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Health Food Deceptions

Health Food Deceptions
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BY STEVE NUBIE

8 health foods that can be unhealthier than you think. 

We’re going to explore some product types and categories that often market and position themselves as uniquely healthy or healthier than other products in their category.   The facts are mixed and sometimes misleading.  The telegram is read the label, but even then common sense prevails.  Here are some of the products and categories that wax and wane between truth and fiction.

Energy bars

They’re named and packaged to look healthy and organic. The picture on the package shows oats and granola and nuts.  That’s all good stuff.  Unfortunately the energy bar is often held together with a combination of sugars from corn syrup to honey to white sugar, and are not only high in Carbs but often have added sodium to accent the taste.

If you’re half way through a 20 mile bike ride you might be okay. If you’re just watching TV and trying to eat right, eat something else.

Cereal

Some cereals can be very good for you.  Just as many are not.  The continuing challenge for cereal companies is their propensity to add sugar and sodium.  And it’s sometimes a very heavy dose of sugar including corn syrup, caramel syrup, honey and white sugar frostings.

Here again, the cereal box is showing natural pictures of whole grains and claims about bran, wheat, other grains and the ever present promise of vitamin and mineral fortification.  Anything can be fortified with vitamins and minerals including chewing tobacco, but that doesn’t make it good for you.

Read the nutrition information on the box carefully, particularly the carbohydrates and sodium along with the ingredients.

Wheat bread

Many wheat breads are no different than white breads from a nutrition, processing and diet standpoint. That’s because only a small percentage of wheat flour needs to be added to white flour to call the product “wheat bread.”

On the other hand, “whole wheat bread” does have better nutritional and diet benefits versus white bread, but only if it’s made with actual whole grains. What makes a whole wheat bread or a multi-grain bread healthy is the reduced carbohydrates versus white flour which can spike your blood sugar.

Frozen fruit

The good news is that frozen fruit is just as good for you as fresh fruit. The bad news is that many processors of frozen fruit add sugar to enhance the flavor.  That’s a bad idea considering that some fruits like bananas and many berries already have high amounts of sugar.

Once again, the key is to read the label. If there’s an ingredient other than just the fruit -shop around.

Soup

We’ve all heard the line, soup is good food. That can be true but the canned soup category continues to load up on sodium to extreme degrees.

The recommended daily sodium intake for a healthy adult is 2500 milligrams. The recommended daily intake for a person on a sodium restricted diet is 1500 milligrams a day.  Neither one is easy to do because counting milligrams of sodium is not as easy as counting calories.  It’s especially difficult when a single serving of some condensed soups can have up to 800 milligrams of sodium.

And the serving size gets to an interesting point. Many canned goods including  soups are defined as having 2 to 2.5 servings per can.  The nutrition facts are for one serving.  If you choose to have a large bowl of soup you could  be doubling the sodium intake to 1600 milligrams.

Consider low sodium soups or you could even add more water or skim milk to a cream soup to lower the sodium. Better yet, make your own soup from scratch and skip or significantly reduce the salt.

Trail mix

Trail mix is a good idea. It’s a blend of nuts and dried fruits that’s easy and fun to eat.  The problem is that many store-bought trail mix blends include things like chocolate chips, coconut shreds, added sugar, honey and added salt to  collectively enhance flavor, increase the weight of the product and its appearance.

A  solution is to make your own trail mix or eat the store bought stuff in moderation.

Dried fruit

I don’t mean to pick on fruit so much. It is truly a healthy food choice, especially when fresh.  The catch is that dried fruit not only concentrates flavors, but concentrates calories and sugars.  In some instances up to 8 times the original calories and sugar.

A solution is moderation or use it as a garnish for other dishes.

Managing the dilemma

It seems unfair to try to eat right and do the right thing only to find out there are unintended consequences.  The key is moderation, read the label and track your intake of calories, sodium and carbohydrates on a daily basis.  As a general rule, fresh is better but processed and packaged goods can be a part of your diet if you choose wisely.

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