In a perfect world, all foods would be health food. In a near perfect world, it would at least be easy to tell which foods are good for you, and which really aren’t.
Well, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the world is far from perfect and in keeping with that, it’s not always easy to tell which foods are really good health foods, and which aren’t. Granola bars, enhanced waters, soy, and some foods found in health food stores are culprits I’ve already mentioned, but here’s a few more:
- Fish – What can be healthier than fish? It’s lean protein and has those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. The trouble is, some fish also have high levels of mercury. The worst offenders are swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and older sharks. Stick with light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, and shrimp, all of which contain much less mercury.
- Fruit and Yogurt – This sounds like a winning combination. Fruit is good; yogurt is good. The trouble is most of these products also include corn syrup to make them sweet. Compare brands available where you shop and choose ones without so much added sugars.
- Pretzels – They aren’t fried in grease like most chips, and they’re lower in calories, so they seem like an ideal snack. The problem is that they are also very high on the glycemic index, meaning they make your blood sugar rise quickly. In fact, they’re worse than doughnuts, ice cream and many candy bars in their ability to cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Try popcorn or crisp breads made with whole grains for a snack.
- Multigrain or seven-grain products – Don’t be fooled by a label that says multi-grain. Unless the label says “whole grain,” there’s going to be some white flour in there. Plain white flour has little nutrients and a high glycemic index. If you want real whole wheat goodness, check the ingredients and be sure you’re getting 100% whole grain.
- Corn Oil – Corn oil isn’t all bad. It contains omega-6 fatty acids that won’t raise your LDL cholesterol, but corn oil also has the tendency to lower blood levels of your good cholesterol (HDL). It also isn’t as nutritious as canola or olive oil, so choose those instead.
- Fat-Free or Reduced Fat Salad Dressing – To make up for the loss of taste when fat is taken out, sugar or artificial sweeteners are put in. Even more importantly, carotenoids – compounds found in fruits and vegetables that are converted into Vitamin A — are fat soluble. Their bioavailability from the diet is influenced by the presence of fat. Take away the fat in the salad dressing, and you lose some of the nutrients available in the salad. A better choice would be salad dressings made with olive oil.
- “Trans fat-free” cookies, crackers, and other products – We’ve heard over and over trans-fat is bad for us. But many times companies take out one ingredient and substitute something as bad or worse. Check portion sizes and look for hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list. Keep in mind that just because something has a label promoting it as a healthier choice, doesn’t mean it always is.
There’s a lot of variation in processed foods, and labeling can be deceptive. Look at the ingredients and choose those with the most healthy ones!
And remember… every choice for health foods is a bite in the right direction.