I want to continue with items that people think are healthy alternatives to junk food. Unfortunately many of these supposed health foods, aren’t.
Again, there may be healthier versions of these foods available, but for the most part, these foods should be considered as treats, not staples in your diet. So here’s the next three that I see as recurring problems and some truly healthy alternatives.
Health Food That’s Not Healthy – Juice
Although I railed on supposed “health” drinks and sports drinks last time (and subsequently was supported by current research), I have to discuss juice. I’m not sure why people think juice is healthy – maybe just because it isn’t soda? First, don’t confuse fruit juice with fruit drink. Fruit drinks don’t have to include real fruit and usually have lots of added sugar and colorings – not even close to healthy. Second, most of the true fruit juices include, at minimum, preservatives and synthetic vitamins, which are really unnecessary for our health. Third, let’s be real, this is a highly concentrated form of sugar, even if it’s “natural” sugar. It may be healthier than a few spoonfuls of refined, white sugar, but that doesn’t make it healthy. Finally, it takes about 8-9 oranges to get a nice glass of orange juice. Could you eat 8-9 oranges? Than you probably shouldn’t be drinking them.
Alternative: Fresh fruit. At least with a whole piece of fruit you will get the added benefits of fiber and water which is much healthier. If you really love juice, time to start saving for a Vitamix blender. With this super high powered blender you can take whole fruit, with all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, etc. and whirl it into a liquid juice. That’s the best juice for your health.
Health Food That’s Not Healthy – Alternative Sweeteners
While we’re on “natural” sugars, I want to discuss the myth of healthy sweeteners. Truly it’s doesn’t matter what health claims are included (more minerals, lower glycemic index, etc.) it’s all processed concentrated sugar. Sure there are “healthier” options than refined, white sugar, but that doesn’t make them good for your health or suggest that you can eat unlimited amounts.
I’ve written multiple times about the fake health claims of artificial sweeteners. Simply put, don’t use any of them. Taste buds adapt and whole foods don’t taste sweet. Ultimately your cravings for sweets will be worse. Additionally this sweet taste triggers the release of unused, unnecessary hormones that the body has to deal with. There is nothing healthy about artificial sweeteners.
Try using spices for extra flavoring – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, licorice root, etc. Trust me, you’ve never tasted a drink with such flavor. It may take a little while to adjust, but luckily our taste buds are regenerated and you will lose your taste for sweets, which has multiple advantages for your health. When you do need to use a sweetener, pick the least processed available and choose one with the flavor you like best. Most importantly for your health, use it sparingly.
Health Food That’s Not Healthy – Dried Fruit
Since I seem to be on a role with the sweets, let’s keep going. I know, in the first item I said eat fresh fruit, but there is a difference between fresh and dried. Fresh fruit is, on average, about 85% water. When dried the water is extracted and the fruit is now a lot of sugar and some fiber. The volume and weight is reduced with the removal of water as well so you end up eating more dried fruit than you would fresh, therefore consuming a lot more sugar. Unlike juice, you do get the fiber, vitamins, and minerals but in too concentrated of a source – too much of a good thing still isn’t good for your health.
Additionally, most commercial dried fruits add sugars (for more sweet), oils, and preservatives (to keep the dried fruit looking pretty and not stuck together). Now, the dried fruit is definitely not a health food.
Alternative: Fresh fruit again. Keep the water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals without the concentration or sugar. If you want to occasionally have some dried fruit, dry it yourself so there’s no additives. Place sliced fruit in a food dehydrator or oven and you’ll have a great snack. Just eat sparingly. Remember, each raisin was a grape and is now much more concentrated. A little goes a long way for your health so consider them a treat.
Health Foods That Aren’t Healthy – To Be Continued
I’ll continue on with my last great unhealthy health food saboteurs next week. In the meantime, keep your food journal and write down the foods you eat. Read labels to determine the health benefits of the foods you ingest.