There is a long list of foods believed by many to be “good for you” and that are falsely marketed as healthy. Here we have picked out seven such foods that we believe you should limit your intake of.
1. Unrefined vegetable oils
These include soybean, corn, peanut, safflower and sunflower. They are unhealthy because they produce toxic oxidation products when heated. Clinical trials have shown that diets high in vegetable oils lead to significantly higher rates of cancer and gallstones, compared to diets higher in saturated fats. Vegetable oils are relatively recent additions to the human diet: only since the 1950s have we been eating them in significant amounts.
Better option: butter, ghee and coconut oil are all stable at high temperatures. Olive oil ideally shouldn’t be heated but used to dress salads etc.
2. Low-fat foods
Removing fat from food interferes with flavour and texture, so to compensate, companies must use substances called “fat replacers” — which are almost always carbohydrate-based. The result is that low-fat products, such as peanut butter, salad dressings, yogurts, biscuits, and ice cream are almost always higher in carbohydrates — and sugar.
Better option: Whole-fat foods (that don’t contain hydrogenated or vegetable fats) generally have less sugar, fewer additives and carbohydrates than the low-fat versions. And guess what, fat doesn’t make you fat!
Fruit is high in the natural sugar fructose, especially very sweet fruits like pineapple, mango, grapes, bananas, watermelon and dried fruits. Eating too much fructose from sweet fruits has the same effect as the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup: it goes straight to the liver and provokes high triglyceride levels as well as other unhealthy blood lipids that can lead to fatty liver disease, midriff weight gain and heart disease.
Better option: We recommend eating fruit indigenous to the UK (such as apples, pears, berries, stone fruit) and only having one or two pieces maximum per day.
4. Whole grains
Yes, even whole grains are still carbohydrates, which break down into glucose in the body. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, which is the fat storage hormone that can contribute to midriff weight gain. Clinical trials have shown that people who eat a diet high in carbohydrates, even complex carbohydrates, are at a higher risk from heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Better option: Limit carbohydrates from cereal grains and try to get carbohydrates from vegetable sources instead, including sweet potatoes, squash and carrots, which are richer in vitamins and minerals and don’t contain the anti-nutrient, phytic acid, which can block mineral absorption. Make sure to balance your plate with adequate amounts of non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, meat, fish and eggs.
5. Sports Drinks
Just because they show images of young healthy sports people drinking them certainly doesn’t make them healthy. Most sports drinks are really just flavoured water mixed with sugar and electrolytes. The electrolytes, which are usually potassium and sodium, are great for intense workouts or endurance training that involve heavy sweating but not great when accompanied by glucose and additives. Sports drinks contain colour additives and citric acid, both of which can stain teeth. A 2009 study found that sports drinks damaged the dentin — the tissue underneath the enamel that determines tooth shape and size.
Better option: Water or coconut water. For intense training where you need electrolytes, please consult a nutritional therapist or sports therapist.
It’s often thought of as an easy way to increase vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately juicing also means you miss out on all the healthy associated fibre found in fruit and vegetables, and fibre helps to keep your bowel healthy as well as slowing down the rate that sugar hits your bloodstream. Added to this, if the juice contains more fruit than vegetables as well as starchy vegetables like carrot and beetroot, it will be high in concentrated sugars which can lead to unstable energy and midriff weight gain.
Better option: Make a healthy smoothie that blends one entire fruit with several vegetables (incl 1/2 avocado) so you get a range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients along with the fibre.
Often billed as healthy on the packaging, granola can be high in sugar and starch in the form of cereal grains, dried fruit, and added sugar or honey. They often contain vegetable oils which also reduce their health value.
Better option: Our Granola is sugar free and contains added protein and fat from nuts and seeds. It can be made in big batches and kept in an airtight container.