Avoid These Secretly Unhealthy 'Health' Foods
Health food trends spread like wildfire on social media. These days, it’s common to see influencers touting their favorite new energy bar or superfood on Instagram or YouTube. But how do you know if these supposed “health” foods are actually good for you? While many health foods promise results, they fail to be transparent about their hidden risks or actual lack of nutritional value.
So don’t be fooled by misleading labels the next time you go grocery shopping. Here are 30 'health' foods that are actually secretly unhealthy.
Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Reduced-fat foods often make up for the lack of flavor with other additives like sugar and salt. This is also the case with reduced-fat peanut butter. Opting for the reduced-fat brand of peanut butter is bigger travesty than you think. Why? Because fat from nuts is actually great for your health. The pure form of peanut butter contains Omega-3 fatty acids and L-arganine that promote heart health.
Granola is practically the poster child of health foods, which makes this item a surprising one. But, store-bought granola often contains tons of fat and sugar. This is especially true if you buy products infused with chocolate, dried fruit and other flavors like coconut. Some brands even have 400 calories and 13 grams of sugar per cup.
Many people are fooled into thinking anything green has to be healthy. Though green juice contains vegetables, store-bought versions contain added sugar to make it more palatable. Moreover, Consumer Reports has found that many of these store bought green juices are also high in sodium.
Working out requires “electrolytes”, which are a blend of salt and sugar. Drinking them while being active helps athletes feel energized while playing sports, but this energy is coming from sugar levels that are slightly lower than sugary soft drinks. In fact, 20 ounces of Gatorade contains 36 grams of sugar. That’s nearly identical to the sugar found in a 12 ounce can of coke, which is 39 grams.
These tiny little seeds are the health world’s latest craze and have been praised for their practically endless uses. While they are one of the best sources of plant-based protein in the world, you can get too much of a good thing. For instance, eating too many chia seeds can irritate your intestinal tract.
Flavored Coconut Water
The models we see on social media are sitting poolside with super-fit bodies and a cup of coconut water in hand, but is this drink really healthy? Sure, coconut water straight from the source is a good source of nutrients, but the flavored versions you find in the grocery store aren’t good for you.
Spinach Tortilla Wraps
Don’t let the green hue fool you. Though the bright green color of spinach tortilla wraps are attractive, it’s mainly just for show. The nutrition you’re getting from the small amount of spinach is minimal compared to actually eating fresh spinach.
Not long ago, “low fat” labels were everywhere in stores. Even though nutritionists know fat in moderation is actually good for you, food brands are still riding the “fat is evil” train (while reaping the profits). But this label is deceptive when it comes to salad dressings. Fat provides great flavor and when fat is extracted from food, manufacturers will make up for it in another way.
People have become more aware of the dangers of high sugar content in their diets and, as a result, natural sweetener companies are throwing out some false promises. We’re not saying these alternatives are bad, but they aren’t as “healthy” as companies claim. Agave nectar is one of these trendy sweeteners advertised as a sugar alternative, but it isn’t as “healthy” as the labels claim.
Yogurt has a plethora of health benefits for people of all ages, provided it’s prepared the right way. Plain yogurt is a protein powerhouse and packed with probiotics that help keep your body balanced, but sugary additions like M&M’s and fruit flavoring can easily exceed your daily requirement of sugar in just one six ounce serving of yogurt.
Rigorous workouts require refueling afterwards. Many athletes and gym goers turn to protein shakes to stave off hunger and restore energy. Protein shakes taste great and certainly fill you up, but they aren’t the miracle health food many advertisements claim. If you’re not selective with your protein shakes, you can end up with a product that has plenty of added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
The irony of the health food aisle is that many of the products marketed to the health-conscious can be processed. If you’re not careful with what energy bar you pick, you can bring home something full of sugar and empty calories.
Turkey Lunch Meat
Making a sandwich at home is supposed to be healthier than takeout, but you aren’t doing much better if the building blocks of your lunch are full of salt. Lunch meat needs a decent shelf life to stay fresh, which causes manufacturers to add preservatives and sodium.
Turkey is just not getting a break on this list, is it? Turkey bacon packages promise fewer calories than regular bacon, which is true. However, manufacturers fail to mention that this reduction in calories is often exchanged for processed meat with artificial colors.
Alternatives to cow’s milk have been popping up all over the place. Though the labels insist it’s “all-natural”, rice milk is nothing but a high carb, low calcium drink without fortification. In fact, it’s higher in sugar, carbohydrates and calories than soy milk. If it’s fortified, then it only gets a calcium boost.
There’s a common misconception that all foods with vegetable ingredients are good for you. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth and takes some discerning to figure out what products are good for your body. Pre-made, frozen veggie patties are usually processed and packed with fillers instead of real vegetables.
While the vegan diet is healthy by reputation, there are certain vegan food items that aren’t as healthy as you think. Vegan bacon is meant to be a replacement to animal-based bacon, but this kind of food is highly processed. The meat alternative is often made of tofu or tempeh, and can contain preservatives and high sodium levels to keep its flavor.
Flavored Instant Oatmeal
The convenience of overnight oats or a quick oatmeal breakfast draws many sleep-deprived people to flavored instant oatmeal. After all, what’s not to love about the great taste of creamy, fruity oats? Unfortunately, these instant packets are loaded with sugar and sodium. Manufacturers want their products to taste great without having the customer to do any work, but the result is a highly processed food that has many additives.
Brown Rice Syrup
As the quest for sugar alternatives continues, manufacturers are offering more choices than ever and advertise them as “healthier” sweeteners. Brown rice syrup, or rice malt syrup is a sweetener derived from brown rice starch and is an alternative to high fructose corn syrup. Its main drawback, however, is that it’s loaded with empty calories.
Store Bought Dried Fruit
Another misconception is that all fruits are healthy foods. While fresh fruit is a great snack to keep your hunger at bay, dried fruit is shrunk down to 25 percent of its original size. Because of this, you’ll need to eat more of it to feel full, which means you’re taking in more fructose compared to eating fresh fruit.
Pop into your local trendy cafe and you may see this hot “healthy” item on the menu. Acai bowls contain the superfood Acai berries. While the berries and other toppings like nuts are excellent for your health, the amount of sugar in this dish adds up pretty quickly.
Veggie chips appeal to people trying to get healthy with their “all natural” labels and packaging that suggests it’s a healthier alternative to potato chips. But like the Ruffles you’re trying to avoid, veggie chips are often deep-fried and full of salt.
Take a stroll down the health food aisle of the supermarket and you’ll be faced with countless fitness bars. Also known as “low-carb” bars, they are among the food items capitalizing on the gluten-free and Atkins diet trend. But be sure to look at the ingredients before you put any of these in your shopping cart. Most of these low carb bars are made of processed ingredients and chemicals.
Instant Trail Mix
Nature lovers and working professionals alike love the convenience of trail mix. It’s an on-the-go energy powerhouse that can keep hunger at bay for hours. But the kind you’ll find at the grocery store can add additional sugar from banana chips, dried fruit or even some not-so-obvious chocolate chips.
Bottled Green Tea
Once again, pre-packaged “health” drinks can bite the dust. Bottled green tea appears to be a healthier alternative to soda, but many of these products don’t include the antioxidant ECGC that draws many people to this drink. Many brands also throw in added sugar, which makes store teas an empty calorie party.
Margarine was elevated as a healthy food and low-fat alternative to natural butter’s high fat content. However, margarine holds a deadly secret: it’s a mixture of processed fats and food coloring. In fact, it used to be pink. If you’re not careful in your selection, you might be buying a product that contains refined vegetable oils and synthetic dyes.
Although this isn’t the worst food for you, the processed versions you find in the grocery store aren’t the best for you, either. Pretzels often carry the reputation of being healthy, but they’re actually just delightful bites of empty calories. Their white flour makeup strip them of most nutrients and they’re also coated with salt.
Bagels fall into the same “empty calorie” trap. But this popular on-the-go breakfast and lunch item is here to stay. So, while packages advertise bagels as part of a healthy breakfast, it’s better to acknowledge them as the comfort food they really are. Not only do bagels lack vitamins and minerals, but they also don’t offer much fiber.
Store-Bought Spaghetti Sauce
Spaghetti is a family favorite for its amazing taste and ease of preparation. Life is even easier when spaghetti sauce is readily available for three dollars at the supermarket. But this convenience comes at a price – processed ingredients, high sugar and lots of salt.
Take a stroll down the snack aisle and you’ll find various brands of popcorn trying to sell you “natural” microwave popcorn. Though this delicious snack is convenient and ready in minutes, microwave popcorn is usually full of trans fat and salt. Moreover, the FDA has identified the chemical coating inside microwave bags break down in the cooking phrase into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), which is on a list of suspected carcinogens.
The ready-made fruit smoothies you’ll find at your local grocery store look vibrant and fresh, but they are actually loaded with calories. The same goes for smoothies you make yourself, unless you’re careful about what ingredients you use. Your choice of fruit, yogurt and other add-ons can make your smoothie contain as much sugar as a candy bar, or a can of soda.