Are you confident that the food you’re eating is healthy? Marketing techniques and popular belief can lead you to eat foods that don’t actually help you eat better or lose weight. Here are six foods that many people think are healthy, but actually aren’t:
1. Agave nectar
Agave nectar, which is derived from the agave plant, is marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and is suitable for people with diabetes. However, these claims aren’t completely true.
Agave nectar does not cause the same blood sugar spikes as table sugar does because it contains mostly fructose, a sugar that doesn’t directly affect blood sugar. However, the excess fructose may put on stress on other parts of your body, such as the liver.
The liver processes fructose, but eating high-fructose foods puts extra work on the organ to convert these sugars into fat. As a result, it may add to body fat percentage and lead to other health problems. Consuming excess fructose may also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in Current Opinion in Lipidology.
2. Bottled and store-bought fruit juices, smoothies
Unlike homemade smoothies or fresh fruit juices, bottled and store-bought ones are highly processed and therefore unhealthy. The processing method strips the fruit of almost all its nutrients, including fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. They may also increase diabetes risk because they contain artificial sugars. If you’re going to drink fruit juice or smoothies, make sure it is homemade fruit juice. This won’t affect your sugar levels or blood sugar control, despite containing sugar.
3. Diet sodas
Many people think that “diet” sodas are the healthy versions of soda because they contain fewer calories and zero sugar. Diet sodas still contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, which are harmful to human health. Aspartame consumption may cause irritable moods and depression, according to a study published in the journal Research in Nursing & Health. Drinking diet sodas also won’t help in weight loss, according to a systematic review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. (Related: Aspartame creates depression and exacerbates anxiety – here’s how.)
4. Instant oatmeal
Oats are nutritious – they contain fibers, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids – given that they are whole grains. Eating whole-grain oats helps in blood sugar control, improves lipid levels, and promotes weight loss. It may also help you feel full and more satisfied with your meal.
Instant oatmeal, on the other hand, lacks these nutrients because of the processing that gave its improved texture and helped it cook quicker. Many instant oatmeals also contain additional flavorings such as flour and added sugars that are known to be unhealthy.
5. Heavily processed breads
Many breads are highly processed. Bran and germ from the kernel are stripped to give the bread a smooth texture, but this process also increases the bread’s glycemic load, which measures the amount of carbohydrate in food and how fast it raises blood sugar levels. Additionally, there may be concerns about ingredients like phytic acid in unsprouted grains. Phytic acid binds to micronutrients in other foods that you eat and makes them impossible for your body to absorb, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. So, choose 100 percent whole-grain bread and those that contain only sprouted grains.
6. “Candied-up” trail mixes
Store-bought trail mixes contain added ingredients like chocolate bits, yogurt-covered fruits, salt, sugar, and additional oils – all of which can add plenty of calories to an already calorie-rich snack. Instead of buying trail mixes from the store, you can make your own. Make a simple blend of dry-roasted or raw nuts with a few raisins or dried cranberries at home. By doing this, you can control portions and the ingredients in your trail mix.
For making better food choices, always check the ingredients label. It is also better to prepare your own food than buying from stores, so you’d know what is actually in your food. Being healthy is also more than a diet. In addition to healthy food choices, regular exercise and healthy habits like limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking all contribute to overall health.