Getting healthy is worthwhile and beneficial, and should be something everyone considers. However, because health is important to us, it’s also something that is easy to take advantage of. In today’s world of buzzwords, clever marketing, and package design, it’s important to know exactly how ingredients actually interact with your body. Knowing what to look for on the nutrition label will make it easy to deduct whether something is healthy, or just looks healthy. The biggest offenders are usually sugar and trans fats, and even products we think are healthy can be laden with them. Despite public perception, these 6 products are some of the most common ones to erroneously be labeled as helpful.
1. Sports Drinks/Vitamin Drinks
While sports drinks and similarly vitamin “boosted” beverages claim to be healthy food, any health benefits are largely offset by the large quantity of sugar in these drinks. Yes, sports drinks replenish certain minerals lost during exercise, however they’re positively loaded with sugar. The average person working out, and even more casual athletes, are likely eating enough sugar in their day naturally as it is. For example, 240mL/8oz of Gatorade contains 14 grams sugar. Since the standard bottle size is 32oz, one bottle of Gatorade equals a whopping 56 grams of sugar. The average person only needs 25 to 40 grams of sugar a day. To put that in perspective, an average sized apple contains 10 grams sugar. This means if you’re an active person eating three or four servings of fruit a day, the fruit in your diet fulfills your daily amount of needed sugar. If you’re concerned about minerals lost during workouts or being low on electrolytes, running and fitness stores sell many electrolyte powders that you mix with water, most of which do not contain sugar.
2. Acai Berries
Superfood trends are easy to get excited about, however it’s important to do the research on any food or product claiming benefits. In the case of acai, the berries themselves help to suppress appetite, however acai berries alone don’t taste very good. Acai drinks, desserts, and snack foods contain acai, but also loads of sugar. For example, one brand of acai juice contains 25 grams of sugar per 8oz serving, making it even higher in sugar than sports and vitamin drinks. If you’re consuming acai in a drink or other sweet food, you should be thinking of it just like any other dessert. Any appetite suppressant benefit you get from the acai is more than offset by the sugar contained in these foods. If you do want the benefits of acai berries which also includes being rich in antioxidants, eat dried acai berries, preferably unsweetened.
3. Cesar Salad
A lot of people see the word “salad”, and immediately assume something is healthy. In the case of Caesar salad however, you might want to think again. The vegetables you consume in a Caesar salad are certainly good for you and rich in vitamins, however Caesar dressing is made with oils and mayonnaise. Creamy salad dressings are higher calorie than most, and richer in fat. In fact, one ounce of an average Caesar dressing contains 25% of your daily fat intake.
4. Granola Bars
Granola bars are another food many of us just assume is going to be good for us. However like many other items on this list most of our favorite kinds are full of sugar. Even granola bars that are natural or from similarly named companies often have more sugar than you need in a day. There are healthy granola bars out there, just be sure to read the nutrition label. Case in point, this variety from Nature Valley contains 12 grams of sugar for a 35 gram bar, making the granola bar nearly half sugar.
5. Roasted Nuts
Many snack on nuts thinking they are a healthy choice, however if you want health benefits, snack on nuts infrequently. Contrary to popular belief, roasting or cooking nuts does not cause the healthy fats to convert into trans fats. However, nuts of any kind are high in different kinds of fat. Though these fats are “healthy” fats, they are still fats. Not as harmful as trans fats, but will still go to your hips if you eat too much.
6. Diet Soda Pop
Finally, diet soda is the last unhealthy “healthy” alternative on our list. Sure, diet soda pop is lower in sugar, but it does contain a number of substitute sweeteners. These substitute sweeteners have not been proven to be explicitly harmful, however previous studies only followed the results of ingesting small amounts. Eating fake sweeteners in smaller amounts may not be harmful for you, but they are certainly something you want to eat infrequently. Not only that, despite the fact that fake sweeteners will not give your body a sugar high, they do stimulate the parts of your brain that enjoy sweet foods. You’re not eating a large amount of sugar in diet pop, but your body reads it as sugar in your brain. This has been found to increase your cravings for real sugar later. Drink diet pops less frequently, since they will make you crave desserts stronger in the future.
Featured photo credit: Mike Mozart via flickr.com