9 Foods That Aren’t As Healthy As You Think

SSuchy Feb 13th, 2013 (updated Nov 6th, 2014)
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Seeing past the labels
Seeing past the labels

Food marketing can be very persuasive.  But not every food that is labeled to suggest it’s healthy--whatever healthy means at the moment – is actually going to nourish your body the way you expect it to.   

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Anything labeled 'Superfood"
Anything labeled 'Superfood"

The term ‘superfood’ is a marketing construct.  There are no scientific standards to define them nor do government regulators offer any kind of definition.  This is not to say that all foods labeled as superfoods are bad foods.  The label has been given to foods such as kale, spinach and pomegranates – all of them healthy foods, but the term “superfood” does not mean the food is healthy.

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Whole grains
Whole grains

According to the USDA, products made with whole grains are preferable to refined grains because whole grains are more nutrient-dense than refined products. But not all products called ‘whole grain’ are good for you.  A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that foods labeled as whole grain were sometimes higher in sugar and calories than similar products that were not whole grain.

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Gluten-free
Gluten-free

The same rules apply to foods labeled ‘gluten-free’.  Foods that are gluten-free do not contain the protein gluten that is found in many grain products.  People who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities must avoid gluten because it damages the lining of their digestive systems. But, a ‘gluten-free’ label does not mean that the food is healthy, contains fewer calories or has more nutrients than any other food. 

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Diet sodas
Diet sodas

Diet sodas are a point of contention in the health world.  On the one hand, replacing full-calorie sodas with diet sodas does cut significant calories out of a heavy soda drinker’s diet.  But there are questions about what the artificial sweeteners in diet soda do to the brain and the rest of the body.  

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Anything labeled "organic"
Anything labeled "organic"

When a product is labeled ‘organic’ in the U.S., it means that the product has been grown and produced in a way prescribed by a governing body in that state.  There are no universal or scientific standards attached to the word ‘organic’. So, the label ‘organic’ does not guarantee anything about the health of the actual food.  Be just as vigilant about checking the nutrition labels of organic foods as you would with any other food. 

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Berries...some of them
Berries...some of them

Berries are great snacks--low in calories, high in water content and usually very nutrient-dense.  But a study at The Ohio State University found that for some berries, the nutritional value might not get past your mouth. Apparently, there is a compound in human saliva that breaks down some of the nutrients in berries with a particular color pigment before they have a chance to be absorbed into the body. 

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Multivitamins
Multivitamins

Multivitamins have also been the subject of scrutiny in recent months. While one study suggests that they can dramatically cut the risk of cancer, another calls their benefits marginal at best and completely overblown at worst. The FDA regulates multivitamins as a food, not as a drug. So, their safety is not tested with the same scrutiny as other pills in your medicine cabinet. 

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Antioxidants
Antioxidants

The term antioxidant has become synonymous with health.  It’s added to foods and marketed heavily where it occurs naturally, such as in pomegranates and acai berries. But some of the health claims of antioxidants are debatable.  For example, many experts thought that diets rich in antioxidants could ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  But a 2012 study in the Archives of Neurology strongly suggested otherwise.

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Anything labeled “low”
Anything labeled “low”

Do not rely on the front of a food package to make your buying decisions.  Food packaging is loaded with slogans such as “low fat”, “low sugar” and so on. These labels must meet certain standards to be included on food packaging, but do not give you a full understanding of what you’re about to consume. For example, something that is high in fiber may not be low in fat; something that is low in calories does not necessarily have any nutritional value.

 

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Everything in moderation
Everything in moderation

Remember that any food or substance consumed in excess is likely to cause problems no matter how healthy it may be.  Try and feed yourself with nutrient-dense foods, prepare them at home as often as possible and always stop eating when you feel full.