15 So-Called Healthy Foods That Aren’t Actually Healthy
Gatorade & Powerade
While sports drinks and similarly vitamin “boosted” beverages claim to be healthy food, any health benefits are largely offset by the large quantity of sugar in these drinks. Just how much sugar? 14 grams is about the average amount. This isn’t the simple table sugar your familiar with, but a potent mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups, think liquefied empty calories, and glucose-fructose. According to modern statistics, Americans already eat 2.5 pounds of sugar weekly. Diseases, including conditions of the heart, joints, bone, brain, blood, liver, and connective tissue, have all been implicated in the use of various sweeteners. What about all those important electrolytes? Yes, Gatorade does have them, but in unreliable amounts. Gatorade, which actually contains more than twice as much sodium than potassium, is an unlikely candidate for any beneficial electrolyte restoration. When the body experiences short periods of exhaustion and fatigue, the last thing it needs is more sodium.
If you are living with Celiac Sprue, a disease in which the body develops antibodies against itself as a result of a protein in gluten, gluten-free foods are an absolute miracle. What about for the rest of us? Gluten-free foods not only fail to provide a benefit, they also decrease our nutrient intake and thus do us a little bit of harm overall. If you don’t need gluten-free food, then don’t buy it. Gluten-free products are highly refined amalgams of grains and sugar, but they often do not contain whole grain because it is difficult to create gluten-free, great-tasting foods out of whole grain. That means that gluten-free bread is lower in fiber and natural B-vitamins than whole grain bread. It is also lower in antioxidant compounds known to combat everything from heart disease to cancer to the effects of aging. If you absolutely don’t have to cut gluten from your diet, don’t do it. It’s really not worth it.
Many people automatically assume that granola bars are going to be a healthy snack when they see that they include fruits and nuts. No matter what ingredients are included, they’re almost always very high in sugar (which is usually high-fructose corn syrup) and low in nutrients. If you need a snack on the run, you’re much better off having an apple and a handful of almonds. There are healthy granola bars out there, just be sure to read the nutrition label. You should also consider making granola bars at home so you know exactly what is going into them.
Fun Fact: Whole grains actually are healthy for you, but the terms “multigrain” and “wheat” are used by manufacturers to advertise a number of products that don’t actually contain whole grains. Whole grains contain all parts of the kernel (bran, endosperm, and germ). Refined grains (multigrain) contain only the endosperm. By removing the bran and germ, refined grains will have finer texture and improved shelf life, but decreased nutritional value and less fiber. Terms like stone-ground, seven-grain, multigrain, and bran are not regulated, so don’t trust them to mean that the product contains whole grain. Also, don’t trust color. It is easy to modify the color of a product to make it look like it is healthier than it is.
Sure, diet soda pop is lower in sugar, but it does contain a number of substitute sweeteners. These substitute sweeteners have not been proven to be explicitly harmful, however previous studies only followed the results of ingesting small amounts. On top of that, there is also a direct link between diet soda and depression. In a study of 263,925 adults aged 51-70, individuals who drank soda were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with depression over a period of 10 years. The link was stronger for diet soda than regular soda. The main reason people switch to diet drinks is to cut back on calories in order to lose weight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work. In a study of 3,682 individuals from San Antonio, Texas, consumption of diet soda was associated with double the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
Typically, everything that is associated with fruits and vegetables will be considered healthy by someone on the internet. And anything on the internet is true, right? Unfortunately, banana chips are made by deep frying bananas, which means that just one serving will contain a staggering 10g of saturated fat and at least 150 calories. This high saturated fat content will cause your cholesterol to spike, raising your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and potentially increasing the likelihood that you will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in your lifetime. In addition, it is worth noting that banana coins contain fewer of the essential vitamins and minerals that can be found in a fresh banana.
Light Salad Dressing
Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on light salad dressings? They’re are so many, it will take you quite a while to read through it all. Filled with preservatives and other additives you can’t pronounce—not to mention sodium and sugar—you’re much better off drizzling your veggies with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
People on a diet will often times head towards the light yogurt instead of the regular. The reduced fat content implies that these yogurts will be helpful for those who want to lose weight. However, this is false. In an attempt to compensate, yogurt manufacturers will often choose to heap a lot of extra sugar into their products, creating a much more palatable yogurt at the cost of selling an unhealthy snack. The high sugar content can make these reduced-fat yogurts less healthy than a regular yogurt, so it pays to be particularly careful when choosing yogurts at the store. The ideal yogurt will contain low levels of fat and sugar, including enough of each to create an acceptable flavor but not so much of either that the yogurt becomes unhealthy.
Smoothies have long been the innocent child of the health-food world. Although some smoothies made with simple, whole-food ingredients can be healthy, don’t get fooled into thinking anything with the name “smoothie” is good for you. Some smoothies are made with lots of added sugars, high-calorie ingredients like chocolate syrup, or even use full-fat ice cream as a base.
Pasta made with vegetables may seem healthier than white (or even wheat) pasta, but sadly, it’s not. Although the noodles may be green, the amount of vegetables actually in there is so small that it doesn’t add up to much benefit—and it certainly doesn’t justify eating a huge bowl of it. You’re far better off having a half cup of whole-wheat pasta and a side salad with vegetables.
Every breakfast cereal you see will claim to have tons of healthy nutrients you need to start your day. The problem is, breakfast cereal really isn’t anything more than a processed grain with a panacea of synthetic vitamins and minerals added to it. The truth is that most breakfast cereals have little intrinsic nutritional value. The steps taken to create cereals are simply too damaging to vitamins, minerals, and fibers to leave much of the natural benefit of the grains intact. The manufacturers will go out of their way to show you how many vitamins their cereal contains, but they fail to mention the ridiculous amounts of sugar.The U.S. government, along with many others, does not have regulations that set daily allowances for sugar. Thus, the nutritional label won’t tell you how much of your daily allowance of sugar a cereal provides.
Low-Fat Peanut Butter
Peanuts are full of healthy monounsaturated fats, so when it comes to choosing a peanut butter, it’s best to go with a natural version of the full-fat variety. Most reduced-fat versions contain the same number of calories per serving because when they take the fat out, they add sugar and other fillers in.
Popcorn has become quite the favorite low calorie snack among dieters. Unfortunately, microwave popcorn, the most convenient way to make this healthy snack, is really bad for you. Diacetyl is a natural product that, in combination with acetoin, gives butter is characteristic flavor. It is added to almost all artificial butters, including those used in microwave popcorn, to give them a “real-butter” taste. Diacetyl, though natural, can also be dangerous. Many microwave popcorn manufacturers are voluntarily removing diacetyl from their products. Unfortunately, new evidence is arising that the product used to coat the bags, something called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is also toxic. If you want to have popcorn, the best thing you can do is go about it the old fashion way. Cook it in a pot with a little oil and add only a little butter and salt.
It seems simple enough. Fruit is healthy, so a fruit cocktail should be a good choice. But most fruit cocktails are made with a sugary syrup that does nothing but drive the calories up without adding any nutritional value. You’re much better off eating a piece or two of fresh fruit instead.
If you dry fruit at home and eat it immediately, then dried fruit is fine. However, if you buy it off the shelf, then you may run into problems, the first of which is sugar. Sugar is added to dried fruit to make it taste better. Over time, as natural fructose breaks down, dried fruit loses its flavor. The other problem with dried fruit in the store is that sulfur, in the form of sulfur dioxide, is often added to prevent it from browning. Sulfur dioxide is one type of sulfite and research is suggesting that people with asthma, allergies, and other breathing problems may be easily affected by sulfite. This sensitivity has led to speculation that the additive is not good for any of us, even though it only shows immediate effects in those with a lung condition.