12 'Healthy' Foods That Aren't Really Healthy
Don’t be fooled by the labels; these foods aren’t
what you think.
Here’s a secret in the food industry: Many healthy
foods are no better than their alternatives. Some
have little nutritional value, some actually contain
harmful chemicals and some even pose as “healthy”
when they’re downright bad for you.
Go beyond the labels and scrutinize the ingredients.
Breads labeled as “whole wheat” or “whole grain,”
for example, can pack as much as 70 percent refined
flour. But because it includes some whole grains, it
can advertise itself as the real deal.
And challenge the myths. You don’t need many
fat-free or cholesterol-free options because, in its
unprocessed form, fat doesn’t make you fat and
cholesterol doesn’t clog your arteries.
In this article, we list 12 of the worst health
foods; stay clear and stay healthy.
For Americans who eat breakfast, 31 percent start
their morning the same way: a bowl, cereal and milk.
Yet many cereals aren’t nutritious—even the
self-proclaimed “healthy” ones. Cereals like Honey
Nut Cheerios and Raisin Brain, for example, contain
as much sugar as Fruity Pebbles. To produce those
cute flakes of corn, manufacturers inadvertently
destroy many of the original vitamins and minerals;
to compensate, companies add synthetic ingredients
to fortify the cereal. But even with fortification,
cereals aren’t as healthy as whole foods.
2. Skim or low-fat milk
Avoid the low-fat options and choose whole milk
instead. While skim and low-fat milks have fewer
calories, whole milk has more saturated and
monounsaturated fats to keep you feeling full,
support metabolism and improve your body
composition. Without the fat, skim and low-fat milks
also have less fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E,
and K than whole milk. Even worse, producers add
powdered milk into skim milk to improve its
consistency because skim milk doesn’t resemble real
milk when it’s harvested; that process introduces
oxidized cholesterol, which damages your arteries
worse than regular cholesterol. Nor does research
support the health claims of low/non-fat milk versus
whole. In 2012, researchers correlated low-fat and
non-fat milk with higher obesity levels among
children than whole milk
3. Synthetic oils
The popularity of synthetic oils grew because of the
myth that fat makes you fat: if fat is bad, then
fat-free oils and spreads are good. Thus, companies
pushed those options (and Fabio graced millions of
TV sets with his iconic, “I can’t believe it’s not
butter”). Unfortunately, food companies hydrogenate
many of the fake oils you buy, which maintain their
shelf life and shape at room temperature and make
them trans fats. This process, however, makes the
oil harder to digest and increases your risk of
cardiovascular disease. Then, the oil is bleached
and artificially flavored until you can’t believe
it’s not butter.
4. Vegetable oils
Vegetable oils like canola, corn, grape seed, etc.,
come from chemicals: Producers blast the seeds at
high heat and dump in solvents to extract the oil.
In later stages, they inject other chemicals to
improve color and odor. This elaborate process
transforms the vegetable oil into an unstable fat
called polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Your body
doesn’t digest PUFAs well because your cells consist
mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Also,
vegetable oils have a high ratio of Omega-6 PUFA to
Omega-3, which creates inflammation within the body
and can increase risk of heart disease, obesity, and
5. Protein bars
Many protein bars are candy bars in disguise.
They’re filled with sugar and high-fructose corn
syrup and include trans fats and artificial
sweeteners. While the protein content is
commendable, there’s just too much extra.
6. Sports drinks
They claim they’re the ultimate thirst quenchers and
even better than water—research says otherwise. A
study from the University of Oxford found: There is
a striking lack of evidence to support the vast
majority of sports-related products that make claims
related to enhanced performance or recovery,
Half of all websites for these products provided no
evidence for their claims, and of those that do,
half of the evidence is not suitable for critical
appraisal. No systematic reviews were found, and
overall, the evidence base was judged to be at high
risk of bias. A glance at the nutrition facts also
reveals a lot of sugar along with their
electrolytes, and a lot of calories, too.
7. Wheat bread
Not all wheat breads contain pure, whole grains. For
example, even those with labels of “multi-grain” or
“seven-grain” may still use refined flour; “whole
wheat” or “100% natural” breads may have few real,
whole grains. Worse, many contain partially
hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners,
high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives to improve
shelf life and even food coloring. Don’t rely on the
labels—search the nutrition facts and make sure the
first ingredient is either “whole grains” or “whole
8. Egg white-only anything
Forget the cholesterol. First, as part of a healthy,
balanced diet, eggs won’t hurt. Second, your liver
produces more cholesterol per day (about 1-2 grams)
than you ingest. Third, dietary cholesterol doesn’t
strongly correlate with blood cholesterol: In a
study of 136,905 patients hospitalized for heart
attack between 2000 and 2006, almost three-quarters
didn’t have cholesterol levels that indicated
cardiac risk. Finally, cholesterol produces
muscle-building testosterone. Also, the egg yolk
boasts fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), choline
(an essential nutrient with a wide range of health
benefits), and half of the egg’s total protein.
Avoid the yolk and you’ll shortchange yourself.
9. Fruit juices
While fruit juices have some vitamins, they have too
many calories and sugar. One 8-ounce glass of grape
juice, for example, has about 170 calories, 42 grams
of carbs and 40 grams of sugar. (That’s more
calories and sugar than a 12-ounce can of Coke.) You
can’t build lean muscle with that many empty
calories and sugars. Even the “all-natural” ones may
contain high-fructose corn syrup and additives.
10. 'Fat-free' anything
This also spawns from the “fat will make you fat”
myth. Fat doesn’t make you fat, a bad diet and a
lack of exercise do. Fats support everything from
brain and metabolic function to quicker fat loss. If
you avoid fats, you’ll struggle to get the right
ratio of macronutrients (carbs vs. proteins vs.
fats) because more calories will have to come from
carbs; that will skew your macronutrient ratio and
cause more fat gain. Also, to make foods fat-free,
companies often add trans fats and artificial
sweeteners, which can cause health problems.
11. Most yogurts
Many low-fat and fat-free yogurts have high-fructose
corn syrup, sugar and starch. Some have as much
sugar as a candy bar, and others use artificial
sweeteners, which may spike your insulin. Also,
avoid the ones with fruit inside—the fruit is either
soaked with sugar or from concentrate. Instead, buy
plain yogurt and add your own fruit.
12. Dried fruit
Ignore its deliciousness and imagine dried fruit as
candy with fiber. It contains a lot of sugar and
chemicals to improve shelf life, and because it’s
dried, packs more calories per bite than a piece of