Unhealthy health foods

Our unhealthy obsession with healthy eating makes us susceptible to the trickery of diet foods. But any product that boasts being better than another should be questioned. Dave Shaw reveals some so-called ‘health’ foods that aren’t as healthy as they seem.

It pays to do your research before believing all the healthy claims that food makes. Photo / Thinkstock

Breakfast cereal
This is the most marketable product in the supermarket – that’s why they have an aisle all to themselves. Most cereals are made from the same ingredients – refined wheat and sugar – and will cause your blood sugars to spike. Just because they include the word ‘breakfast’ in their name, doesn’t mean they should be eaten in the morning (or at all).
Instead: Go with homemade muesli topped with Greek yoghurt, or cook up some some eggs with tomato and avo.

Tea drinks
Don’t get me wrong, tea is healthy, especially when you brew it yourself. However, the iced tea drinks purchased in bottles and cans are often extremely high in sugar, flavourings and additives.
Instead: Put the kettle on and make yourself a green tea. If it’s too hot for boiling water, let it cool naturally.

Low-fat, flavoured yoghurt
Yoghurt is a very nutritious source of protein and calcium. However, when the fat is removed to satisfy our desire for ‘lite’ products, food manufacturers throw in a heap of sugar or sweetener to make it sell.

This will cause more havoc in your body than the fat. Instead: Chose natural yoghurt and add your own fruits to flavour, or make your own.

Organic processed food
Ever bought organic chocolate and thought you were making a good choice? Unfortunately, many organic processed foods match their conventional counterparts in sugar and fat. However, this doesn’t mean all organic food is bad. If you’re eating wholefoods then you’re definitely on the right track. However, “organic” is a term flung around these days, so always check the nutrition label before making your choice.

Artificial sweeteners
If it’s sugar free but loaded with artificial sweetener then it’s not healthy. Diet soft drinks are a perfect example of this tricky sweetened switch. You can also buy calorie free artificial sweeteners in most supermarkets as a popular alternative to conventional sugar. The problem is, they tend to make us hungrier and eat more. There is also good evidence to suggest they help destroy our gut health.

Gluten free junk food
The gluten free craze is still upon us and food manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon to market their products. Yet, most processed, gluten free products are high in refined carbohydrate, sugar, processed fat and additives.
Instead: Pick foods that are naturally gluten free like animals and plants.

The debate continues: Marg Vs Butter. Margarine was developed as a healthy alternative to butter, the problem is, it’s not. Marg used to be high in trans fats – the most harmful fat, now it tends to be full of processed vegetable oils and additives. Marketed as high in omega-6 fats, they’re often thought of as a healthy addition to our diet. The truth is, eating too much omega-6 is highly inflammatory – a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
Instead: Trust the cows and go with butter. Or avoid both.

It may be natural, but it’s insanely high in sugar. There’s no problem eating it in modest amounts, a teaspoon on your toast won’t kill you. But just like table sugar and refined grain, honey is a calorie dense food. It is also high in fructose, a type of sugar that only gets metabolised by your liver. Eating too much fructose will get turn into fat. Over time, this can help cause non-alcoholic fatty liver and all types of metabolic conditions.

Fruit Juice
A lot of people think juice is healthy because it comes from fruit. However, it’s a product that has strayed from its whole form. Many juices are a combination of water, sugar and some chemicals to make it taste like fruit. It’s sort of like fruit, but without all the good stuff – now it’s a fibre-less drink, with a sugar content similar to that of soft drink. And there’s no chewing required to prevent you from guzzling cup after cup.
Instead: Eat a piece of fruit.

Supplements supply a dense source of nutrients that are marketed to us as an essential addition to our diet. But for most people, they’re not. They are the anti-climax of nutrition science. If you’re getting everything you need through your diet, supplements are a waste of money. You’re better off buying real food rather than pills and potions.

Dave Shaw

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