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Health

8 foods you're eating that aren't as healthy as you think

20 November 2019 in Health

Contents

Superfoods are foods that are commonly thought to be rich in nutrients and great for your health. But a problem exists: there is no legal or official definition of a superfood.

To gain superfood status, a food brand has to show scientific evidence that its product has legitimate health benefits. However, what happens in a research lab can be misleading. For example, research on superfoods often involves extracts of the food in concentrations far higher than a person would ever consume when eating the food in its natural state.

It’s one of several practices that suggests that many so-called superfoods may not be as super as they seem.

So does this mean your favourite health foods are a waste of time and money? Not all of them are, but here are 8 foods that aren’t as healthy as you think.

Coconut oil

Do you use coconut oil when you cook? Coconut oil has become more popular in recent years as a result of claims that it can aid weight loss and protect against Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease. However, there’s a lack of robust human research to support all of these claims.

Studies suggest that a type of fat in coconut oil, known as medium-chain fatty acids, may help your body burn more calories than normal. However, there’s less evidence to support claims that coconut oil can protect against heart and brain disease.

Coconut contains around 86% saturated fat, which is known to increase bad cholesterol - a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. It may be better to use olive oil as it’s high in healthy monounsaturated fat.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is seen as a healthier alternative to sugar as it’s largely made up of the natural sugar fructose, which doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar. But this doesn’t necessarily make it healthier. It can have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels, and people who regularly consume fructose are at increased risk of fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. Fructose may also increase bad cholesterol, which can put you at risk of heart disease.

Instead of swapping regular sugar for agave nectar, just watch your sugar intake. Make sure added sugar doesn’t make up more than 5% of your daily calorie intake - usually no more than 30g of sugar a day.

Pink Himalayan salt

Pink Himalayan salt is marketed as a healthy substitute for table salt because it has lower sodium levels and more important minerals. While it does contain minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium, it doesn’t have enough of these minerals to make any difference to your health. Instead of replacing regular salt with pink Himalayan salt, reduce your overall salt intake so you aren’t eating more than 6g of salt a day.

Almond milk

Almonds offer many benefits. They are packed with protein, antioxidants, fibre and minerals. Unfortunately, almond milk is made from blanched skinless almonds, so a lot of the nutritional value is lost. And did you know that shop-bought almond milk can contain as little as 2% almonds? That’s because processed almond milk is mainly made of water. It can also contain additives like sugar, salt and flavourings.

Unless you have a personal preference for almond milk or are lactose intolerant, there’s no reason to choose almond milk over cow’s milk.

Goji berries

Goji berries are said to aid weight loss, improve eyesight, mood and circulation, and slow down ageing. But there is no real research to support these claims. Goji berries provide a number of nutrients and antioxidants, but there’s no need to eat them just because you think they’re healthier. You can get the same nutrients from other fruits and vegetables.

Juice cleanses

Juice cleanses involve consuming nothing but fruit and/or vegetable juice for a short period of time. They are thought to nourish the body and help rid it of sugar, caffeine and refined foods. While a juice cleanse can provide your body with many important nutrients, consuming only juice is not healthy or sustainable.

Juice cleanses also lack fibre, which is important for controlling your appetite. Eating plenty of fibre is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Instead of going on a juice fast, try having a small amount of juice as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Detox teas

Detox teas are sold as a way to cleanse your body of toxins and lose weight, but there isn’t enough research to show they actually work. Some detox teas contain diuretics or laxatives, which are substances that don’t cause real fat loss. Instead, they help you lose water weight, which can create a false impression that you’ve lost fat.

This isn’t the only problem with detox teas. The teas which contain laxatives like senna could be harmful to your health. Excessive intake of senna may lead to diarrhoea, heart function disorders and liver damage.

Sweet potato fries or regular fries?

Which is healthier: sweet potato fries or regular fries? If, like most people, you think the answer is sweet potato fries, you may need to think again.

Sweet potato fries may contain a few more nutrients, like vitamin A, but they are still a fried food. Not only are they high in calories but they also contain a potentially carcinogenic by-product (acrylamide) found in fried starchy foods.

If you want to eat fries, a better choice would be to cut up potatoes and fry or bake them so that you can limit the amount of oil or fat you use.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.