Read on if you think that Breakfast Cereals, Instant Flavored Oatmeal, Bran Muffins, Bagel with Cream Cheese, Lunch Meats, Granola Bars and Sport Drinks are healthy choices.
Foods People Believe are Healthy, but are NOT Healthy at All
by Jeff Behar
Most people understand the importance of Healthy healthy eating if they want to look good and feel good, but they do not seem to have the right knowledge. The following are some common foods and beverages that people believe are healthy, when in fact they are not healthy.
UNHEALTHY HEALTH FOODS
Breakfast Cereals: Breakfast cereals may be quick, and many taste good, but most are horrible for your health
The downside: Most breakfast cereals are often high in glycemic index and salt and their vitamin/mineral content is chemical based. Drop that spoon.
If you can’t resist: Opt for cereals with LESS processed sugars. Try to select cereals listing whole-grain wheat, whole oats or wheat bran as the first ingredien, since they will have more fiber and will stabilize the body’s sugar-control system, reducing the incidence of metabolic syndrome,Type 2 diabetes and lower the risk to heart disease.
Healthy eating alternative: non-processed cereals like bran, or no sugar added oatmeal. If you do not like the taste of bran type cereals a great Healthy alternative is oatmeal. Oatmeal contains several important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, heart healthy fiber, and a wide variety of additional nutrients important to good health. Oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan which can enhance the human immune system’s response to bacterial infection, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, lower risk to several cancers, lower risk to Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome), obesity, and lower the risk to heart disease which reduces the risk to conditions such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. This soluble fiber helps remove LDL or “bad” cholesterol, while maintaining the good cholesterol that the body needs. An added benefit of beta-glucan, is there are studies that show beta-glucan enhances the human immune system’s response to bacterial infection.
Higher intakes of whole grains like oatmeal also increase insulin sensitivity by lowering the glycemic index. The soluble fiber slows also down the digestion of starch which keeps blood sugar steady. This reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Oats are also a very good source of several antioxidants.
Instant Flavored Oatmeal: Instant flavored oatmeal is not the same as 100% natural oatmeal. Although they have oats in them, they are not as healthy as you may think.
The downside: Most instant oatmeal contains large amounts of sugars and has less fiber than the unprocessed versions.
If you can’t resist: Opt for 100% rolled oats and add in some fruit, or some natural sweeteners
Healthy alternative(s): 100% rolled oats. 100% rolled oats provide all the health effects discussed above.
Bran Muffins. Many people reach for a bran muffin believing that a bran muffin is healthy and part of a nutritious breakfast.
The downside: Most bran muffins contain little bran. Additionally many muffins today are HUGE. Years ago, one muffin was approximately 150, 3 to 5 grams of fat and about the size of tennis ball. Today, muffins are supersized! It is not uncommon for a muffin to be 350 to 450 calories, with 15 to 20- grams of fat.
If you can’t resist: Stick to muffins that are of normal size (or split one with someone). Opt for muffins with a short ingredient list, made from whole grain flour, corn meal or bran. Choose a muffin that has 5 or more grams of fiber, less than 200 calories per serving and no more than 5 grams of fat or added sugars.
Healthy alternative: Try a whole-grain English muffin and s pread a light layer of peanut butter on top. This will set you back only about 150 calories, plus you’ll have some healthy nutrients to show for it.
Bagel with Cream Cheese: Many people grab a bagel, often with cream cheese or jam in the morning. This may be easy and quick, but definitely not healthy.
The downside: A bagel with cream cheese can top the calorie charts at approximately 500-700 calories and can contain upwards of 40 grams of fat! Most contain processed white flour, and simple carbohydrates that will convert quickly to sugar once in your body. They also contain little nutrition and barely any protein. The bread is bad enough, containing 300 calories and 60 grams of carbohydrates, but add a healthy serving of cream cheese and your “harmless” bagel weighs in as worse than a Whopper.
If you can’t resist: If you must have a bagel, look for bagels made from whole grains where possible. This would make a slightly better choice, as the added fiber would help slow down the breakdown from starch to sugar. Eat half the bagel and top it with an egg white omelet or some tuna or white fish. This swap will save you nearly 200 calories, plus provide a surge of metabolism-boosting protein. Note: most bagel chains “whole wheat” bagels, are anything but whole wheat. Most “whole wheat” bagels are mostly white flour with a little whole wheat thrown in.
Healthy alternative: Skip the bagel and have a egg white omelet. This swap will save you nearly 300 calories, plus provide a surge of metabolism-boosting protein. And a recent study from the University of Connecticut found that eating eggs can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Lunch Meats: Refrigerated sliced lunch meats are a $3-billion industry. Luncheon meats are easy, quick and convenient. For many it is a quick way to get needed protein into their diet.
The downside: Many lunch meats, including ham, turkey and roast beef contain added solutions of water, sodium and water or water and spices. Most luncheon meats contain nitrites and nitrates (preservatives), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and other coloring and flavoring additives that have been linked to cancer.
If you can’t resist: Choose low fat luncheon meets that do not contain preservatives, coloring and other flavoring additives.
Healthy alternative: Have your grocer cut your luncheon meets directly from freshly cooked whole turkey or chicken breast.
Fast Food Salads: People today want to be healthy, and in an effort to be healthy many people opt out of the burger and fries at a fast food place and reach for what they believe to be a healthier alternative: a salad. However, all salads are not equal when it comes to nutrition.
The downside: Often these salads lack the darker healthier vegetables, use iceberg lettuce rather than a healthier alternative. These salads also often come with fattening products already on them, like whole eggs and cheese. Once you add the sugar-laden salad dressings, bacon bits, and the croutons which tend to be fried or baked in oil, these “healthy” salads can top 800 calories and contain over 65g of fat.
If you can’t resist: Order a salad that does not come with fattening cheese and other fattening products on it. Look for a salad with lots of different colors as it’s likely to have one or two of your five to seven vegetables a day. Pass on the sugar-laden salad dressings, the croutons, the bacon bits and most of the other “sides” they throw in.
Healthy alternative: Make your own salads. This way you can control exactly what is in the salad. You can also ensure that you include enough veggies and enough protein and minimize unhealthy fats and toppings that are loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives and unhealthy fats. In regards to dressings, opt for balsamic vinegar. If you are creative, you can also create your own fresh healthy salad dressing, using ingredients like heart healthy olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Beans, raw almonds, and tomato salsa can also make great salad toppers.
White pasta, white bread, white rice, etc.: These products are a staple for many. However, these products through processing have had many health benefits of eating them removed. Most people are unaware of the health implications that consuming too much of them can cause.
The downside: White paste, white bread and white rice have had have been stripped of their outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process, leaving only the endosperm. This removes the healthy fiber, and many of the healthy nutrients, including the phytochemicals and antioxidants which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes. By removing the outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process, the otherwise healthy lower glycemic foods become higher glycemic foods which increase the chances of developing insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome), Type 2 diabetes and several other health conditions including obesity, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and many more. The bran also contains essential fattty acids (EFAs) which help lower serum cholesterol which is a major risk factor in heart disease. Therefore the oil in the bran helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you can’t resist: Eat these in moderation, choose smaller portions and add low fat protein to the meal which will lower the overall glycemic index and not raise blood sugar levels as badly.
Healthy alternative: Choose 100% whole grain versions of rice, pasta and bread, which have more fiber, more nutrients and have a lower glycemic index. Lower glycemic index foods are associated with a slower and less dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar.
Granola Bars: Because granola bars contain two healthy ingredients, oats & nuts, many people believe that granola bars are healthy. Adding to the confusion is they are often marketed as healthy food.
The downside: The reason that granola bars are anything BUT healthy is that granola bars are glued together high-fructose corn syrup. Many granola bars also contain extra ingredients for taste, like chocolate chips. The result is a product that raises blood sugar levels comparable to a candy bar. Even the less sugared-up varieties have barely any protein, barely any fiber and only a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
If you can’t resist: Stick to granola bars with a short ingredient list, essentially whole grains, nuts, seeds and real fruit. Pick granola bars with 4 or more grams of fiber, less than 150 calories per serving and no more than 6 grams of added sugars.
Healthy alternative: Make your own home made protein bar. Protein does not raise your blood sugar, it increase satiety levels (helps keep you full), does not cause energy crashes, and provides fuel for your muscles and for many vital body functions.
Sport Drinks: Sports drinks are designed primarily to quickly replace water and electrolytes, and in some cases glycogen lost during strenuous activity.
The downside: Many sports drinks are nothing more than flavored sugar water, dusted with several “hyped up” micronutrients in such low levels that the health claims made by the manufacturer are unfounded and not valid. In many cases, typical sort’s drinks contain as much sugar as a soda.
If you can’t resist: Drink sports drinks that are low in sugar and use low glycemic carbohydrate mixtures fortified with needed electrolytes to minimize cramping and dehydration.
Healthy alternative: Tap water is just as effective as the average sports drink at replacing most types of fluid loss; unless you are doing extreme strenuous activity. Water quickly rehydrates the body without contributing unnecessary calories.
About the Author, Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, weight loss, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. Jeff Behar’s work also often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on major health, fitness and weight loss websites. Jeff Behar is also the CEO of MuscleMagFitness.com, and MyBestHealthPortal.com; two very popular health, fitness, disease prevention, weight loss, nutrition and anti aging information sites.