There are certain foods out there that, for one reason or another, have gotten a reputation for being healthy or at least healthier than other foods, when in fact, they are anything but healthy.
You may even find these culprits hiding behind terms like natural or organic. Be mindful. Rattlesnakes, poison ivy and jerks all occur organically, but that doesn’t make it a good idea to put them in your mouth.
These foods may not be labeled in a misleading manner to make the consumer think that they are healthy because they have reached a point where that is not even necessary anymore. Long since regarded as health foods, these items sport a health halo in the eyes of the hungry human trying to make the best choices they can. Unfortunately those halos are often propped up on horns.
Prime example of this is vanilla flavored food. Vanilla is a popular flavor in America. In fact, we get straight up savage for this flavor. There is not enough real vanilla on earth to naturally flavor all vanilla flavored items in the United States. True vanilla comes from orchids. Between growing time, climate changes and bees having a rough go, legit vanilla is expensive. Keeping up with America’s vanilla demands is intense.
Because of all this most vanilla flavored items in the US are flavored with artificial vanilla called vanillin. Vanillin (not to be confused with villain) is 1 molecule compared to the 171 identified aromatic compounds that make up the real vanilla and give our taste buds jollies. A side effects of this vanilla imposter can be migraines, but at least it’s less disgusting than when food manufacturers make vanilla flavoring from the ooze secreted from beaver anal glands. You read that right.
Real or not, vanilla flavoring doesn’t make a food any healthier of a choice. Vanilla syrup is no healthier than any other flavor syrup at your coffee hut. Vanilla cake is not healthier than chocolate cake. Gigantic slices of either will still send your blood sugar skyrocketing and elevate both your A1c (90 day blood glucose control tattletale) and C-Reactive Protein (indicator of oxidative damage in body due to stress) at your next doctor’s appointment. Any cake or latte with a ton of sugar will do this regardless of flavor or what was done to a beaver.
A teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams of sugar or 16 calories. When reading the back labels, you can see how many teaspoons of sugar are in your food. Do some additional math. There are 3 teaspoons to a tablespoon and 16 tablespoons to a cup. That faux healthy vanilla latte is packing roughly ¼ cup sugar!
Bagels! What is going on with bagels? Smashing a few pieces of white bread together and shaping them in a circle doesn’t make them healthy. A plain bagel with cream cheese is NOT a health food! It’s basic… basically causing weight gain, gas and acne. If you choose to have a bagel, which to reiterate is differently shaped bread, choose a whole grain bagel and put healthy foods on it.
If you’re getting your bagel and schmear on at home, check the label for actual serving size, calories and sugar load. Cut calories and your grocery bill a bit by opting for half of the bagel and then load that bad boy up with healthy goodness on top, also known as fruits and vegetables.
If you’re bageling on the go, share. Bakeries, bistros, corporate bucks and restaurants tend to serve up gigantic bagels that are akin to downing several slices of bread. Share the love.
Practice sense and sensibility with your schmear. Yes, for many it’s the reason to get the bagel. Moment of honesty, many of us love eating the bagels as nothing more than something to put that cream cheese on because cream cheese is delicious. The food industry has known this for a long time and you’d be shocked at the amount of this creamy wonder Americans eat every year.
Use reasonable amounts of cream cheese, nut butter, avocado and/or hummus. Skip the low-fat cream cheese, unless it’s free of carrageenan. Be sure to add some crisp, flavorful, nutrient rich produce too. Never be basic with your bagel.
Add English muffins to the list of foods with unwarranted halos. Crusty and British does NOT equal healthy. White English muffins are still refined grains. While texturally fascinating, your pancreas is going to handle the glucose load the same way it would a slice of white bread or spoon full of sugar.
Because of their textural wonderment, we tend to slather on the jelly to lube up the dry product. This further compounds the sugar load. If you’re down with gluten and a fan of the English muffin, choose whole grain every time and be mindful what you use to lube it up. Use a reasonable amount of organic preserves free of rotten food dyes, toxic additives and added sugar.
Turkey bacon, diet soda, granola and fruity yogurt all taught MAJOR food halos. While all these, with the exception of diet soda, can be found in legitimately healthy versions, they aren’t automatically healthy. Often turkey bacon has as much as, if not more, sodium and nitrates as regular bacon. Watch the sugar content on granola and fruited yogurt.
Additionally, watch granola and fiber bar products for an ingredient call chicory root. Chicory root causes gas. It’s something food manufacturers can throw into a food to increase the fiber content. The human body cannot digest it, but the bacteria in our gut can and will ferment it, which in turn creates a lot of gas.
While you’re reading food labels, always check for these 5 toxic food additives: carrageenan, high fructose corn syrup, artificial food coloring (including caramel coloring), hydrogenated oils (trans-fats) and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Another HUGE problem with foods we associate health halos, we eat more of them. Yes, nuts are a healthy food, some of the healthiest foods on earth. That all goes out the window if the nuts are coated in toxic food additives, drenched in sodium or if eaten in excess.
Read labels and ask yourself why you think a certain food is healthy. Be mindful that while a food may be healthy or within reason for some people, it may not be in your best interest. You only have one body in this life, be mindful with what you put in it. That’s both dating and nutrition insight.
What foods have you given an automatic healthy halo?
Find out what other nutrition blunders you’re making that could be affecting your health and weight with The Weight Loss Success eManual.
Sheila Amir is the owner and author of NutritionSheila.com, where she gives people information in order to help them live happier, healthier and well-nourished lives.
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Originally published at medium.com on July 12, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com