Most of us are aware of what foods fall under the healthy category and the unhealthy one. Obviously, fruits, vegetables, eggs, lean meat, milk, nuts, seeds, etc belong to the healthy category while cakes, cookies, candies, burgers, pizzas, etc belong to the unhealthy category.
But, is it really that obvious to categorize them into healthy and unhealthy groups? No, it is really not that simple. There are a lot of foods available in the stores today that trick you to believe that they are healthy when they are actually not.
Here are a few foods you need to keep an eye out for and avoid even though they may seem harmless and healthy.
1. Whole Wheat Bread
You have probably read that whole-grain products are better for your health than refined-grain products, which is true. However, if you have switched to whole wheat bread because it says “whole wheat” on the label, then you might want to reconsider your choice. Whole wheat bread may sound healthier but this bread, especially the commercially prepared ones, are not very different from white bread.
On an average, whole wheat bread has a glycemic index value of 69, which is quite high.1 This means that it can spike your blood sugars, which is not healthy. In addition, 100 grams of commercially prepared whole wheat bread has 4.34 grams of sugar.2 So, if you are diabetic or at the risk of developing diabetes, you may want to reconsider having whole wheat bread.
2. Processed Meat
Processed meat may be a practical option for those who are working. So, you grab onto canned meats or processed meat that requires very little time for cooking. This is a great choice if you have very little time on your hands; however, it’s definitely not a healthy one. This is because processed meat contains unhealthy ingredients including additives, added salt, and others. Studies show that processed meat, especially red meat, may put you at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.3
3. Instant Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a perfect breakfast choice. It is healthy and delicious at the same time. But, if you are having boxed or instant oatmeal, it is really not doing any benefit for your body.
Instant oatmeal is different from the regular steel-cut oats or rolled oats. It takes lesser time to cook than regular oatmeal. Apart from the cooking time, instant oatmeal, especially the flavored ones, contain lots of added sugar and sodium. For instance, 100 grams of apple-cinnamon flavored instant oatmeal contains close to 29 grams of sugar and more than 450 milligrams of sodium.4 So, if you’ve been having instant oatmeal, switch to the regular oats and flavor them yourself with fruits or ground cinnamon.
4. Low-Fat Peanut Butter
It says “low-fat” so it has got to be healthy, right? Wrong! Low-fat peanut butter is also one of those products that may seem healthy on the outside but is really not. Low-fat peanut butter is the same as regular peanut butter because they contain almost the same amount of calories. In fact, to make up for the reduced fat, they are rich in added sugars, which are unhealthy. So, stick to the natural peanut butter and have it in moderation because it can benefit your body.
A lot of people ditch butter for margarine because butter is high in cholesterol and saturated fats, which adds extra pounds to their weight. Margarine, on the other hand, is thought to be a healthier choice because they are made from vegetable oil. However, this isn’t true. Margarine, especially stick margarine, contains trans fat. This type of fat is not good for the body and may do you harm than good. So, you might want to switch back to butter which is natural. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and use just about enough for cooking.
6. Frozen Meals
If you are aiming at shedding some extra pounds and have not done your research well, you’ve probably heard that frozen meals can help you lose weight. Well, frozen meals can be very deceiving. They do have vegetables and other foods that are required by the body. However, in order to increase their shelf life, frozen meals also come with a lot of preservatives, added salt, and fat. Therefore, it is always healthier to cook your own food and refrigerate them for a day or two.
7. Ready-To-Drink Smoothies
Ready-made smoothies may look appealing and may trick you to believe they are very similar to homemade ones. However, pre-made smoothies are likely to have loads of added sugar and a lot of calories that significantly reduce their health benefit. These drinks usually use fruit juice or whole milk to prepare the smoothies. For instance, a strawberry-banana fruit juice smoothie (100 grams) contains about 11 grams of sugar.5 Instead of purchasing pre-made smoothies, prepare your own with low-fat milk or yogurt and add in some fresh fruits for flavor.
Pretzels are amazing snack foods that you can munch on forever. But, these have very little nutritional benefit for the body. They are low in almost all the nutrients required by the body like fiber and proteins. In fact, oven-baked pretzels have a glycemic index value of 83, which means it has a high GI value.6 This also means it cannot be good for your blood sugar levels as it can spike them almost immediately after consuming them.
9. Fat-Free Salad Dressings
If you are trying to restrict the calories you take every day and you use fat-free dressings for your salad to make them better for your taste buds, then you are probably doing wrong. This is because studies have shown that if you need to get the most out of your vegetable salads, it is advised to pair them up with full-fat dressings instead of fat-free ones.7
So, if you want to benefit from your salads use the regular dressings in moderation because they are far better and healthier for your body than the fat-free salad dressings.
Now you know that some foods that may seem healthy are actually unhealthy foods in spite of all the right words printed on their labels. The most important thing to understand is that fake foods are those that are not grown on trees and people prepare them. The foods in this list are not going to pose serious threats to your health if you have them once in a while; however, having them regularly may not be helpful either. If you really want your body to benefit from what goes into your mouth, choose fresh, whole foods instead of anything that is processed or canned.
|↑1, ↑6||Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑2||Basic Report: 18075, Bread, whole-wheat, commercially prepared. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑3||World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Basic Report: 08124, Cereals, QUAKER, Instant Oatmeal, apples and cinnamon, dry. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑5||Basic Report: 09516, Fruit juice smoothie, BOLTHOUSE FARMS, strawberry banana. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑7||Goltz, Shellen R., Wayne W. Campbell, Chureeporn Chitchumroonchokchai, Mark L. Failla, and Mario G. Ferruzzi. “Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans.” Molecular nutrition & food research 56, no. 6 (2012): 866-877.|