With all the conflicting information out there about how to eat healthy, sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s during these times that we like to fall back on our “healthy” standby foods. But some of these foods might not be as healthy as we think. Here is a list of 5 foods that the Washington Post recently identified as healthy food impostors.
Reduced-fat peanut butter
But it has less fat! That has to be a good thing, right? Not so, according to Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She states that reduced-fat peanut butter has as many calories and more sugar than the regular. Not only that, but the oil is actually the healthiest part of the peanut! If you remove it, what you’re left with is empty calories and too much sugar. Buy regular peanut butter instead and eat it in moderation. Numerous studies have shown that the polyunsaturated fats in nuts (and peanut butter) make a person less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
Water is good for you. Vitamins are good for you. So it stands to reason that Vitamin Water is also good for you. Unfortunately this is not the case. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Whether vitamins dissolved in water have any benefit will depend on who you are and whether you are already getting enough.” So you could actually be doing yourself more harm than good! (In addition to upping your sugar intake.) The solution? Tap water. That’s right, it’s the best hydrator on Earth, is sugar- and calorie-free, and even contains fluoride to help your teeth stay strong. Oh, and it’s free.
These diet supplements have been popular since the mid-90’s for obvious reasons. They’re portable, they taste good, they’re fairly inexpensive, and they pack all sorts of supposed health benefits. But for the vast majority, they are little more than candy bars. Sure they might have a few vitamins and minerals, but sugar is usually the main ingredient. Stick with natural snacks like fruits and veggies if you want a nutrition boost on the go.
This is one of the most misleading claims you might see on a food product’s packaging. Just because a food has “many grains” does not mean they are the right kind of grains. You want to look for “whole grain”, that is, grains that have not been bleached and processed until they’ve lost all their nutritional value. Some examples are whole wheat, whole oats, and brown rice. And if “enriched wheat flour” is also listed on the nutrition label, it means the flour has been refined, i.e. had all its nutrients removed.
If a food that one typically associates with deep frying, like potato chips, suddenly says “baked” on the label, many people assume that the food has gone from an indulgence to a health food. But much like the “multigrain” smokescreen, while baking might eliminate some fats from the cooking process, the food itself might still be composed of refined flour, sugar, salt and more. Research has shown that having too many refined grains and starches increases the risk for heart disease, cancers, diabetes and weight gain. Look for 100% whole grain chips or crackers that are cooked in healthy oils such as canola or olive oil.
As always, read your nutrition labels and try to stick to foods that are processed as little as possible. Your body will thank you for it!