We're one month into 2016. Maybe you're still on your healthy bandwagon of new year resolutions and watching your daily intake, but beware, there are many items touted as health foods that are anything but. Check out this list to see if you've been had...
1. Wheat Bread
Take a closer look at your nutrition label (fair warning: I'll be saying that a lot) and check if it says "wheat flour" or "100% wheat flour." Sounds trivial but herein lies the rub: if it's just "wheat flour" that generally means that it is an enriched flour and no better than refined white bread. You read correctly! Wheat bread can be made from flour that has been completely stripped of nutrients, causing your blood sugar levels to spike and triggering inflammation, just like its white, enriched cousin.
This sums it up but just think of it this way: 1) Fat is not always the enemy. There are healthy fats that your body requires to be healthy and balanced, i.e., avocados, nuts, seeds. They help absorb vitamins and minerals and even regulate hormones! You need them. 2) When they take the fat out, to make something reduced or non-fat, they put a lot more back in. I'm talking S.U.G.A.R. And if there's one thing that is worse than fat, it's sugar. Whole foods in moderation: good. Chemical crap fest: bad.
3. Dried Fruit
A total wolf in sheep's clothing. Dried fruit is packed with sugar and chemical preservatives and is almost never going to be a better option over the fresh version of said fruit. It generally has three times more calories than fresh and won't keep you full for as long. But if that's all you have, be smart about it and get the unsweetened stuff - you're sweet enough without the sugar.
4. Vegetable Oil
As innocent as oil from vegetables may sound, it's not extracted without some blood, sweat, tears and, you guessed it, chemicals. First, the vegetables are subjected to crazy heat (which generally cooks out any and all nutrients), and then they are soaked in solvents to elicit the actual oil. Oh, and then a bunch of other chemicals are added later to make the oil's color and smell more appealing. Soy much processing (pun intended).
5. Sports drinks
Soooo... this little diagram here does a pretty good job of explaining the primary issue with sports drinks in general, because it's certainly not just Gatorade that has this much sugar. Check out what an Oxford University study reported:
"There is a striking lack of evidence to support the vast majority of sports-related products that make claims related to enhanced performance or recovery, including drinks… Half of all websites for these products provided no evidence for their claims, and of those that do, half of the evidence is not suitable for critical appraisal. No systematic reviews were found, and overall, the evidence base was judged to be at high risk of bias." (www.bbc.com)
6. Egg Substitutes
Eggs got put on the naughty list by U.S. dietary guidelines, demonized for cholesterol content. Buuuuut it turns out that the cholesterol in eggs doesn't significantly raise the blood cholesterol, so basically by skipping out on the egg yolk, you're missing TONS of vitamins and getting a bunch of additives in the egg white substitutes. Not a great alternative, and an unnecessary one.
Wraps are sandwich-lite, no? I'm eating less, right? Sorry suckas, these tortillas are most commonly refined white flour with a third of your daily sodium intake. And if you optimistically believed that the spinach/sun-dried tomato was more nutritious, it's generally just artificial flavors and coloring. Womp womp.
Yogurt on its own (for example, in above picture) is not inherently evil. Where you get into trouble is with the flavored yogurts with gram upon gram of added refined sugar, pretending to be fruit, no less. Again, it can't be emphasized enough that sugar is a major inflammation station for the body, and nothing good comes from excess inflammation. The best option is to get some plain yogurt and add some wonderful organic fruit yourself! If you really need that extra sweetness, try some pure maple syrup, raw honey or agave to keep your glucose levels from spiking. #savetheliverdamageforthealcohol #jk
9. Synthetic Oils
We again begin with the myth that fat is the root of all nutritional evil. We've sorted that out by now, but this led to the creation of synthetic fat-free oils. Again, human tampering is predominantly no bueno for our insides. Enter: trans fats. They put people at great cardiovascular risk for the sake of shelf life and shape. I can't believe it's not butter? How about, I can't believe it still exists.
10. Protein bars
In the vast majority of cases, there is not too much to distinguish a protein bar from a candy bar. Tons of processing, refine sugars, the whole lot. Unfortunately, while protein can be a helpful nutrient, the "extra" bonus you get with these bars is not worth it.
11. Fruit Juices
Another instance where eating the fresh and full version is leagues better for your health, but here's why: not only is sugar an issue even with organic, cold-pressed fruit goodness, but the regular juice you find at the store can be as full of high fructose corn syrup as the sugar source. Basically, as if refined sugar wasn't bad enough, add a crap-ton of processing to it and you get HFCS. Sure there may be some nutrients in fruit juice, but the calories and sugar levels are big red flags.
12. Frozen Yogurt
This pains me as much to write it as it does for you to read it, but we have to stop fooling ourselves. Fro-yo is NOT better for you than ice cream. So really, for the sake of refined sugar and lack of nutrition, just have either in moderation. And please hand me a tissue.
13. Diet Soda
For starters, there's a lot of controversial research about the carcinogenic properties of many artificial sweeteners, but there is now even more substantiated evidence that people who drink diet soda are actually at a significantly higher risk for developing type-II diabetes!
14. Low-fat and fat-free milk
Go for the whole! Low-fat and fat-free milks are way more processed and robbed of many nutrients when the fat is removed. On top of that, skim milk has powdered milk additives to help bulk up its consistency, once all that tasty fat is gone. So, that's fewer nutrients and more additives.
So just to burst your breakfast bubble completely, first we had the milk and now the cereal. These proclaimed healthy breakfast options are often the original grains bent to the will of the production, so all nutrients are gone-zo, which are then fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals that are just not the same. Not to mention it's basically like eating a cake with icing for breakfast as far as sugar levels go with some cereals!
16. Veggie Straws
Yes, veggie may be in the name, but it's on the brink of false advertising. These tasty snacks are primarily potato starch (like potato chips) and only have bits of vegetable powder for coloring. There's not really any actual vegetable nutrients, so please don't eat these as a substitute. Your body will not thank you.
Whole, real, unprocessed foods in moderation is the way to win. So start winning already.
H/T: Businessinsider.sg, Forbes.com, Foodnetwork.com, Science.howstuffworks.com, Muscleandfitness.com