Recently, more and more people are taking control of their own health, which may explain the sudden explosion in the supposedly healthy food options we see in stores and restaurants today.
These foods might be labeled as gluten-free, multigrain, organic, or fat-free. Unfortunately, some of these “healthy” foods might actually do more harm than good.
Here are seven unexpectedly unhealthy foods to avoid to keep your waistline, immune system, and heart in tip-top condition.
7 “Healthy” Foods to Avoid
1. Granola Bars
Granola bars can contain as much added sugar as a regular chocolate bar, negating what little nutritional value they may have. Most pre-packaged, loose granola is also too sugary to be of any nutritional value. Homemade granola is a healthier alternative to granola bars, which should only be enjoyed as an occasional treat.
2. Fruit Juices
Also known as “nature’s candy,” fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. Therefore, it would make sense that fruit juice contains the same nutritional benefits as the whole fruit, right?
In actuality, many fruit juices found in stores are mostly water and sugar. Some of them may even contain artificial flavoring and coloring agents. Rather than drinking juice, eating a whole piece of fruit allows you to get a valuable dose of fiber, which is often lost during the juicing process.
3. Raw Legumes and Grains
Legumes and whole grains are great sources of fiber and plant proteins. They also contain a lot of lectins, which are proteins that block the absorption of certain nutrients. Consuming too much lectin can prevent you from reaping the full benefits of your healthy food choices, and it can also lead to digestive issues.
Lectins are mostly found in the skin or surface of a food, so cooking and sprouting legumes and grains can eliminate most of their lectin content. Also, eating foods that block lectins can lessen the risks associated with a high-lectin diet. Some examples of lectin-blocking foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
4. Bottled Salad Dressing
Salad dressings contain a lot of fat, sugar, and salt. The store-bought stuff is even worse because manufacturers usually add preservatives to keep their products shelf-stable.
Oil-based dressings are slightly healthier than cream-based ones. Homemade dressing made from high-quality ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice are best.
5. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are advertised to help fuel workouts and replenish electrolytes. In simpler terms, they contain a lot of sugar, potassium, and sodium. This type of drink can benefit athletes training for hours at a time, such as marathon runners and mountain bikers. Since most people aren’t Olympic-tier athletes, they’re better off sticking to plain old water for their hydration needs.
6. Low-Fat/Fat-Free Foods
Fat isn’t harmful in small amounts, and it’s actually been found to help stomachs feel full after eating. Removing fat often removes the flavor along with it.
Most manufacturers make up for the difference by adding more empty calories such as sugar, salt, and other chemical agents, all of which are technically fat-free. If presented with a choice between the two, the full-fat version is usually the smarter choice.
7. Vegan Processed Foods
Vegan ingredients must be processed very heavily to achieve a look, taste, and texture similar to meat or dairy. For strict vegans who follow the diet for moral or dietary reasons, vegan processed food can help them enjoy the carnivorous foods they miss, such as bacon, burgers, or eggs. For everyone else, natural bacon and eggs are much more nutritious.
Moderation Is Key
The secret to a healthy diet isn’t dieting at all, but moderation. Good food makes life interesting, whether it’s nutritionally-sound or not. It’s okay to have a treat every once in a while as long it happens in the context of a well-balanced diet.