Do you ever feel perplexed in the natural foods aisle of your grocery store? With labels like organic, natural, and sugar-free popping out at you, it’s hard to know what is really healthy and what is just a marketing scheme. Below are a few foods which are marketed as healthy but may not deliver on those promised health benefits.
1. Vitamin Water. While soda sales are plummeting (yippee!), vitamin water sales are booming. Vitamin water entered the market in 2000 and has been growing in popularity ever since. Vitamin water is a fortified beverage that has added vitamins and minerals. What the manufacturers forget to tell you is that it also has added sweetener, either in the form of sugar or a sugar substitute. Common sugar substitutes are aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose (splenda), and stevia. Aside from the added sweeteners, there is new research which shows that drinking vitamin water combined with a daily multivitamin and a healthy diet can lead to excessive vitamin intake; which is not only unnecessary but it can be harmful. Bottom line, drink plain water, not
sugar vitamin water.
2. Coconut everything. Coconut is hot. That’s for sure. Coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut butter/oil are all very trendy right now. Starbucks is even going to start carrying coconut milk so you can officially have a coconut latte in Los Angeles and Portland in a couple weeks. People rave about the benefits of coconut oil. Proponents claim that it can help with everything from weight loss, to decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, to raising levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Preliminary studies on coconut oil are showing that it may have health benefits over regular butter, due in part to its easy to digest medium chain triglycerides. However, there is no solid evidence in human trials that it is any better for us than olive oil or canola oil.
3. Fat-Free Salad Dressing. When you take the fat out of something, what is usually added to make it palatable? Sugar and sodium. Many fat free salad dressings are filled with added sugar, salt, and hard to pronounce artificial ingredients. Your dressing might be fat free, but if it has 20 grams of added sugar you are kind of defeating the purpose. Not to mention, some fat is actually good for you. Fat can help your body better absorb the nutrients from your salad. If you eat a big ole’ bowl of greens with no added fat your body will not be able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K. Just limit your dressing to no more than 2 tablespoons or make your own with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil.
4. Juicing. Fruits and vegetables are healthy for us that is for sure. But when they are juiced much of the fiber is left behind. The fiber is one of the most important nutrients in our produce. If you absolutely hate vegetables, and can only tolerate them in juice, juice away. Otherwise, eat your fruits and veggies first, and have fresh juice occasionally as a treat.
5. Kombucha. Have you ever tried Kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. It’s purported health benefits include aiding digestion, preventing cancer, weight loss, improved liver function, and general detoxification. Well, if it sounds too good to be true. It probably is. The problem is that these health benefits are mostly from personal reports and there is very little scientific evidence supporting them. Additionally, most types of Kombucha are not pasteurized meaning they carry a greater risk of bacterial contamination. Pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system should avoid raw kombucha. If you’re looking for a digestive aid, yogurt is a safer choice.
The above foods are not necessarily bad for you. Just make sure that you consume them because you really enjoy them and not for the purported health benefits.
References and Recommended Readings
Is Coconut Oil Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/coconut-oil-healthy_n_5167057.html
The Truth About Kombucha. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-kombucha?page=1