The Western diet can be confusing. Some of the foods are obvious junk. But another problem is the growing number of so-called healthy foods that are not good for you.
Here are 5 “healthy” foods that you might want to avoid:
1. Fruit Juice
The harmful effects of sweetened soda have been widely published, but you may not realize that fruit juice is damaging as well. When fruit is processed into juice you get concentrated sugar without the natural fiber and other nutrients.
In 2019, a study found that the consumption of sugary beverages, including 100% fruit juices, is associated with all-cause mortality.
2. Protein bars
Have you ever wondered whether protein bars are healthy foods or just expensive candy bars?
Take a look at the nutrition facts. If you see a long list of ingredients that is generally not a good sign and indicates that the food is highly processed. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Avoid products with “added sugars” listed in the first 3-5 ingredients to reduce the odds of sugar crashes, weight gain, and inflammation.
If you want the convenience of a packaged food without the junk, look for those with just a few simple ingredients such as dried fruit and nuts.
3. Foods labeled “vegan” or “plant-based”
Many of these products look and taste too good to be true. The problem is that vegan or plant-based food doesn’t necessarily contain any plants. The only thing you know is that the producer did not use meat, dairy or eggs.
Processed food is high in sugar, fat, salt, and processed grains that are associated with heart disease, insulin resistance and weight gain. The secret is to avoid buying seemingly “healthy” foods that are not good for you.
4. Commercial Salad dressing
Salad dressings look innocent, but large amounts of sodium, oil and sugar promote chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Nevertheless, you can still enjoy salad by creating homemade salad dressings with ingredients such as vinegar, dijon mustard, lime juice, herbs and spices.
5. Gluten-free products
The label gluten-free is a red flag for highly processed grains and other fillers. You’ll find these in the middle of the grocery store. Many of these items provide very little in the way of nutritional value although they are sold at a premium price.
When deciding what to eat, primarily look for whole foods. Think twice when food is labeled vegan, natural, or plant-based because real fruits and vegetables don’t need a label.
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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