All sorts of foods are labeled ‘healthy’, but many don’t deserve that health halo! Here are 5 “healthy” foods to watch out for.
(Some) Whole Grains:
Whole grain products are covering the shelves, but many of them don't deserve that healthy label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “whole grains” as a mixture of bran, endosperm and germ in the proportions one would expect to see in intact grain products. In many products, grains are processed so that the three parts are separated and ground before being put back into foods. Products only need to contain 51% of this mixture to be labeled 'whole grain', but many of them are lacking the antioxidants and fiber of true whole grains. To ensure a product is actually good for you, check the ratio of carbs to fiber, which should be at least 10:1; read the ingredients and look for something like "100% whole wheat"; or look for the whole grain stamp.
If you're trying to add some fruit into your diet, grabbing a cup of OJ may seem like a no-brainer in the morning. Fruit juices, and juice fasts, can be packed with sugar and are usually lacking in fiber, a combo that can make you hungry later. Instead of juice, grab the real deal or occasionally drink 100% fruit juice with no added sugars. Swish your mouth with water after drinking, as orange juice is also known to wear down your chompers.
It’s snack time and you’re aiming for a healthy snack, so maybe you grab a non-fat yogurt. Fat plays an important role in taste and texture, so to make non-fat products more palatable manufacturers add in sugars and other additives. Recent research shows that the low-fat crazy may have been misguided, and the updated USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that only about 10% of daily calories come from added sugars. Added sugars are put in by manufacturers for all sorts of reasons, like taste, texture, color and shelf-life. Right now the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, or about 350 calories. Research has shown that diets with reduced amounts of sugars help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Takeaway? Read your labels to see what gunk manufacturers have put in, and reach for reduced fat or smaller portions of full fat yogurt. The same goes for other non-fat products too, of course!
Okay, maybe ‘soda’ doesn’t belong on a healthy foods list, but the artificial sweeteners found in it are in tons of low-calorie beverages marketed as healthy. While research finds the link between artificial sweeteners and cancers is lacking, artificial sweeteners may alter your gut microbiome (the healthy bacteria living in your intestines, helping you digest foods and vitamins) and actually make you more hungry. While both pro and anti sweetener research exists, it’s safest to leave them alone. Besides, many of these drinks, from soda to sparkling water, contain carbonation, citric acid and other fruit acids, all of which are known to wear down your enamel, increasing your risk for cavities.
The buzzed about gluten-free diet has not been found to have any health benefits for people without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Gluten-free products are not only about twice the cost, but they also are not usually fortified with iron, folate and other B vitamins like traditional products. Consuming whole grains has been linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. When people without celiac disease sub in processed gluten-free foods for whole, unprocessed grains they can miss out on these important health benefits. Instead of going gluten-free to cut out carbohydrates, consider cutting down on processed grain products and swapping in whole grains, beans, and other vegetables that are high in iron, B-vitamins and antioxidants.