Many people try to follow a healthy diet. However, through marketing techniques or simply public belief, many foods people eat on a regular basis are actually less healthy than they appear. It’s not always clear what’s healthy and what’s not. Even most of the foods on this list are available in healthier versions. The difference is knowing what to look for.
Here are the five most unhealthy foods that people can often consider healthy. Also how to make better choices by incorporating them into the diet.
5 Unhealthy Foods Wrongly Considered Healthy
100% natural bread made from whole grains is a very nutritious addition to many diets. Breads made with natural whole wheat still contain the bran and germ of the grain, which contain much of the nutrients and fiber.
But many processed breads remove the bran and germ from the grain to give the bread a smooth texture. However, it also affects the glycemic load of bread. Because the fibers contained in wholemeal bread help slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars. The glycemic index (GI) measures how much carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood glucose levels. White bread is a very high GI food, with a score of 70 or higher. Wholemeal 100% stone ground bread is a low GI food with a score of 55 or less.
Concerns can also be expressed about ingredients such as phytic acid found in unsprouted cereals. As a 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology points out, phytic acid binds to micronutrients in other foods a person eats and makes them impossible for the body to absorb. People who include bread in their diet may consider choosing 100% whole grain breads. Similarly, anyone concerned about the presence of phytic acid in their bread can choose a bread containing only whole grains. This reduces the phytic acid content.
2. Diet Sodas
Many people consider diet sodas to be healthier versions of soda. That may not be entirely true. While diet sodas contain fewer calories thanks to the absence of sugar, most of them contain non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame. Which may not be as healthy as many think.
A study published in the journal Research in Nursing & Health found that aspartame can affect mood. Following a diet high in aspartame, well below the recommended daily limit, participants had more irritable moods, higher levels of depression, and even worse performance on tests of spatial orientation. Many people also believe that consuming diet sodas will help them lose weight. However, a systematic review from 2017 shows that research does not support the idea that non-nutritive sweeteners will help people lose weight.
3. Fruit juices and smoothies
While a homemade smoothie or fresh juice can be a great way to add fruit to your diet, packaged or store-bought fruit products aren’t as healthy as many people think. This may be because manufacturers leave out an important aspect of juices and smoothies: fiber.
In a whole fruit, the fiber in the fruit helps control the rate at which the body digests sugar. Fruit juices also contain a large amount of sugar. Therefore, although it is a better choice than sodas, it can lead to excessive calorie consumption during the day.
The other issue is the processing that goes into many packaged juices and smoothies. Processing fruit can extend the life of a juice or smoothie. But it can also lead to a loss of some of the useful nutrients in the fruit, such as vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. On the other hand, “100% pure juice” fruit juice does not seem to increase the risk of problems such as diabetes, even if it is high in sugar. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science suggests that 100% fruit juice does not affect glucose levels or the body’s control of glucose.
4. Agave syrup
Many people understand the potential dangers of too much sugar in the diet and are looking for alternative sweeteners. Agave syrup is a sweetener derived from the agave plant. Several companies market it as a healthy alternative to sugar. However, these claims may only be partially accurate. Agave syrup does not tend to cause the same blood sugar spikes as table sugar. Indeed, agave syrup contains mainly fructose, a sugar that does not directly affect blood glucose levels.
This is why many products that use agave syrup can claim to be suitable for people with diabetes. However, this extra fructose can put stress on other parts of the body. The liver converts fructose, and eating foods high in fructose like agave syrup can put extra pressure on the organ to convert these sugars into fat. This can then increase body fat percentage and lead to other problems. A study published in the journal Current Opinion in Lipidology reports that people who consume more fructose may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
5. Mixed nuts
A homemade mix of dry-roasted nuts with a few raisins or dried cranberries can be a good dietary supplement and perfect snack for many people. However, many store-bought mixes fall far short of this simple mix. Added ingredients like chocolate chunks, yogurt-covered fruit, and even extra salt, sugar, and oils can add a lot of calories to an already high-calorie snack.
People can skip the store-bought mix and make a simple mix of raw or dry-roasted nuts. It can also be helpful to control portions to set aside a small amount each day.
In general, keeping an eye out for additional ingredients, such as sugars or processed grains, can help a person make better nutrition decisions. One option may be to take a few extra minutes to prepare food and avoid store-bought alternatives.
It is also important to note that many foods will have different effects on different people. Anyone unsure of which foods to avoid due to an underlying condition or allergy should consider consulting their doctor or nutritionist.
Zad, MB, et al. (2017). Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies.
Clemens, R., et al. (2015). Squeezing fact from fiction about 100% fruit juice.
Glycemic index and diabetes. (2014).
Gupta, RK, et al. (2015). Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains.
Lindseth, GN, et al. (2014). Neurobehavioral effects of aspartame consumption.
Li, X., et al. (2016). Short- and long-term effects of wholegrain oat intake on weight management and glucolipid metabolism in overweight type-2 diabetics: A randomized control trial.
Murphy, MM, et al. (2017). 100% fruit juice and measures of glucose control and insulin sensitivity: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Rasane, P., et al. (2015). Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods – A review.
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