Just because the label says it's good for you doesn't mean it is.
Here's how to read beyond the marketing hype and determine if you really are eating healthy.
Take a moment and consider this logic:
1. Fat-free foods are healthy.
2. Skittles are fat-free.
3. Therefore, Skittles are healthy.
Of course not.
But it's exactly the type of reasoning that food manufacturers want you to use in choosing your health foods.
You see, in our example, we started with a false premise.
That's because the term "fat-free" is often code for "high-sugar", an attribute that makes a product the opposite of healthy.
Case in point: Johns Hopkins University researchers recently determined that high blood sugar is an independent risk factor for heart disease .
So high-glycemic foods, in other words, those such as sugars and starches that raise your blood sugar dramatically, are inherently unhealthy.
(See Skittles analogy, above.)
Sadly, faulty food logic is far less obvious when you're shopping outside the candy aisle.
And that's because making your health-foods choices aren't as simple as knowing that beans are packed with fiber, or that fruits are loaded with disease fighting antioxidants.
The fact is that manufacturers often add ingredients, such as sugar, that can instantly turn health-foods into not so healthy foods.
And the result is that many of the products that you think are wholesome are anything but.
And that's why we've created our list of the dirty dozen:
12 "health-foods" that you can, and frankly, should live without.
Yogurt with Fruit
The upside is: Yogurt and fruit are two of the healthiest health-foods foods known to man.
The downside: Corn syrup is not.
But that's exactly what's used to make these products sweet.
For example, a particular cup of blueberry yogurt contained 36 grams of sugar, about half of which is found naturally in the fruit and yogurt.
The rest comes in the form of "added" sugar, or what we prefer to call "unnecessary."
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Opt for Dannon Light 'n Fit Carb & Sugar Control Yogurt, which has 90 percent less sugar than regular yogurt does.
Beans are packed with fiber, which helps keep you full and slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.
The downside: The baked kind are typically covered in a sauce made with brown and white sugars.
And because the fiber is located inside the bean, it doesn't get a chance to interfere with the speed at which the sugary glaze is digested.
Not only that but consider that 1 c. of baked beans contains 24 g sugar.
That's about the same amount in 8 ounces of regular
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Red kidney beans, packed in water.
You get the nutritional benefits of legumes, but without the extra sugar.
They don't even need to be heated.
Just open the can, rinse thoroughly, and serve.
You can try splashing some hot sauce on top for a spicy variation, or mix them with salsa.
The upside: The seaweed it's wrapped in contains essential nutrients, such as iodine, selenium, calcium, and omega-3 fats.
The downside: It's basically a Japanese sugar cube.
That's because its' two other major components are white rice and imitation crab, both of which are packed with fast digesting carbohydrates and almost no protein.
The healthy, alternative: Real sushi made with tuna or salmon.
These varieties have fewer bad carbohydrates, while providing a hefty helping of high-quality protein.
Even better, skip the rice altogether by ordering sashimi.
The upside: Granola is made with whole oats, a nutritious food that's high in fiber.
The downside: The oats are basically glued together with ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and barley malt, all of which quickly raises your blood sugar levels.
The healthy, alternative: Grab a low-sugar meal replacement bar that contains no more than 5 g net carbs, those are the ones that affect blood sugar and at least 15 g protein.
The upside: Most pasta-salad recipes include a variety of fresh vegetables, right?
The downside is: The main ingredient is white-flour pasta, a close relative of white bread.
The healthy, alternative: Egg salad has no impact on blood sugar, and a University of Connecticut review reports that there is no connection between egg consumption and heart disease.
The upside: One English muffin, two halves, has half as many calories as two slices of bread.
So it's better for a breakfast sandwich.
The downside: Most English muffins not only raise blood sugar significantly but are nearly devoid of fiber, protein, and vitamins.
This makes them a great example of a food that provides only empty calories.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: One hundred percent whole-wheat English muffins are a decent start, but we like the kind made from sprouted grains, which contain no flour and are packed with nutrients.
For instance, Sprouted-grain English muffins have twice as much fiber and 30 percent more protein compared with the typical 100 percent whole-wheat version.
We've discussed croutons before;
The upside: They're so small they contribute very few calories to your overall meal, yet they add a satisfying crunch.
The downside is: Most croutons are made with the same refined flour that's used in white bread, a food with a higher glycemic index than sugar.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Sliced roasted almonds.
They're crunchy, sugar-free, and high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of healthy fats found in olive oil.
In fact, Harvard University researchers estimate that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrates results in a 30 percent reduction in heart-disease risk.
Fat-Free Salad Dressing
The upside: Cutting out the fat reduces the calories that a dressing contains.
The downside: Sugar is added to provide flavor.
But perhaps more important is that the removal of fat reduces your body's ability to absorb many of the vitamins found in a salad's vegetables.
Ohio State University researchers discovered that people who ate a salad dressing that contained fat absorbed 15 times more beta-carotene and five times more lutein (both of which are powerful antioxidants) than when they downed a salad topped with fat-free dressing.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Choose a full-fat dressing that's made with either olive oil or canola oil and has less than 2 g carbs per serving.
The upside is: The main ingredient is fruit.
The downside: If you don't read the label closely, you may choose a brand that's packed in heavy syrup.
For example, a 1/2-cup serving of fruit cocktail packed in syrup contains 23 g. of added sugar.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Look for fruit cocktail canned in "100 percent juice," not syrup.
Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
The upside: Even the reduced-fat versions pack a substantial quantity of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat.
The downside: Many commercial brands are sweetened with "icing sugar".
In fact, the same finely ground sugar used to decorate cupcakes.
Each tablespoon of Skippy contains half a teaspoon of the sweet stuff.
Reduced-fat versions are the worst of all, because they contain less healthy fat and even more icing sugar.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: An all-natural, full-fat peanut butter, that contains no added sugar.
The upside is: One ounce has just 110 calories.
And, the downside: These twisted low-fat snacks have one of the highest glycemic indexes of any food.
In fact, they rank above ice cream and jelly beans in their ability to raise blood sugar levels.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Cheese crisps, which are baked pieces of cheese that crunch like chips.
The upside: It contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are un-saturated fats that don't raise your cholesterol levels, but;
The downside: Corn oil has 60 times more omega-6s than omega-3s, the type of healthy fats found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseed.
Studies suggest that a high intake of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3 fats increases inflammation, which boosts your risk of cancer, arthritis, and obesity.
The healthy, health-foods alternative: Olive, Macadamia or Canola oils, which have a far better ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s.
So, hopefully you are now a little bit smarter today than you were yesterday when it comes to manufactured health-foods.Tweet
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