By Michael A. Smith, MDstart exercising. Your shopping cart now contains whole grains, multi-grains, baked chips, high-fiber cereals, juices, and nuts. Good stuff, right? Hold on there, maybe not.
Unfortunately, many healthy foods may not be so healthy after all. Food manufacturers do an incredible job of hiding the truth about many of their so-called “healthy” products. Here are some unhealthy health food pitfalls to avoid.
The Hidden Truth about Multigrain ProductsEating a wide variety of grains is generally regarded as healthy. Grains contain fiber to promote a healthy digestive and cardiovascular system. They also contain powerful compounds called lignans. Lignans contain powerful agents that assist in cancer 1 and heart disease-prevention,2 and help maintain bone strength.3
The problem isn’t the grains; it’s the white bleached flour that they’re usually blended with during manufacturing.
Here’s a good tip: If multigrain is not the first ingredient listed, then the primary ingredient is most likely white flour. And, as you may know, white flour is highly processed and can negatively affect your blood sugar levels.
Also, watch out for an ingredient listed first as “flour blend.” A company producing real multigrain bread will list the actual grains that make up the blend. If they don’t, the “blend” could be made mostly of white flour. The label below appropriately lists each component of the bread:
Also, look for white starch on the label — in the label above, it is potato starch. Noticed it’s listed after the flour blend of grains. That’s what you want to see, the white starch after the grains. This is a healthy multigrain bread.
High Fiber Cereals are High in SugarWe’ve been hearing “eat fiber” a lot lately, which is good advice. Many people have decided to get their fiber at breakfast by eating high-fiber cereals. But there’s an unhealthy component to many of these cereals: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Why would a cereal maker add HFCS to their cereal? Because people don’t like the taste of fiber! So they sweeten it to make it more appetizing. Look for HFCS or its alias “corn sugar” on the label. If you find either one, we suggest you keep looking for a cereal without it.
Vitamin Drinks are Glorified Soda PopImagine soda pop with a spritz of low-quality vitamins added. What you just imagined is actually a real product called a vitamin drink. They are loaded with simple, refined sugars and, in some cases, even HFCS.
Yes, there are diet vitamin drinks, but to sweeten them, manufacturers use dangerous artificial chemicals like aspartame. Bottom line: Most vitamin drinks are not actually healthy at all.
Mass-produced Yogurt has Little ValueFermented products are considered live food. And it’s true. They contain healthy bacteria that help promote digestion and immunity. But the over-pasteurization and high sugar content characteristic of standard yogurt products makes them pretty much useless and definitely not “alive.”
Baked or Popped Salty SnacksAfter you look at the two labels below, one for fried and the other for baked potato chips, you might conclude that baked salty snacks are healthy. Well, they’re not. They’re healthier but not healthy. Those are two different things. Take a look at the labels:
So, now what? Well, don’t let this bring you down. We just want you to be a smart, health-conscious consumer.
Just because marketers say something is healthy doesn’t mean you have to believe them. Check things out for yourself.
As a matter of fact, the next time you’re shopping for groceries and have a question, call one of our health advisors at 1-800-226-2370. They’ll be happy to help you make a healthy shopping choice right there on the spot.
- Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Feb 1;13(3):1061-7.
- Atherosclerosis. 1998 Feb;136(2):367-75.
- Menopause. 2009 May-Jun;16(3):545-54.
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