Did you know that the American diet and weight loss industry rakes in over $60 billion per year? That's $60 billion dollars worth of false promises and half truths. Many products in grocery stores and restaurants are touted as healthy based on old-school ideas about health left over from the 90s. These ideas have since been proven false by numerous studies and yet we keep lapping them up— literally. What are the health food myths that could have serious consequences for your longevity? Read on to find out and keep a list to take with you the next time you're out there in the vague world of grocery shopping.
Heard about the vitamin drama that's been making headlines? For decades we've been told vitamin supplements, from just one type to multivitamins, are a good way to maintain overall health. But recent studies have laid bare this old notion and shown that vitamin supplements are only necessary when your doctor tells you to take them due to a vitamin deficiency. Otherwise, they're not doing you any good and they could be doing you harm. An overdose of vitamins over a long period can lead to death and even the loss of muscle control, according to several studies done in the last decade. While vitamins are good for you and necessary for survival, you're likely getting enough in your food with a healthy diet.
Orange juice at the store is loaded with unhealthy sugars and chemicals. So what did the juice industry do? They made "100% fruit" juices to drive sales under the assumption that these were a healthier alternative to other juices. "100% fruit" juice still does not give you the same amount of nutrition you'd get from the whole fruit it came from. So why waste the cash when the real thing is just as easy to come by and better for you? Stock up on oranges and apples instead. The pulp you eat from an orange contains good ingredients, too. And no, pulpy juice is not a replacement.
Not 100% or Whole Grain Wheat Bread
Many people assume any brown-colored bread is good, healthy bread. But you've got to read the label to know for sure. If your wheat bread isn't labeled 100% whole wheat, or has "wheat flour" listed as a top ingredient, it doesn't contain the fiber and nutrients of whole grain varieties, as noted in this WebMD article. Be extra vigilant when reading the label. Some companies slip by with terms like "100% Natural" and "Seven-Grain," but still sell bread that mostly contains the white flour you're trying to avoid. Look for "whole-wheat flour" as a top ingredient listed on the nutrition label.
"Low-Fat" and "Fat-Free" Anything
This labeling craze came out of the anti-saturated fat movement, and it fools people into thinking they're regulating their health by buying something low-fat or fat-free. The truth is, these products contain chemical replacements for fat that are no good for you, and often added sugar. Everything in moderation is okay, including fat (particularly healthy fats), plus it tastes better and is more filling. You'd be doing yourself a favor by eating small amounts of fat rather than large amounts of fat-free products.
See these at cafe and lunch spots in your city? Think it's a way for a fast, healthy bite? Think again. Parfaits you don't make at home on your own can be full of preservatives. They can also be loaded down with syrups, sugars and sweet granola that have as many unhealthy ingredients as your favorite piece of chocolate cake.
We like to think a green tortilla or pasta is somehow better than the white version (as we've been told, white foods contain so many carbs we're supposed to stay away from them). But green does not mean healthier. If you like spinach flavored food, go for it. But that's the only reason to choose this over other non-spinach items.
It's true that one gram of pretzels contains one-tenth of the fat of potato chips. But MSNBC contributor Susan Moores found that pretzels have no nutritional value and many brands offer up just one serving that includes one quarter of the sodium we're supposed to have in an entire day. Try a whole wheat pretzel if you love 'em too much to give them up. A better snack? Make your own tortilla chips by toasting pieces of tortilla in an oven, dip them in homemade salsa. Moores also suggests a handful of nuts, which provide nutrients that pretzels don't.
Veggie Chips are loaded down with salt, sodium and all kinds of preservatives. They're so processed they're giving you the same amount of nutritional value per chip as you're getting from the potato variety, which we tend to forget also comes from a vegetable.
Rice cakes have no nutritional value. Zero. And newer, sexier cakes have extra salt and sugar to add flavor. They're okay for an occasional snack, but using them as a dietary supplement isn't any better than exclusively noshing on anything else in this list.