There’s a certain group of foods that are known for their “health halos.” Foods like jerky, granola, and some gluten-free and plant-based snacks are often marketed as healthy foods when in reality they’re little more than convenience foods.
If you’re trying to eat more healthily and aren’t sure which foods are truly
good for you, read on as we go through some commonly misinterpreted “healthy” foods. You’ll be surprised which foods might have you fooled.
“Healthy” foods: genuinely nourishing or cleverly marketed?
These days, advertising is everything. The increase in the global use of social media and streaming services means that we now find ourselves looking at more adverts today than ever before. The average person is exposed to between 6,000 to 10,000 advertisements per day. The food industry plays a huge role in that advertising, but these adverts aren’t always entirely forthcoming with the ingredients.
5 Healthy Foods That Aren’t Always Good for You
Here are a few products to watch out for next time you’re deciding what to buy:
1. Acai itself versus acai bowls - Acai has been claimed to be a superfood because the fruit itself is low in sugar while being rich in antioxidants and vitamins. So why is it on the list? When sold as a fruit bowl, it is often filled with molasses, sugar-sweetened granola, and sweet toppings to make the fruit more palatable. Some bowls have as much as 20 grams of sugar per serving!
2. Protein bars - A small few protein bars just contain oats and dried fruit, but many are filled with less-than-ideal additives. Everyday protein bars might be a quick way to fuel yourself, but many brands contain high amounts of added sugar and unhealthy sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.
If you need a quick snack on the go, skip the additives and try a handful of nuts and seeds instead.
3. Coconut water - This hydrating beverage might be full of electrolytes but a single serving of bottled coconut water can have 14g of sugar. It’s also worth keeping in mind that most bottles contain more than one serving, so you might end up drinking more sugar than you thought was in the bottle.
4. Ketogenic snacks - The keto diet is high in fat and low in sugar, but many snacks tailored to this diet plan include lots of saturated fats and hidden carbs. If you’re following the keto diet, carbs are something you want to reduce, so snacking on keto products could be undoing all your hard work. Instead of eating highly processed snacks just because they have the word “keto” on them, eat whole foods and lean meats.
5. Dairy-free yogurt & Greek yogurt - not all yogurts are equal. Greek yogurt has a good name in the world of health foods as it’s one of few foods that are naturally high in the probiotics that protect your gut flora. Greek yogurt is full of protein but often comes with added flavors that can increase each portion’s sugar content. Dairy-free yogurt might be a saving grace for lactose-intolerant and vegan folks but some brands contain added sugar, gums, and fillers as well.
It is important to recognize that not all “healthy” products are as advertised. Buzzwords such as “gluten-free,” “keto,” “vegan,” and even “enriched” don’t always mean that a product is entirely healthy. Looking at the label can help us make educated decisions to keep ourselves healthy and eat mindfully.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.