Sometimes those “healthy choices” aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be! Here are 7 foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t
Processed foods are the main reason that we, as a society, are heavier and sicker than ever. Unfortunately, food manufacturers have spent years and billions of dollars to convince us that there’s no better way to be happy, healthy and (gosh darn it!) full than to take advantage of the many foods they offer.
The foods (and claims) have evolved over time so I thought I would go over 7 of the current foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t.
The Big Empty (Calorie, That Is!)
Rice cakes and Pretzels
How did these guys become knighted heroes in the world of healthy eating? They’re nothing but highly processed foods that are full of empty calories. They must have a great PR guy!
The first commercial breakfast cereal, marketed in 1863 was called Granula. It was made from graham flour baked into a lump so hard it had to be soaked overnight to even be edible. Graham flour was, interestingly enough, named after Reverend Sylvester Graham, who soon joined forces with John Harvey Kellogg. After a falling out, Kellogg went on to start his own company to distribute his newest cereal, Cornflakes, which was considered to be more palatable than Granula.
In the years that followed, the quest to make cereal desirable to the general public has resulted in having even the healthiest brands become highly processed products. They contain loads of refined sugar while being devoid of protein and nutritional value. In an effort to make them seem healthier, they are often “fortified”, which simply means synthetic substances have been added to replace the nutrition that was destroyed during the manufacturing process.
From the chemicals in the bags to the “buttery” flavor and “artificial and natural flavorings”, this stuff just has to go. Studies show that dangerous emissions (their words, not mine) released both during and after popping can lead to serious health issues including lung disease.
So what’s a girl to do when she really, really wants a crunchy snack? No, I’m not going to tell you to get a stalk of celery. (I hate it when people say that because they know that’s not what I’m asking…)
How about some good, old-fashioned, pop-it-yourself popcorn? It’s low in fat and calories but it also has a good dollop of nutritional value as well.
The Low Fat Low Sugar Wars
You see the claims blazing from every shelf in every aisle of the store. Low fat! Fat-free! Low sugar! Sugar-free! We all know that too much fat and sugar in our diets lead to a plethora of health problems so it’s best to stay completely away from it, right?
First of all, let’s clear up all the claims on processed foods such as bottled salad dressing, baked goods, yogurts and the like. It’s a fact that when manufacturers reduce the fat in products that normally would contain it, they add more sugar or sodium.
Low sugar items usually contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, which are associated with health risks.
Now for some real facts: Not only is fat necessary for our bodies to function properly, it’s also necessary for our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients from our foods. The same is true for sugar.
So, although we don’t need lots of added fats and sugars in our diets, we do need some and a balanced diet of varied whole foods will take care of that nicely!
Magical Healing Foods
Although there’s no scientifically based or regulated definition for the term superfood, the word has long been used to identify a food that’s rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.
The term was coined by the United Fruit Company around World War I to promote sales of bananas. This was right around the same time that the scientific world was beginning to isolate different vitamins and nutrients in regard to how their use (or lack of use) specifically affected the human body. When The American Medical Association published an article claiming that bananas cured Celiac Disease in children, United Fruits ran with it. We now know this scientific finding to be faulty and that a banana is, sadly, just a banana.
You would have thought this to be the end of the banana-as-a-superhero movement but, no. There was money to be made so the SuperFoods Express remained firmly on the track despite the fact that scientific studies show little benefit to focusing on them as a superior form of nutrition.
Many studies today look at the benefits of certain nutrients when used in very large quantities…certainly, more than we could consume in a single sitting. They also look, in most cases, at just that nutrient or food, without considering that humans do not exist on a single source of nutrition. And the scary part? Some “superfoods”, such as açaí berries and pomegranates, can actually damage your organs when ingested in large amounts.
Antioxidants are substances that inhibit free radicals from doing damage to our bodies. They rose to media fame in the 1990s when scientists began to discover that people with a low antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetable intake were more likely to experience damage from these free radicals.
As trials began to run on these findings, the food industry began to tout and market antioxidant-rich foods such as green tea and blueberries. Supplements also became popular.
Despite the fact that studies are inconclusive on the benefits of upping your antioxidant intake (and, in some cases, indicated it could increase health issues), these products continue to see – if you’ll excuse the pun – healthy sales.
One thing the studies did prove? That people who ate more fruits and vegetables of any kind were healthier overall than those who ate less.
The Bottom Line
Focusing your attention on certain foods that are perceived to have some magical advantage over other foods may draw you away from the balanced, yet varied, diet that is so important to your health.
Let’s just ignore the hype, shall we? Get out there and grab some whole foods…anything you want. Take any kind of fruit or veggie, any kind of lean meat, any kind of whole grain and turn it into something delicious! Feel free to take a stroll through the Let’s Get Cooking section of this website for some great recipes including homemade salad dressing recipes such as thousand island, blue cheese and Caesar!
Don’t forget to let me know how it turns out in the comments below!
All my best,
10 Replies to “7 Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy…But Aren’t”
That is a great post of product review, sister. I appreciate what you are doing and thank you for your introduction the good for us. We support what you are talking about. It is the best sharing for whom never know the benefit of these kind of food before, like me as well.
Sorath, thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I’m happy it helped!
Very interesting post!! Yes, a lot of so-called healthy food is nothing but highly processed and sugar-filled food without any real nutrient content for your body. The problem is that most of them are based on true facts…. cereals are indeed good for your health: whole-cereals!! Anti-oxidants are great, if you take them in the form of herbs (tea), fresh fruit, vegetables, etc. Want some popcorn? Make it at home with REAL corn 🙂
They make people believe that if they take something dry and cardboard looking, pill-looking, powder-looking as long as it’s filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc.etc they are good.
There’s nothing like fresh whole-food everyday to be healthy.
Thanks for posting,
Sofia, you are exactly right! Big corporations take that little bit of truth and use it to convince people that their corn nuggets cereal is healthy. It’s unfortunate that they’re allowed to get away with it but I guess that’s the way it goes. The word is getting out there so maybe people will begin to do some research on what they’re putting in their bodies.
By the way, Cynthia, I am running a similar blog regarding natural cosmetics: https://herbalcochete.com/
I believe it does complement yours 🙂 you speak about what we put inside our bodies I speak about what we put outside. Apart from that the story is very similar: we don’t know the stuff we are rubbing our bodies with. I hope you don’t mind the ad, it’s not so much about advertising my website but much more about complementing ideas toward a healthier lifestyle.
You’re correct. What we put on the outside is just as important as what we put on the inside. I’ve bookmarked your site so I can take a closer look!
Hi, I would like to share this with all the community. So-called superfoods have increased in popularity in recent years. Shoppers put their hands in their pockets to take out their hard-earned cash for activated almonds, green powders, protein balls, and more. But new research shows that many superfoods aren’t as healthy as many people believe.
I think people are duped into buying these superfoods because they feel unwell and don’t know what to do about it. They’re so busy they don’t have time to look at what they’re eating but instead go for the easiest option. Whole foods are making a comeback, however, so I hope that more and more people decide to give healthy eating a try!
Thank you! I’m glad you mentioned the nonfat, sugar-free craze. We absolutely need fat to absorb nutrients from our food and our brain is made of mostly fat! We need those healthy fats for a healthy functioning brain and for our mental health.
It bothers me that yogurts high in sugar are considered a healthy food though. I think if you want the benefits of yogurt such as probiotics, then you should stick with a full fat, plain yogurt and put some real fruit in it. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries! oh my! lol. We shouldn’t be falling for the “sugar-free” snacks when they are loaded with carcinogenic artificial sweeteners.
I’m going to share this with my sister. She doesn’t seem to understand these things when I tell her, maybe she’ll listen to you lol.
I love to add a tsp of honey and a couple of drops of vanilla extract to my full fat, plain yogurt but fruit is a great option as well. I love this yogurt cup for a snack or light meal as well.
I hope your sister enjoys my article and I hope that it encourages her to do her own research on the subject. Unfortunately, big corporations are experts at convincing people that their highly processed items are good for you!