It isn’t always easy to eat well, especially when the food processors do everything they can to make their products more palatable and sought-after. Even many of the “so called” health foods on the market are not as healthy as they are made out to be.
Too often the health food industry is guilty of manipulating the benefits of the foods they offer, making it difficult for the consumer to separate fact from fiction. What can you do to avoid being taken in by the hype of deceitful health food advertising and promotion?
Begin by eating more natural healthy diet of more whole foods and less packaged processed foods. The best things to eat are fresh high fiber fruits and vegetables, preferably organically grown free of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other chemicals, low-fat meat, fish and dairy products for protein and beans, nuts and seeds. These foods are nutrient dense, providing more health benefits per calorie consumed.
At the same time, avoid eating processed foods that come in a box, bottle, bag or can, even if they’re considered to be health foods. Packaged foods, whether you buy them at the supermarket or a health food store, are usually loaded with added sugars and sodium and are often high in fat, saturated fat and trans fat.
Here are the top ten unhealthy health foods:
Fruit Juice – Are you aware that an eight-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange juice contains almost no fiber and about eight teaspoons of sugar? That’s almost as much as the ten teaspoons of sugar you find in a can of cola. Sure, you may get more nutrients in fruit juice than you get in colas, but you’re much better off eating fruit whole. Whole fruit provides essential fiber that slows down the digestive process, helping to control excessive spikes in blood sugar levels. Diets high in sugar and low in fiber are known to promote hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, as well as other health problems.
And commercial fruit juice is even less healthy. Processed orange juice, for example, is a pale copy of the real thing, which isn’t that healthy to begin with. Almost all store-bought juice has been pasteurized. Pasteurization, however, has a dark side. The process may kill harmful bacteria in orange juice, but it also kills beneficial bacteria, depletes nutritional value and weakens taste. What’s left is basically a “dead food.”
After pasteurization, orange juice is then stored in giant oxygen-free metal tanks so it can be sold at a later date when fresh oranges are not available. Storage for long periods of time also depletes the flavor of the commercial fruit juice. In order to restore the juice flavor for market, many food processors then add artificial flavor packs, which are little more than synthetic chemical fragrances. Fruit drinks are much worse. They’re nothing more than high fructose corn syrup and a concoction of artificial ingredients. You might as well drink sugar water.
Energy Bars – While many health food energy bars contain a modest amount of natural ingredients and some protein and fiber, they often contain as much sugar and as many calories as a candy bar, but without the flavor. Energy bars also contain pretty high levels of sodium. Most energy bars also use soy or whey protein isolates as ingredients, which are concealed sources of MSG. Be sure to read labels. Avoid bars high in sodium, sugar in its many forms and protein isolates. There are many other healthier energy boosting snacks available to choose from.
Calorie-Counted Snacks – “Good things come in small packages” is not always necessarily true. Pre-portioned 100 calorie snacks may seem like a great idea if you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, but they may not be your healthiest choice. Many of these small snack items offer very little in nutritional value, such as protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
A healthy snack of 100 calories of fruit, vegetables or whole grains is a much better value, both nutritionally and financially. About 23 almonds for 161 calories, for example, supply the protein and healthy fat that will satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time than a high carbohydrate, empty calorie snack.
Quinoa chips – Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah’) is an incredibly healthy food. It’s high in complete protein, i.e. it contains all nine essential amino acids, a good source of fiber and iron and much healthier as an addition to meals than white potatoes or white rice. But making it into chips or pasta destroys most of quinoa’s natural nutritional value. First, it has to be milled into flour, which depletes much of the protein and fiber. Then it’s either baked or fried in oil, before salt is added for flavor. What the food processors do is take a perfectly good food and turn it into a high-calorie, high-fat, high-salt, highly-addictive junk food. The same goes for corn, potato, sweet potato and multi-grain chips. Chips are not a very healthy snack choice.
Superfood Smoothies – Don’t be fooled by those thick fruit-and-vegetable “superfood” smoothies in the health food store cooler. They’re not a low-calorie snack. In fact, with up to as many as 400 calories in a 16-oz bottle, many smoothies would qualify as mini-meal. However, it wouldn’t be a very healthy meal, since they contain little to no protein or fat. Even one brand of spirulina smoothie contained only one gram or less of protein.
So, what do these superfood drinks contain in abundance? Carbohydrates! That’s right, sugar. One 16-oz bottle of a popular mango smoothie contains 57 grams or the equivalent of 13.5 tsps. of sugar and provides a total of 260 calories. The label brags that it contains “no added sugar. It doesn’t need any added sugar. It already has close to 30% more sugar than a 16 oz cola at 44 grams and about 188 calories. Sure, it may be a more complex sugar than what you find in cola, but it is still sugar and offers no nutritional value. Superfood smoothies are basically just empty calorie sweet treats.
Agave Nectar – Promoted as a healthy substitute for table sugar, agave, however, is still sugar and nobody needs any extra added sugar. Agave nectar actually has five more calories per tsp. (21 to 16) than ordinary table sugar and those extra calories can add up over time. People who use agave on a regular basis could be adding more weight and have no idea where it’s coming from.
Another problem with agave nectar is the fact that like sugar it contains no nutritional value. If you insist on adding sweetener to foods, stevia would be a much better choice. Even raw honey provides anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Even better, break the sweet tooth habit.
Sport Drinks – Popular with athletes and exercise enthusiasts, sport drinks are one of the most over-hyped and dangerous products on the health food market. Many are loaded with addictive caffeine and other stimulants that soon let you down with an intense craving for another fix. Caffeine can be incredibly damaging to your health, causing hypertension, anxiety, dizziness and sleeplessness. Over time, caffeine can permanently harm your central nervous system.
Sport drinks are also loaded with sugars (high fructose corn syrup), sodium, artificial flavors and artificial colors. Most have as much if not more added sugar than soft drinks. These drinks have also been found to be 30 times more corrosive to teeth than pure, clean water, which should be everyone’s beverage of choice.
Eating right can be a challenge. However, if you eliminate all of the above faux health foods from your daily diet, you will be making a huge step in the right direction. Since food advertising and labels can be misleading and confusing, stick to simple, whole foods for optimum nutritional benefit.
When you do choose a processed or packaged food, be sure to check the label carefully. Know what you’re buying and putting into your body. Make sure you’re getting the best you can for the money you’re spending.