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11 “Health” Foods (That Aren’t Really Healthy)

Let’s talk about “health” foods.

As we get into the new year, many of us are planning our resolutions around weight loss or eating healthier and, while this already seems difficult enough, we may be eating all the wrong kinds of “healthy” food.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which foods count as “healthy” because they’re either secretly packed with sugar or are seen as healthy until new studies come out claiming the opposite. Let’s take a look at, what I consider, the top 11 mislabeled “health” foods.


1. Activated Charcoal

The top of the list is one of the most recent, and most popular, home remedy health fixes. Activated charcoal is a type of charcoal processed at very high temperatures and works by trapping toxins and chemicals in the gut, preventing their absorption.

While activated charcoal is a great remedy in case of accidental poisoning or accidental prescription drug overdoses, it can also strip your body of other chemicals and nutrients and can cause unpleasant side effects.


2. (Some) Smoothies

I’m not talking about the smoothies you make at home where you control all the ingredients. What I’m calling out are the smoothies that you get prepackaged or at specific shops. Most of these smoothies are packed with sugar as they are made with sorbets, ice cream or juices that have loads of sugar in them.

If you’re a smoothie addict, you may as well just pick all your favorite ingredients and invest in a blender.

3. Granola Bars

Granola bars were meant to be a portable, non-perishable and high-energy snack – which is automatically going to have more carbohydrates and sugar than other things. For instance, Nature Valley crunchy granola bars have 23% of your daily serving of sugar in just one serving.

Obviously not all granola bars are equal – some of them are low in sugar and high in protein – just pay attention to the labels.

4. Fat Free Foods

First off, fat free does not at all mean healthy in any case. Your body needs fat – especially the healthy, unsaturated kind. The problem comes when we consume too much saturated fats, too often.

Second, fat free usually means way more added sugars. Many companies add additional sugars or sweeteners to fat free foods to improve the taste.


5. ‘Detox’ Programs

We’ve touched on detox programs and juice cleanses before – they just don’t work. Most of these juice cleanses end with losing only water weight and gaining loads of other symptoms like dizziness and intestinal issues.

If you want a natural way to detox your body, drink water! Your body’s liver and kidneys naturally detox your body so long as you drink plenty of water.


6. Takeout and Fast Food Salads

The vast majority of salads at restaurants and fast food chains are not at all a healthy alternative and they end up just a handful of lettuce buried under fried chicken, cheese and dressing.

Fast food chains have been called out recently and some are trying to change things around but a McDonalds Southwest salad is still 470 calories with 23g of fat (6g saturated fat) and 12g of sugar!

7. Vitamin Water

There was a lawsuit years ago against Coca-Cola for this exact reason – people believed based on the name that it was a healthy drink. While extra vitamins are added, they are also loaded with almost as much sugar as soda.

8. The Food Pyramid

The Food Pyramid that was popularized by the USDA was determined to be grossly flawed, but was still taught in schools until very recently. By promoting the consumption of complex carbs but removing all fat and oil, the pyramid provided misleading guidance towards full body health.

9. Gluten Free Foods

While a gluten free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease, gluten sensativities, and some inflammatory disorders, there is little evidence that going gluten free offers any particular health benefits. Gluten-free foods also tend to be lower in folate, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.

10. Subway

I’m sure we all remember the marketing and commercials for Subway with Jared, The Subway Guy, who lost more than 200 pounds while eating mainly Subway.

Here’s the thing, Subway CAN be healthy because it has a ton of really healthy options. That doesn’t mean that everything on the menu is. If you want to eat at Subway and still be healthy, avoid pretty much any sandwich or wrap on the menu and forgo all the extra dressings and sauces.

11. Red Wine

Let me say this first; research does suggest that drinking an occasional glass of red wine provides antioxidants, can help protect against heart disease and can control inflammation.

Research has also shown that women who have 3 drinks per week increase their chances of getting breast cancer by 30%. Nine drinks of any kind of alcohol raises those chances by 300%. This was based on The Framingham Study, which included 5000 women and lasted 20 years. The only factor in every woman that was diagnosed with breast cancer was the alcohol consumption.

So, while red wine does have health benefits, it also carries its own risks.

To sum everything up, as with anything in the health community, be smart about it. Do your own research before believing that something is “healthy” or a “health supplement” and (the most important thing I’ve learned from my years of research) stay away from all “miracle cures”.

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