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5 ‘health’ foods that can do more harm than good

There are various supposedly “healthy” foods that can potentially do more harm to your body than good.

We explore 5 of these foods and recommend more viable alternatives.

#1. Ban bran muffins

Commonly marketed as health food in gyms, retailers and coffee shops, muffins are deceptively calorific.

“Even if they have bran, blueberries or other healthy ingredients, ultimately, muffins are just cake!” asserts Lila Bruk, dietician at Lila Bruk & Associates in Johannesburg.

In fact, most muffins today are huge and packed with too much sugar and butter. The kilojoules in additional accompaniments like butter, jam and cheese also spell disaster for your waistline.

It is therefore better to avoid muffins completely, or occasionally enjoy a half a muffin, minus the trimmings of course.

#2. Stick to sensible smoothies

Smoothies can be healthy – depending on the ingredients – but they can also be very high in fat and sugar”, says Lila. “Therefore, it is best to make your own or avoid them altogether.”

If you decide to enjoy a smoothie, ensure that it does not contain refined sugar, full-fat milk products and artificial ingredients. Making your own blend is perhaps your best chance of avoiding dubious ingredients, while still enjoying a nutritious drink.

Blend fresh fruits and vegetables with fat-free dairy products and super-healthy ingredients like whey powder, spirulina and flaxseeds, for a delicious and nutritious alternative to a shop-bought smoothie.

#3. Stop sipping flavoured waters

There are numerous drinks that many people deem diet friendly that are less-than-stellar in the health stakes.

For instance, many flavoured waters are sweetened with either sugar or artificial sweeteners to make them more palatable for people who dislike the taste of plain water.

Many people think that flavoured waters are healthy options, but they often have as much sugar as regular fizzy drinks”, explains Lila.

This poses a problem because sugar can wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels, and cause cravings and intense hunger. Artificial sweeteners can also have an effect on sugar levels when ingested excessively.

In addition, research indicates that there are numerous negative effects from consuming too much sweetener; most notably an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, which can increase a person’s risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type-II diabetes.

Most artificial sweeteners are generally safe, but ultimately we don’t know the long-term health effects”, adds Lila. “Therefore, either use them in moderation or get used to less sweet tastes and definitely avoid flavoured waters completely”.

#4. Ditch diet sodas

If you think that fizzy diet drinks are healthy because they contain no sugar, think again.

Ultimately, diet drinks should be kept to a maximum of one or two cans a day due to the large amounts of artificial sweeteners (and often caffeine) they contain”, advises Lila.

Drinking plain water is still the healthiest choice to quench your thirst. Try adding some fresh fruit to enhance the taste of water if you find plain water too bland.

Sparkling water and seltzer (minus the sodium) are also more preferable to flavoured waters, energy drinks and dubious diet sodas.

#5. Granola ain’t always great

Commonly marketed as a fibre-filled and nutritious breakfast and snack food, granola isn’t always as grand as many people think.

Many granola brands contain excessive sugar, which can mess with your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling ravenous within an hour or two after eating. A number of these products also contain trans-fats, which can increase your risk of heart disease.

In addition, granola portion sizes are small, leaving you feeling unsatisfied, which can lead to snacking.

Whole oats are a better breakfast option because they are packed with heart-healthy nutrients and soluble fibre, to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

With such a wide array of food options and the mixed marketing messages we face daily, it isn’t a surprise that dietary choices can become confusing for many people. The important thing is that you remain informed about what you ingest, and be aware of how these foods and beverages either help or hinder your body. In this way, you can enjoy healthy nutritional choices without the risk of a nasty surprise the next time you slip on those skinny jeans or step on the scale.

By Julia Lamberti

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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