For too many years, we’ve been force-fed a diet of inaccurate information about the food we eat. Manufacturers have pushed fat-free, diet, and light options that tend to be highly processed and full of sweeteners, sugar, or other additives. These foods are ultimately less satisfying than the original version, so we tend to eat larger portions to feel satisfied, causing the scales to only move upwards. So, what are these foods that are said to be healthy, but are actually not? Scroll down to know the top 7 health food myths (#7 is probably the least known one!).
Unhealthy food #1: Fruit juice
You may feel like a paragon of virtue when you pick the OJ instead of a fizzy soda. But when it comes down to it, they’re both just sugary water. When fruit is juiced, all the fibre that keeps your bowel healthy and regulates the absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream is chucked in the bin.
That means that a glass of juice has most of the calories and sugar contained in the fruit, but it’s much less filling without the fibre content. This is why it’s easy to drink juice equivalent to 5 oranges in a few minutes, but you’d be unlikely to eat 5 whole oranges in one sitting.
What to drink instead?
Try using a Nutribullet, blender or similar machine that will juice the fruit and include all of the fibrous goodness. Or better yet, just have a glass of water and eat the whole fruit or veg instead.
Unhealthy food #2: Low-fat flavoured yoghurt
Yoghurt is delicious, yes, but it’s not as healthy as you may think. Here’s why this tasty snack made it to our health food myths list:
When manufacturers remove fat from yoghurt, they tend to pump it full of sugar and artificial flavourings to compensate for the loss of taste and rich texture. Many ‘healthy’ yoghurts actually have more sugar than sweet mousses and chocolate pots that are considered indulgent desserts. Take care to look at the labels and step away from any products with double-digit grams of sugar.
What to replace it with?
Choose natural Greek yoghurts instead, as they tend to be naturally lower in sugar. You can even add berries, nuts, or seeds if you’d like to add texture, flavour, and a little nutritional boost.
Or, if you’re eating yoghurt for its probiotic or live culture benefits, consider taking a high-quality live culture supplement instead. Check our ultimate guide to live cultures here if you’d like to know more about how these beneficial bacteria work.
Unhealthy food #3: Granola
Granola was touted as a healthy breakfast option back in the sixties and seventies. It was the healthy, hippy option. Containing whole oats and nuts, it was probably a better choice than the sugar-frosted, chocolate concoctions usually gracing the breakfast table.
However, most granola contains high levels of fat and added sugars, so you might as well crumble up chocolate flapjacks for your brekkie! Granola can be hugely calorific, so it is best to only enjoy small amounts as an occasional treat.
What to do instead?
If you love granola, try making your own so you can control the amounts of sugar and oil and bump up the nutritional goodness. Try sprinkling a dollop of Greek yoghurt along with berries for a meal that packs a bigger protein punch (with less added sugar, too).
Unhealthy food #4: Low-fat spreads
If you’ve been slathering margarine or low-fat spreads on your toast as a healthy alternative to butter, stop now. Many of these products contain trans fats, which are associated with increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases such as cancer (1).
Replace unhealthy spreads with…
Either skip the spread or choose a small amount of butter instead.
Unhealthy food #5: Brown bread
Lots of people argue that refined flour is as bad as sugar. In fact, when refined flour is broken down by the digestive system, it has approximately the same nutritional makeup as sugar. Often, a brown loaf has just been coloured to change its appearance, and it’s simply a white slice in disguise. (No one will ever think white bread belongs in this health food myths list – it’s been known to be unhealthy for quite some time now).
Okay, what about “enriched” brown bread?
“Enriched” on the packet has got to be good, right? No. It usually means that nutrients have been lost in the manufacturing process. The micronutrient content has been artificially boosted to make up for what was lost.
Is whole grain bread a healthier substitute then?
Whole grain bread can certainly be healthy and wholesome. But the definition of “whole grain” can be problematic, as many whole grain products are low in fibre. For example, you’d need to eat 16 slices of whole wheat bread to get the recommended daily dose of fibre. Get your fibre from fruit and veggies instead (2).
Unhealthy food myth #6: Low-fat ready meals
These seem like the answer to a busy dieter’s prayers. Described as quick, balanced, nutritious, and low in fat, the pictures on the box can certainly be tempting. However, these meals are often loaded with sodium, sugar, and filled out with refined carbs. They may be low in calories, but they also tend to be lower in nutritional value.
What to do instead?
Prepare your own meals in advance. This way you have more control over what goes in your food. Plus, you even get to save some cash since you can buy food in bulk and spread it out over several days!
Unhealthy food #7: Agave nectar
Many people have stopped using white sugar and instead sought alternative sweetener options. Agave nectar seems to be a healthy, natural alternative. However, agave is typically more calorie-dense than sugar, and some brands even contain high levels of fructose!
What to use instead?
When it comes to sweet treats, your best bet is simply to eat smaller portions, rather than trying to create ‘healthier’ alternatives. Now, if you’re looking for healthy recipes that don’t use agave nectar or any high-carb sweetener for that matter, check out Intelligent Keto.
We’ve shared 7 health food myths with you, but there are probably even more out there! So, do comment below if you know of any other unhealthy food that many people think are healthy (but are 100% not).
(1) de Souza, Russell J et al. “Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 351 h3978. 11 Aug. 2015, doi:10.1136/bmj.h3978
(2) Moyer, Melinda Wenner, and Melinda Wenner Moyer. “Whole-Grain Foods Not Always Healthful.” Scientific American, 25 July 2013, www.scientificamerican.com/article/whole-grain-foods-not-always-healthful.