a food is “gluten free” doesn’t mean it is better that its gluten containing counterpart. Therefore it among food you thought were healthy but are not.
2. Certified “Vegan” Products
Vegans are healthy right? Well, it depends. Vegans who eat a whole food, plant based diet are certainly eating in a healthy manner. On the contrary, vegans who cut out animal products and start eating processed substitutes for their former fare are not quite as deserving of this healthy label. For example, processed vegan cheese and processed vegan bacon probably shouldn’t be on the menu in any health conscious household. These products contain all sorts of fillers and strange (yet vegan) ingredients. Instead of making substitutes for products you no longer eat, try something brand new! Fruits, vegetables, and grains are certainly vegan and are the types of foods you should strive to eat more of regardless.
1. Certified “Organic” Products
The most shocking food you thought were healthy but are not is certified organic products. Organic is primarily an important indicator on fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat products. Organic gives an indication that a product was produced with minimal pesticides, antibiotics, etc. While buying organic is often a good idea, do not mistake processed organic products for being inherently healthy. Processed foods with organic ingredients are still processed and contain ingredients you would otherwise wish to avoid! Remember, your organic cookie still contains sugar. Your organic cereal still contains sugar. Your organic health bar still contains sugar. As always, you need to read the ingredients label to determine if a product is worth eating. Remember, the less ingredients the better.
10 Food You Thought Were Healthy But Are Not
- Certified “Organic” products
- Certified “Vegan” products
- Certified “Gluten Free” Products
- Vegetable Oil
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Low Fat Yogurt
- Breakfast Cereal
- Energy/Protein Bars
- Fruit Juice
Written by: Noelle Sandridge