Fake Healthy Foods

Question: if I’m craving something sweet, but I want to keep it healthy and not kill my diet effort, what do you think I should eat, a sugar donut or a bottled fruit smoothie? The answer may appear obvious, but if you guessed the bottled smoothie, you’re wrong. Why? While a sugar donut contains about four grams of sugar, a bottled smoothie may contain up to 120 grams of sugar. Shocked? The ugly truth is that many of the “healthy” foods lining supermarket shelves are junk foods in disguise.

People have finally figured out that sugar is bad, but how bad exactly? High consumption of the sweet stuff has been linked to health issues that range from obesity and type 2 diabetes to heart disease and stroke. Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics in the division of endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize six teaspoons of added sugar per day. But since most Americans are consuming over three times that amount, the majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat, leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases many people are struggling with.

This intense addiction to sugar is becoming rampant, not just among adults, but in children as well. The average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar per day. It’s alarming, considering the average Englishman during the 1700s only consumed four pounds of sugar per year, and that was most likely from healthful natural sources like fruits, and not from the processed foods you see on supermarket shelves today. What’s even more disturbing is that people are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup. This highly processed form of sugar is cheaper yet 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar, which is why many food and beverage manufacturers decided to use it for their products, as it allows them to save money in the long run.

Although mounting consumer awareness in the past 10 years has caused soft drink sales to drop dramatically, very creative marketers started to pick up on the fact that people are looking for more healthy options and came up with health-centric phrases like “whole wheat,” “gluten-free,” and “low-fat” for foods that are in fact loaded with added sugars and other naughty ingredients. These are what nutritionists define as fake health foods; here are some of the sneakiest ones.

Fruit Juices

Fruit Juice

A lot of people believe fruit juices to be healthy because, after all, they come from fruit. Sadly, a lot of the fruit juice you find in the supermarket isn’t fruit juice. Sometimes there isn’t even any actual fruit in there, just chemicals that taste like fruit. The problem is that even if you’re drinking 100% fruit juice, it is still a bad idea. If you didn’t know, fruit juice contains a similar amount of sugar as a sugar-sweetened beverage.

Whole Wheat Bread

Wheat Bread

Unfortunately, whole wheat bread isn’t as healthy as it seems. “The grain is highly heated in the process of turning the wheat berry into flour, which removes the natural vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that would naturally be found in wheat,” says Louisiana-based dietitian Daphne Olivier. Worse, the typical store-bought whole wheat bread has up to four times more ingredients than what’s necessary to make bread and contains both high fructose corn syrup and molasses, making it a poor choice for anybody trying to make healthy food a priority.

Salad Dressing

Salad Dressing

Everybody knows that vegetables are incredibly healthy, but not everybody likes the way they taste. That’s why many people use dressings to add flavor to their salads, turning these innocent meals into delicious treats. In fact, salad dressings are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like sugar, vegetable oils, and trans fats, along with a bunch of artificial chemicals. Even the ones labeled as “light” and “fat-free” are still full of salt and sugar to compensate for the lost flavor when companies cut out the fat. Make sure to check the ingredients list before you use a salad dressing, or make your own using healthy ingredients.

Gluten Free Foods

Gluten Free

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage to the small intestine, requires a gluten-free diet. However, one of the hottest trends in America right now is going gluten free to reduce inflammation or aid with weight loss. However, many gluten-free treats have just as much sugar, if not more, than their gluten-filled counterparts, and the flours in place of wheat are often significantly more caloric and not any lower in carbs. So while choosing gluten-free foods can be a lifesaver for those suffering from celiac or gluten sensitivity, the gluten-free treats at your supermarket aren’t always the best pick when it comes to your health or a weight loss diet. For example, after taking a closer look at the label of a gluten-free Oreo-like cookie label, you will see that it has 60 calories per cookie, which is actually 8 calories more than the traditional version of the cookie.

Margarine

Margarine

Butter was demonized back in the day due to its high saturated fat content. Various health experts started promoting margarine instead, but it’s actually worse for you. If you take a closer look, a tablespoon of margarine can contain upwards of 2 grams of trans fat, increasing your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol along the way. Not surprisingly, the Framingham Heart Study showed that people who replace butter with margarine are actually more likely to die from heart disease; therefore, recommending trans fat laden margarine instead of natural butter may just be the worst nutrition advice out there.

Related: Real Difference Between Margarine and Butter

Sports Drinks

Gatorade

Sports drinks were designed with athletes in mind. These drinks contain electrolytes (salts) and sugar, which can be useful for athletes in many cases. Sport drink commercials are everywhere, advertised as the perfect drink for intra-workout nourishment or post-workout recovery. However, most bottles of commercial sports drinks contain about 21 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. Claiming that sports drinks are just like water is one of the easiest ways to increase your sugar and calorie intake without even thinking twice. Although often considered “less bad” than sugary soft drinks, there is no fundamental difference except that the sugar content is sometimes slightly lower. In all actuality, you may as well be drinking regular Coca-Cola.

Processed Organic Foods

Granola Bar

Organic fruits and vegetables are one thing, but organic chocolate cookies are another.  Just because something is labeled organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. There are plenty of pesticides that are still allowed to be used on organic foods, and in many cases, the difference between an ingredient and its organic counterpart is next to none.

Unfortunately, many food manufacturers have simply taken their top-selling snack foods, replaced the ingredients with organic substitutions, and sold them as healthy alternatives. This includes ingredients like organic raw cane sugar, which is basically 100% identical to regular sugar. It’s still just glucose and fructose, with little to no nutrients.

While the list could go on and on, these are just some of the most popular unhealthy “health food” trends seen on a consistent basis. Now you can see for yourself how much sweet stuff has been injected into these fake health foods. The truth is, if the food packaging says that it is healthy, then it probably isn’t. The truly healthy foods are those that don’t need any health advertisement: whole, single ingredient foods. Don’t fall victim to untruthful food marketing. Instead, always read the labels to know what you are actually eating.

Related: 13 Foods That May Not Be as Bad as You Thought
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