10 Foods you thought were healthy, but aren’t!With hundreds of fad diets out there, you may find it easier just to clean up your diet a little and eat healthier. There are many foods that pretty clearly fit into one category and others that fit in another. Fruits, veggies and most whole grain foods deserve the healthy praise they get, but some foods that have worn that label for far too long, are not exactly what they seem. Make sure you know all the facts before you eat.
1. Diet Soda
Although it may seem like a smarter choice, I mean its “diet” after all, these sodas are actually hiding secret dangers. Drinking one of these sodas per day can increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by about 40%. Diet soda is not any better. Although it saves on calories, additives like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose can confuse your body and are often worse than real sugar. The artificial sweeteners in these drinks can cause higher spikes in insulin which in turn, transforms into stored fat. Studies have shown that soda consumption increases the risks of heart attack and stroke. Overall, these diet sodas have no nutritional value. Sure, again, you aren’t ingesting any calories, but you also aren’t ingesting anything that will have any positive influence on your body.
2. Sports Drinks
The sports drink industry has marketed their product as a substitute for water to quench your thirst and an enhancement to physical performance and recovery from the action. There is, however, little to no evidence that the claims are actually true. The only evidence that reports the claims to be true, were from the sports drinks company websites, therefore riddled in bias and not suitable for proper critical appraisal. So, although they claim to be a great substitute for quenching your thirst to water, but let’s be honest guys, there is NO substitute for water, your body simply needs it. Stay hydrated the right way! Additionally, nutritional labels on those drinks reveal beneficial electrolytes, but also a hefty amount of sugar, artificial food coloring and calories too. A healthier choice for getting in those important electrolytes comes in the form of bananas and coconut water. That said, both nutritionists and industry experts agree that these sports energy drinks are actually beneficial, but only during or following high-intensity exercise that exceeds one hour.
3. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is often sold under the guise of being a “superfood”, insanely high in protein and super healthy, but there’s more to the creamy treat than meets the eye. What makes it so good is the straining process the yogurt goes through which removes most whey and lactose that can be harmful to your body. The end product has a little more protein and a little less milk sugar than your average yogurt, but not a whole lot. To compensate for the lack of sweetness, some brands opt to add huge amounts of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners to their products to make them more appealing. Some also get gelatin added to them, to give a more slippery texture, so watch out vegetarians! Quick disclaimer though, this whole rundown applies to some brands, but not all. When it comes to Greek Yogurt, look at the label and try to go for fat-free options, as they regularly have less sugar, additives and naturally, no fat.
4. Agave Nectar
As soon as you hear the word “natural” on a food product, you may immediately think, healthy right? Well, that is not always the true case. Agave nectar has been praised as the natural way to sweeten things up without the use of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Agave is not all as perfect as it seems though, it has more fructose in it than any other common sweetener, even including the evil high fructose corn syrup. Fructose leads, in the long-term, to an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels. Additionally, fructose poses a grave danger to your entire cardiovascular system as it could increase your risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Unlike glucose sugar for example, fructose can only be broken down in the liver, thus leading to inflammation and damaging of the cells. Although it is low on the glycemic index, it shouldn’t be used in excess.
Sure, they’re better than chips, even better than some crackers, but they aren’t totally blameless. Some brands offer fat-free options and lower calories, but they don’t offer much else. Pretzels have little to no nutritional value. As they are made with white flour, which rapidly converts into sugar in your body, which spikes blood sugar levels and causes you to actually get hungrier! Not only are they low in fat, but they are also low in protein, low in fiber and high in sodium. In fact, they have so much sodium, they account for about 15% of the total daily limit. All in all, having a handful of pretzels every now and again is not anything to worry about, but if it’s your daily go-to snack, it isn’t a wise choice. If you really can’t fight the cravings, try pairing them with a piece of low-fat cheese and a fresh fruit. They will help to bump up the nutritional value by increasing the levels of protein, calcium, and fiber. Also try looking for pretzels with less salt, less salt means less sodium.
It’s definitely not butter, but it may be just as bad for you. Nutritionally speaking, margarine does have less saturated fat than standard butter, as it is made with vegetable oils instead of animal fat. Superficially is sounds healthier, until you hear about the process. Vegetable oil is extracted from soybeans, corn or sunflower seeds, then steamed in order to remove any imperfections. That first portion of the process, however, also removes a lot of vitamins and antioxidants. Then the oil is hydrogenated to turn it into a semi-solid, which looks something like a lumpy grey grease, then emulsified to remove the lumps, bleached to get rid of the grey hue and steamed once again to eliminate chemical odors. Finally, synthetic vitamins and colorings are added to make the final product. Still think it all sounds good?
7. Energy Bars
Most of these guys are not actually healthy at all, they’re pretty much candy bars in disguise. Yes, there is a lot of protein in them, and that is good for you, but there is too much other stuff surrounding the goodness, that makes this a deceptively healthy choice. Some protein, energy or granola bars have just as much sugar as a chocolate bar! Look, not all should be permanently crossed off the grocery list, but just take a closer look at the labels to make sure you’re making the right choice. Too many of these protein bars are quite simply processed bricks of artificial ingredients and fillers. Granola bars are even worse than protein ones, as many have levels of saturated fats, sugar and sodium on par with a Snickers.
8. Wheat Bread
Wheat bread, in its purest form is indeed a healthier option, but many “whole wheat” breads aren’t actually all that they may appear. Not all whole wheat breads contain pure, whole grains. Even the ones with the label claiming “multi-grain” and “seven-grain”, they may still use refined flour. This refined, or enriched flour can end up giving you a sugar spike, followed by a crash without any other nutritional value. By definition, whole grains are food that contain all of the essential parts of te whole grain seed. Labels like “whole wheat” or “100% natural” are likely to be more honest. That said, always check the nutrition label! They may contain, not only refined flour, but also hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, food coloring and preservatives to increase the shelf-life of the product. One key to look for in this case are the terms “whole grains” and “whole wheat”, make sure they’re the first on the nutrition label roster.
9. Tea Drinks
Tea is healthy, there is no doubt about that, but only when you brew it yourself and know what’s in it. Flavored tea in a bottle or can is less tea, and more sugar and artificial flavorings than anything else. Most of the time, there isn’t even any actual tea in there, just artificial tea flavor to make you think what you’re having is all the good stuff. The average cup of tea has between 2 and 5 calories, whereas a single serving of an iced tea drink can contain around 250 calories! Not only is it lethal in terms of calories, but also sugar and sweeteners. Most iced tea drink brands contain about 60g of sugar. Some brand claim to be full of antioxidants that combat cancer and weight gain, amongst other things. A recent study found though, that most of these brands contained little to NONE of the ECGC, the antioxidant linked to these benefits. So check the label next time to find out if you’re really drinking the antioxidant rich tea beverage you think you are, or just well marketed sugar water.
10. Dried Fruit
You hear fruit, you think: healthy! That’s true, fresh fruit is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet, but dried fruit is not as important. I may have high fiber content, but it also has a lot of added sugar and sulfur, used to preserve it and make it last longer. As the fruit is dried, it also has about 3 times more calories per serving than the fresh counterpart. Take a bag of banana chips for example, it has three times as many calories as a fresh banana and more than 20% more fat. The process through which the fruit is dried often causes it to lose some of most of the nutritional benefits the fruit originally had. The drying process frequently leads to a drop in fiber, potassium and vitamin C to the final packaged product.