UNHEALTHY HEALTH FOODS
Breakfast Cereals. Breakfast cereals may be quick, and many taste good, but most are horrible for your health
The downside: Most breakfast cereals are often high in glycemic index and salt and their vitamin/mineral content is chemical based. Drop that spoon.
If you can’t resist: Opt for cereals with LESS processed sugars. Do realize though, that not all low sugar cereals will be healthier than their full-sugar counterparts. When you pick up a box of cereal, read the ingredients list. Try to select cereals listing whole-grain wheat, whole oats or wheat bran as the first ingredient.
Whole-grain cereals will have more fiber. These are the healthiest cereals because they stabilize the body's sugar-control system, reducing the incidence of metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and lower the risk to heart disease. Also look for cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Look for cereals fortified with B-vitamins, zinc and iron, as well as a high amount of vitamin C because it aids in iron's absorption. Good examples include: Kellogg's Complete Wheat Bran Flakes, Kellogg's Mini-Wheats, and Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal. Of course there are many more. Just read the labels and choose wisely.
Healthy alternative(s): Healthy eating alternatives include non-processed cereals like bran, or no sugar added oatmeal. Everyone knows how healthy non-processed cereals like bran cereals are; since they contain lots of fiber (a mere 1/3rd cup of bran contains about 14 grams of fiber). To improve the taste and add variety you can cut up small pieces of high fiber fruit like, apples, dates, figs, pears and prunes and easily reach your recommended daily amount of fiber before you even leave the house!.
If you do not like the taste of bran type cereals a great Healthy alternative is oatmeal. A steaming bowl of fresh cooked oatmeal is the perfect way to start off your day, especially if you are trying to prevent or are currently dealing with heart disease or diabetes. With the exception of certain flavored varieties, oatmeal is 100% natural.
Oatmeal contains several important vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, heart healthy fiber, and a wide variety of additional nutrients and phytonutrients important to good health. There are several confirmed health benefits attributed to old fashioned oatmeal; as long as it is the unprocessed version. Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan which can enhance the human immune system's response to bacterial infection, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, lower risk to several cancers, lower risk to Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome), obesity, and lower the risk to heart disease which reduces the risk to conditions such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. This soluble fiber helps remove LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while maintaining the good cholesterol that the body needs. An added benefit of beta-glucan, is there are studies that show beta-glucan enhances the human immune system's response to bacterial infection.
Study after study has proven the beneficial effects of beta-glucan on cholesterol levels. Studies show that in individuals with high cholesterol (above 220 mg/dl), consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (an average amount found in one bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant since each 1% drop in serum cholesterol translates to a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. The soluble fiber in oatmeal absorbs a considerable amount of water which significantly slows down your digestive process. This result is that you'll feel full longer, i.e. oatmeal can help you control your weight.
Higher intakes of whole grains like oatmeal also increase insulin sensitivity by lowering the glycemic index. The soluble fiber slows also down the digestion of starch which keeps blood sugar steady. This reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Oats are also a very good source of several antioxidants like, vitamin E, tocotrieonols, selenium, phenolic acids, phytic acid and a unique antioxidant compound called avenanthramide. These multifunctional antioxidants come in immediate-release to slow-release forms and thus are available throughout the gastrointestinal tract over a long period after being consumed. These powerful antioxidants prevent free radicals from causing damage to cells in the body, reducing the risk to several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and for cancer, especially colon cancer and breast cancer. Oats and other whole grains contain many other important micronutrients like: phytoestrogens, plant compounds that may lower the risk to cancers, and positively affect blood cholesterol levels, blood vessel elasticity, bone health, metabolism, and many other cellular metabolic processes; B vitamins, minerals like copper, iron, phosphorus, zinc, manganese and magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion. Oatmeal cooked in milk enhances the food value of the dish, as milk is rich in calcium and protein. Also consider adding a scoop of metabolism-boosting protein.
Bran Muffins. Many people reach for a bran muffin believing that a bran muffin is healthy and part of a nutritious breakfast.
The downside: Most bran muffins contain little bran. Additionally many muffins today are HUGE. Years ago, one muffin was approximately 150, 3 to 5 grams of fat and about the size of tennis ball. Today, muffins are supersized! It is not uncommon for a muffin to be 350 to 450 calories, with 15 to 20- grams of fat. They also contain little to no protein. Protein is important to body functions and it also helps increase insulin sensitivity by lowering the glycemic index of the meal, and increase fullness.
If you can’t resist: Stick to muffins that are of normal size (or split one with someone). Opt for muffins with a short ingredient list, made from whole grain flour, corn meal or bran. Choose a muffin that has 5 or more grams of fiber, less than 200 calories per serving and no more than 5 grams of fat or added sugars.
Healthy alternative: Try a whole-grain English muffin. Spread a light layer of peanut butter on a toasted half, and then top with fruit. That will set you back only about 150 calories, plus you’ll have some healthy nutrients to show for it.
Bagel with Cream Cheese. Many people grab a bagel, often with cream cheese or jam in the morning. This may be easy and quick, but definitely not healthy.
The downside: A bagel at some of the bagel chains can be four servings of bread. Most also contain processed white flour, and simple carbohydrates that will convert quickly to sugar once in your body. They also contain little nutrition and barely any protein. A bagel with cream cheese can top the calorie charts at approximately 500-700 calories and can contain upwards of 40 grams of fat! The bread is bad enough, containing 300 calories and 60 grams of carbohydrates, but add a healthy serving of cream cheese and your "harmless" bagel weighs in as worse than a Whopper.
If you can’t resist: If you must have a bagel, look for bagels made from whole grains where possible. This would make a slightly better choice, as the added fiber would help slow down the breakdown from starch to sugar. Eat half the bagel and top it with an egg white omelet or some tuna or white fish. This swap will save you nearly 200 calories, plus provide a surge of metabolism-boosting protein. Note: most bagel chains “whole wheat” bagels, are anything but whole wheat. Most “whole wheat” bagels are mostly white flour with a little whole wheat thrown in.
Healthy alternative: Skip the bagel and have a egg white omelet. This swap will save you nearly 300 calories, plus provide a surge of metabolism-boosting protein. And a recent study from the University of Connecticut found that eating eggs can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Instant Flavored Oatmeal: Instant flavored oatmeal is not the same as their 100% natural cousins. Although they have oats in them, they are not as healthy as you may think.
The downside: Most instant oatmeal contains large amounts of sugars and has less fiber than the unprocessed versions.
If you can’t resist: Opt for 100% rolled oats and add in some fruit, or some natural sweeteners
Healthy alternative(s): 100% rolled oats. 100% rolled oats provide all the health effects discussed above.
Probiotic bacteria support immune system health by replenishing microflora in your intestine for optimal balance, supporting bowel and intestinal health, and optimizing vitamin and mineral absorption from your healthy diet. Fruit can provide lots of good vitamins and minerals, and also fiber. But yogurt with fruit at the bottom does not offer the same healthy benefits of eating these items separately and in their unprocessed form.
The downside: If you are eating yogurt with fruit at the bottom in the morning, you might as well be eating candy. Manufacturers add corn syrup to most of these products which effectively doubles the amount of sugar. A small cup can contain upwards of 30 grams of sugar! Even the fat free products are not necessarily healthy. They still contain lots of added sugars. The low sugar varieties may also not be so healthy. Most of these varieties contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame suspected to cause health effects.
If you can’t resist: Choose the lower sugar varieties that contain active yogurt cultures and probiotics. Probiotics support immune system health by replenishing microflora in your intestine for optimal balance, supporting bowel and intestinal health, and optimizing vitamin and mineral absorption from your healthy diet.
Healthy alternative: Make your own yogurt and fruit snack. Mix a cup of nonfat plain yogurt with a half cup of mixed berries. This way you minimize the sugar, and maximize the health benefits of the yogurt. Natural unprocessed yogurt contains live active cultures to help your digestive system, as well as metabolism boosting protein.
Store Bought Sandwiches. Most store bought sandwiches are anything but healthy. Even sandwiches labeled as healthy, can contain more calories and more fat than a fast food hamburger.
The downside: Most store bought sandwiches contain highly processed luncheon meets (see below) that are full of preservatives. They also often contain sugar-laden salad dressings, little veggies and proteins and too much white bread. The freshness is questionable and you need the foot-long to fill your stomach. The large amount of processed white bread and small serving of protein causes a surge in blood sugar. Because the protein serving is usually small, it does little to lower blood sugar and increase satiety (fullness) levels.
Often labeled “fitness” or “light”, but containing sugar-laden salad dressings, little veggies and proteins and too much white bread. Freshness is questionable and you need the foot-long to fill your stomach. Few things are quite as American as brown-bagging it with a bologna or ham and cheese lunch meat sandwich. Indeed, refrigerated processed meats, including deli meats, brought in about $17 billion in 2004, according to a report by Packaged Facts. Refrigerated sliced lunch meats are a $3-billion industry.
If you can’t resist: Look for sandwiches that are fresh, little to no preservatives, low fat dressings (e.g., mustard instead of mayo, or vinaigrette with healthy oils), and containing a healthy serving of low fat protein (e.g., fresh turkey breast).
Healthy alternative: Make your own healthy sandwiches with a healthy serving of low fat protein and healthy serving of vegetables.
Lunch Meats. Refrigerated sliced lunch meats are a $3-billion industry. Luncheon meats are easy, quick and convenient. For many it is a quick way to get needed protein into their diet.
The downside: Many lunch meats, including ham, turkey and roast beef contain added solutions of water, sodium and water or water and spices. Most luncheon meats contain nitrites and nitrates (preservatives), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and other coloring and flavoring additives that have been linked to cancer. Nitrates can lead to the formation of nitrosamines, "which have been identified as carcinogenic substances for quite some time. Cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth, liver and stomach seem to be associated with nitrosamines. Monosodium glutamate (MSG has been associated with sudden cardiac death, particularly in athletes, and excitotoxic damage to brain neurons.
If this was not bad enough, in August 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved six viruses as a food additive to be sprayed on cold cuts and packaged deli meats to protect against the food-borne-bacteria Listeria monocytogenes that is sometimes found on cold, packaged meat products
If you can’t resist: Choose low fat luncheon meets that do not contain preservatives, coloring and other flavoring additives.
Healthy alternative: Have your grocer cut your luncheon meets directly from freshly cooked whole turkey or chicken breast.
“Light and Healthy” Frozen Meals. Frozen meals are quick and convenient. There is no argument that frozen dinners have become less unhealthy over the years with the addition of such options as Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, and South Beach. Although these ”healthy” versions include some vegetables and low fat protein, these “healthy” frozen meals are still not all that healthy.
The downside: These frozen meals are processed, high in sugar, and come with sauces and are still usually high in sodium. Many frozen dinners contain preservatives such as BHT, a possible carcinogen in animals, as well as polysorbate 80 and propylene glycol, the same ingredient found in antifreeze. Although consuming these preservatives from an occasional frozen dinner is unlikely to be harmful, combining frozen dinners with other processed foods on a daily basis could expose you to more preservatives than you need. Most frozen dinners also contain a minimum of 600 mg of sodium and may have as much as 1,900 mg of sodium. With these high sodium values, it can be a challenge to stay within the recommended daily sodium intake of 2,400 mg. or less daily. Additionally the entrée in a healthy frozen dinner is often short on protein, and the vegetable sides included are often well under a serving, limiting your ability to consume the recommended five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Eating too many heavily processed foods can also leave you short on key nutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
If you can’t resist: Choose brands like Healthy Choice which have less fat, less sodium, less fats and less calories.
Healthy alternative: A healthier alternative would be to spend a day cooking large batches of your favorite meals, then freezing them in convenient portion-sized containers. The advantages to making your own frozen meals are: you can control what goes in them, there’s no need for preservatives, and they save you money. Another advantage homemade frozen dinners help you use up all your groceries, including canned veggies. This can be a huge money saver if you’re someone who finds food going to waste in your fridge or in your pantry.
Processed Soy Products. While soy may be low in fat and has some cardiovascular and overall health benefits because of their high content of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and low content of saturated fat, these benefits are not as substantial as was once believed. Emerging science is actually linking processed soy foods like soy milk, soy meat products, soy ice cream, soy energy bars, etc., to a variety of unhealthy conditions. Two hormone-like compounds linked to soy-based foods can cause irreversible in the structure of the brain, resulting in early-onset puberty and symptoms of advanced menopause, according to several new studies.
The downside: Despite the myriad of health claims that surround soy, processed soy foods like soy milk, soy meat products, soy ice cream, soy energy bars, etc., have been linked to:
- Lower testosterone in males
- Increased estrogen in males
- heart disease
- Cancer (Phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines are all highly present in soy products).
- Increased incidences of breast cancer among women
- Digestive problems
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Cognitive decline
- Reproductive disorders
- Immune system breakdowns
If you can’t resist: If you want to eat soy, stick to the unprocessed versions (tempeh, miso and edamame). Eat all processed soy in moderation.
Healthy alternative: Any high protein whole food such chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, egg whites, low fat milk, goats milk, coconut milk, almond milk, high protein seeds, high protein beans, and lentils. High quality low fat natural protein powders made from whey and egg protein is also a good alternative.
Fast Food Salads. People today want to be healthy, and in an effort to be healthy many people opt out of the burger and fries at a fast food place and reach for what they believe to be a healthier alternative: a salad. However, all salads are not equal when it comes to nutrition, and just because a salad has a little lettuce and is served in a bowl does not make it healthy. In fact MOST store bought salads, and MOST salads from fast food establishments are anything BUT healthy.
The downside: Often these salads lack the darker healthier vegetables, use iceberg lettuce rather than a healthier alternative. These salads also often come with fattening products already on them, like whole eggs and cheese. Once you add the sugar-laden salad dressings, bacon bits, and the croutons which tend to be fried or baked in oil, these “healthy” salads can top 800 calories and contain over 65g of fat. This is more calories and fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac and medium fries. A salad like this contains 70 percent of the fat that a man should eat in a day, and almost 100% of the fat that a woman should consume in a day. These unhealthy salads will negatively impact your cholesterol levels and derail and weight loss plans.
If you can’t resist: Order a salad that does not come with fattening cheese and other fattening products on it. Look for a salad with lots of different colors as it’s likely to have one or two of your five to seven vegetables a day. Pass on the sugar-laden salad dressings, the croutons, the bacon bits and most of the other “sides” they throw in.
Healthy alternative: Make your own salads. This way you can control exactly what is in the salad. You can also ensure that you include enough veggies and enough protein and minimize unhealthy fats and toppings that are loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives and unhealthy fats. In regards to dressings, opt for balsamic vinegar. If you are creative, you can also create your own fresh healthy salad dressing, using ingredients like heart healthy olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Beans, raw almonds, and tomato salsa can also make great salad toppers.
White pasta, white bread, white rice, etc. These products are a staple for many. However, these products through processing have had many health benefits of eating them removed. Most people are unaware of the health implications that consuming too much of them can cause.
The downside: White paste, white bread and white rice have had have been stripped of their outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process, leaving only the endosperm. This removes the healthy fiber, and many of the healthy nutrients, including the phytochemicals and antioxidants which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes. By removing the outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process, the otherwise healthy lower glycemic foods become higher glycemic foods which increase the chances of developing insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome), Type 2 diabetes and several other health conditions including obesity, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and many more. The bran also contains essential fattty acids (EFAs) which help lower serum cholesterol which is a major risk factor in heart disease. Therefore the oil in the bran helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you can’t resist: Eat these in moderation, choose smaller portions and add low fat protein to the meal which will lower the overall glycemic index and not raise blood sugar levels as badly.
Healthy alternative: Choose 100% whole grain versions of rice, pasta and bread, which have more fiber, more nutrients and have a lower glycemic index. Lower glycemic index foods are associated with a slower and less dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar.
Beans packed in sugary syrups (e.g., Boston Baked Beans). Baked beans are good for you because these types of beans are loaded with fiber; however this benefit comes with a number of downsides.
The downside: The sugary syrup that baked beans come in contains as much sugar as in a can of soda. This sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is never good for preventing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. It is also a very high caloric product that can contribute to weight gain.
If you can’t resist: Eat a small portion. Add in some low fat protein which will lower the overall glycemic index and slow the rise in blood sugar levels.
Healthy alternative: Choose red kidney beans or garbanzo beans which are packed with protein and fiber.
Protein/Energy Bars. Protein bars could be healthy, but in many cases most are not.
The downside: Most consumers are driven by taste, and typically the protein and energy bars that are considered the best tasting are the ones that have higher amounts of saturated fats, and sugars. Almost all of the protein bars contain additives and preservatives. While some protein and energy bars are low in total fat and saturated fat, there are many that have as much fat and saturated fat as a candy bar. This can increase your risk to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
If you can’t resist: Look for protein and energy bars that have a short ingredient list and contain less total fat and saturated fat, less sugar and higher amounts of protein. Not only will they be better for your health, but your blood sugar levels will be more stable which also means less energy crashes, and you will stay full longer, thanks to the added protein.
Healthy alternative: High quality protein drinks, or dare I suggest: real low fat protein foods, like turkey breast, tuna, chicken breast.
Granola Bars. Because granola bars contain two healthy ingredients, oats & nuts, many people believe that granola bars are healthy. Adding to the confusion is they are often marketed as healthy food.
The downside: The reason that granola bars are anything BUT healthy is that granola bars are glued together high-fructose corn syrup. Many granola bars also contain extra ingredients for taste, like chocolate chips. The result is a product that raises blood sugar levels comparable to a candy bar. Even the less sugared-up varieties have barely any protein, barely any fiber and only a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
If you can’t resist: Stick to granola bars with a short ingredient list, essentially whole grains, nuts, seeds and real fruit. Pick granola bars with 4 or more grams of fiber, less than 150 calories per serving and no more than 6 grams of added sugars.
Healthy alternative: Make your own home made protein bar. Protein does not raise your blood sugar, it increase satiety levels (helps keep you full), does not cause energy crashes, and provides fuel for your muscles and for many vital body functions.
Fruit cocktail. Fruit cocktail has made the list for the obvious reasons, sugar and calories.
The downside: Fruit cocktails whether they come with heavy syrup or even in fruit juice are loaded with sugar. Typically there’s more sugar in a can of fruit cocktail than in a candy bar or a glass of soda. As far as nutritional benefits, because the fruit is processed you do not get the fiber and many of the nutritional benefits that you would get as you do with whole fruit. Also many of the brands also contain unhealthy preservatives. Stick to the real stuff.
If you can’t resist: Make your own fruit cocktail using whole fruits.
Healthy alternative: Eat whole fruit including the skin if possible, but limit it to one serving of fruit per meal/snack to avoid insulin spikes.
Rice Cakes. Rice cakes may contain white or whole-grain rice, wild rice, corn, or other grains, and may be made with other ingredients, like cheese, sesame seeds, sea vegetables, spices, or honey. Rice cakes can be low-fat, low calories, low-cholesterol, but are they really good for you?
The downside. You won’t find much on the nutrition facts label beyond calories and sodium. Even those that boast whole grains typically remove the germ, one of the more nutritious parts of a whole grain kernel. Flavored cakes (e.g., cheese, butter, ranch, etc.) only add fat, which can be the bad “trans” kind.
If you can’t resist: Choose a plain version. A little peanut butter adds healthy protein and lowers the glycemic index, which will reduce/slow any rise in blood sugar.
Healthy alternative: Choose organic rice cakes made from brown rice. Rice cakes made from brown rice will have more fiber and more nutritional value. They will also be lower on the glycemic index and raise blood sugar less than the highly processed white rice variety.
Trail Mix. Trail mix is often considered healthy because trail mixes often contain seeds are nuts, which many are healthy. Unfortunately however, most store bought trail mixes are not really all that healthy.
The downside: Most store bought trail mixes are unhealthy for many reasons. The nuts and seeds are either fried or covered with unhealthy oils. The fruits often covered with unhealthy hydrogenated oils and/or highly processed sugars, both of which are not heart healthy, raise blood sugar levels, and are packed with calories. Many trail mixes contain lots of preservatives that you can't pronounce. Many manufacturers also use sulfur dioxide and sodium metabisulfite for color retention, calcium chloride (for texture retention) just to name a few.
If you can’t resist: Look for trail mixed that do not add sugars and do not add chemical preservatives.
Healthy alternative: Make your own trail mix. Use fresh fruits, and raw unadulterated nuts and seeds. The result will be a all natural, healthy trail mix that is high in fiber, contains good fat, and is low cholesterol.
Dried Fruit. There are more unhealthy snacks then dried fruit, however dried fruit is far from being a harmless snack for many people watching their weight, and their blood sugar levels.
The downside: Many dried fruit products are loaded with calories, and lots of sugar. Some dried fruit can be very unhealthy because many manufacturers will coat the fruit with processed sugar for taste, as well as add preservatives like sulfur dioxide and sodium metabisulfite for color retention, and calcium chloride (for texture retention). Another downside is the caloric content of dried fruit. Because dried fruit has its moisture content removed, calories are concentrated. Most consumers end up eating multiple servings which can result in a thousand calorie sugar party. Not only can this cause weight gain and fat gain but it causes the pancreas to work overtime since blood sugar levels sky rocket.
If you can’t resist: Eat small potions and resist dried fruit that has added sugar or added preservatives.
Healthy alternative: Stick to fresh fruit, like an apple or a peach. Fresh fruit will have half the calories, half the sugar, and none of the horrible preservatives.
Frozen Yogurts. Yogurt is nutrient-rich. Live and active cultures are beneficial for the intestines and immune system.Not all frozen yogurts are created equal. Some contain live, active cultures, others do not. Unless labeled fat-free, many frozen yogurts contain nearly the same amount of fat as a reduced-fat ice cream, as well as the same number of calories.
The downside: Many frozen yogurts contain nearly the same amount of fat as a reduced-fat ice cream, as well as the same number of calories. Many frozen yogurts, even the fat free kind, contain nearly the same amount of sugar and the same number of calories as ice cream.
If you can’t resist: Find non-fat or lower-fat frozen yogurts that have live, active cultures with little added sugar. Some brands carry the “Live & Active” seal from the National Yogurt Association which ensures the product contained a certain amount of beneficial bacteria when it was produced.
Healthy alternative: Frozen protein shakes.
Sport Drinks. Sports drinks are designed primarily to quickly replace water and electrolytes, and in some cases glycogen lost during strenuous activity.
The downside: Many sports drinks are nothing more than flavored sugar water, dusted with several “hyped up” micronutrients in such low levels that the health claims made by the manufacturer are unfounded and not valid. In many cases, typical sort’s drinks contain as much sugar as a soda.
If you can’t resist: Drink sports drinks that are low in sugar and use low glycemic carbohydrate mixtures fortified with needed electrolytes to minimize cramping and dehydration.
Healthy alternative: Tap water is just as effective as the average sports drink at replacing most types of fluid loss; unless you are doing extreme strenuous activity. Water quickly rehydrates the body without contributing unnecessary calories.
Diet Soda. Many people do not see diet soda as bad, because it does not contain lots of sugar. But diet soda can still be unhealthy.
The downside: Diet soda contains caffeine, which when abused, can cause several unwanted health effects. Diet soda is high in phosphoric acid. This raises phosphorus levels in your blood. Excess phosphorus levels result in low blood calcium levels. The body will respond by pulling calcium from the bone to increase the amount of calcium in the blood, potentially causing osteoporosis and other related bone diseases. Diet soda also contains citric acid which can reduce the enamel on your teeth, and lead to tooth decay. The acids in soda can also cause the body to become more acidic -- causing it to release even more calcium which can impact bone health. Diet soda also contains artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, and Splenda. There are a number of studies linking aspartame to serious health conditions including, headaches, skin rashes, adult-onset seizures, and cancer. Although Splenda is a newcomer to the diet soft drink sweetener market, there are growing concerns regarding the safety of Splenda as well.
If you can’t resist: Choose natural sodas, and drink them in moderation.
Healthy alternative: Filtered water; sparkling waters.
Bottled Teas: Tea has been lauded for its antioxidant and anti inflammatory power. Tea ranks as high as or higher than many fruits and vegetables in the ORAC score, a score that measures antioxidant potential of plant-based foods. Many studies are linking the phytonutrients in tea leaves to reductions in risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
The downside: All teas are not the same. Only certain teas are high in antioxidants, with black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong tea being the most preferred. Herbal teas do not have the particular health-promoting antioxidant properties of black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong tea. In fact, herbal teas are not really teas at all, they are only infusions made with herbs, flowers, roots, spices or other parts of some plants.
Many bottled teas are not brewed deeply and do not contain concentrated amounts of antioxidants. Several of the bottled teas actually contain little brewed tea at all, and actually contain lots of added sugars — often more than the amount of sugar in a can of soda! A recent Consumer Reports review found that all bottled tea beverages had fewer antioxidants than brewed teas and that many are made from “concentrates” or “essences,” and likely lack the touted health benefits of brewed tea.
If you can’t resist: Choose bottled tea beverages that are brewed from black, green, white, and oolong teas and not made from “concentrates” or “essences”. Choose a brand that lists brewed tea as the first ingredient and no more than 4 grams of added sugars per serving.
Healthy alternative: Brew your own tea. Black, green, white, and oolong teas are the best teas to brew for maximum antioxidant potential. Brew your tea for at least 3 - 5 minutes to bring out the beneficial polyphenols.
Fruit Juice. Many people think fruit juice is healthy, because it is derived from fruit which typically has vitamins, minerals, and aantioxidants; and fiber
The downside: Fruit juice is not the same as whole fruit. For instance fruit juices do not have the same amount of fiber as whole fruit. In addition, even 100% fruit juice has added sugars, usually fructose. A glass of fruit juice can contain up to 38g sugar per 8oz. That is as much, if not more sugar there’s more sugar than in a candy bar and as much as in a glass of soda (grape juice has about 40g of sugar in one serving). Excess fructose causes obesity, and increases blood sugar levels, which can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
If you can’t resist: Make your own fruit juices using a juicer. If you do not have one, choose juices that are high in fiber, high in antioxidants and do not have added sugars and added preservatives.
Healthy alternative: Eat whole fruit, including the skin if possible. Limit fruit to one serving of fruit per meal/snack to avoid insulin spikes.
Energy Drinks. In 2004, energy drinks overtook bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business. Their labels say they contain various herbs, minerals and the amino acid taurine, specially designed to boost your energy levels.
The downside: Most energy drinks claim to increase performance, concentration, and metabolism, yet are unfounded and without support. The main ingredients in most energy drinks are actually caffeine, taurine and sugar – which will boost energy in the short term, but not without causing an energy crash shortly later. The reliance on caffeine and sugar for the energy boost makes most energy drinks nothing more than high-priced soft drinks. While moderate consumption of energy drinks may not be dangerous, many people over consume, especially when you add in other sources of caffeine they may consume throughout the day. Over consumption of caffeine can have serious side effects. Caffeine increases heart rate, which over time can increase the stroke and heart disease. Caffeine is also a natural diuretic, which means that it contributes to dehydration if the water loss it causes is not compensated for. Dehydration can negatively impact a body's health and performance. It can cause lethargy (tiredness), irritability and a loss in concentration. Energy drinks can also cause insomnia and disrupt sleep cycles.
If you can’t resist: Drink the low sugar varieties and drink in moderation.
Healthy alternative: Drink healthier fluids like water or tea, and if you must have a jolt of energy, a good old-fashioned cup of black coffee should do just fine.
Bottom Line on Healthy Eating
I think the most important lesson here is to eat healthy organic foods that are not processed, and as close to their natural state as possible. Other important tips for healthy eating include:
- Ensure that you get an adequate amount of healthy low fat protein
- Ensure that you get fiber in your diet regularly,
- Minimize the consumption of bad fats,
- Minimize the consumption of low glycemic index foods,
- Drnk water regularly; at least 12 glasses daily.
Follow these tips and you should feel a positive difference in your energy levels and overall health.
About the Author
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a well known author, champion natural bodybuilder, is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, personal trainer, and life coach with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti aging fields.
As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and featured in popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex and Ironman. Jeff's work has appeared all across the web, in books, and in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Jeff Behar is also the founder of the very popular www.MuscleMagFitness.com and www.MyBesthealthPortal.com health and wellness information websites; two of the largest 24/7 online web portals providing 24/7 news and information about top health, medicine, wellness, fitness, diet, nutrition, weight loss and anti aging issues that are being discussed today.