Have you heard of the term “health halo”? When a food item is said to have a health halo it means it is widely considered to be healthier than it actually is. Some food companies, in an attempt to make their products look more attractive and healthy, use descriptive halos – terms like ‘organic’, ‘fresh’, ‘low-fat’, or ‘homemade’ – and people fall for it.
These foods are touted for being better for our bodies and as a result, shoot up in popularity all over the world. However, if you dig deeper, you will realize that there’s no genuine evidence to back these health claims. Today, we will look at some of the supposedly healthy foods that have a misleading halo on them. From veggie chips to acai bowls, you should be wary of these ‘superfoods’ if you eat them for their apparent health benefits.
1. Cold-pressed juice
Cold-pressed juices are a new health trend. These beverages are made from a hydraulic press that crushes and presses the fruits and veggies to extract the maximum amount of juice from them without using heat. This is why they have the word “cold” in their name. More importantly, no additional heat or oxygen is used in the process which supposedly means that no nutrients are lost.
According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), however, there’s no current published research to prove that heat and air suck nutrients out from fruits and veggies. Also, it’s worth noting that even unpasteurized juices can contain harmful bacteria and can be risky for pregnant women.
So, while you can enjoy a bottle of cold-pressed juice every now and then, don’t expect it to be delivering any special results as there’s no proof of its special health benefits. The safer and better option would be to have a glass of any 100 percent juice and balance it with other healthful foods and beverages.
2. Veggie Chip
Veggie chips are promoted as a healthier alternative to potato chips. The fact they have “veggies” in their name makes them appear to be a healthful snack option. But is that really the case? Not according to health experts.
While many veggie chip brands claim that they use actual vegetables, what they actually use is vegetable powders to give the chips an attractive color. Unfortunately, vegetables lose most of their nutrition properties when they’re whittled down to powders. Furthermore, these chips also have a high sodium content to help them get the same flavor as potato chips.
Bottom line? Veggie chips aren’t a substitute for fresh veggies and are really no “healthier” than regular potato chips. Munch on some carrot or celery sticks for a truly healthy snack.
3. Plant-based ‘meat’
These days, many companies are offering plant-based ‘meat’ alternatives to items like beef, turkey, or chicken. Apparently, the alternative “meat” is made entirely of plants. This has made them immensely popular amongst vegetarians and vegans and for those looking for healthy meat substitutes. Plant-based meats mimic animal meat’s taste and texture and are just as tasty as “the real thing” according to those who have tried it.
However, experts warn that while plant-based meats are a great substitute for vegetarians and vegans, they are not always healthier. These fake meats are often high in sodium and are also considered processed food. Moreover, to increase their meat-like qualities, a lot of additives are added to them which don’t exactly make them nutritious. Many of the plant-based meat alternatives include chemical compounds such as methylcellulose, soy leghemoglobin, and zinc gluconate. Also, the calories and fat content in these plant-based meats aren’t exactly much lesser than regular meat. Therefore, while you can certainly enjoy them for their taste, don’t go for a plant-based meat diet for health-specific reasons.
4. Organic junk food
We read the word “organic” with any food item and we immediately tend to believe it must be the healthier choice. However, just because a food is labeled “organic” it doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Yes, organic foods may contain fewer pesticides, but organic junk food is still junk food. It tends to be high in sugar, sodium, and fat, and low in protein and fiber. Organic junk foods may also contain refined sugars and starches that may not be good for your health in the long run. Always remember that whether it’s organic cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, taking too much sugar won’t ever be right for your overall health.
Granola has attained great popularity in recent years as a super healthy snack option, especially for those who are always on the go. But did you know that just a quarter-cup serving of classic granola contains about 140 calories, along with 4 grams of sugar and 9 grams of fat? That’s pretty similar to a cookie or other baked treat.
So, while granola certainly has that health halo about it, the truth is that many store-bought brands can actually add to your calorie count because of their added sugar and solid fat. Moreover, some granola brands also use processed oils and chocolate chips to enhance the taste but that won’t really serve your health needs. You would be better off going for a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruits in its place.
6. Alkaline Water
We’re all aware that drinking plenty of water is essential for our body and can help to ward off illnesses. In recent times, a product dubbed “alkaline water” has been making waves because of its supposed ability to balance the body’s pH, boost energy, and keep illness at bay. Alkaline water is presumably less acidic than tap water and hence better for health and fitness. This water is rich in alkalizing compounds, such as calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate.
Most alkaline waters have a pH of 8 or 9 while pure water has a pH level close to 7. The theory is that drinking alkaline water neutralizes extra acidity in the body. However, most of the time our blood maintains a pH of 7. Excessive vomiting or diarrhea or conditions like uncontrolled diabetes may change our pH but our bodies are more than capable of correcting it out with quick action.
Currently, there’s no research to show that alkaline water has any extra advantages over regular water on humans. Moreover, when the alkaline water hits your stomach, the acids in the guts will neutralize it. You can definitely enjoy the crisp and sharp taste of alkaline water but don’t expect it to offer any added benefits.
7. Açai Bowls
Acai bowls have reigned supreme in recent years because of their supposed remarkable health benefits. After all, these gorgeous looking bowls are topped with fruits like cubed mango, granola, popped berry, and shredded coconut. But what most people don’t realize is that these bowls mostly consist of just a puree of other fruits, thickeners, and even dairy alternatives to enhance their creaminess. They also contain powdered berry or some other juice concentrate to give them their rich color.
“In simple terms, an acai bowl is a very thick smoothie with toppings that you eat with a spoon,” says New Jersey-based chef Julie Harrington, RD, author of The Healing Soup Cookbook.
The popularity of acai bowls increased when acai berry was categorized as a ‘superfood’. This deep purple berry is native to tropical Central and South America and forms the base of this famous bowl. These fruits are packed with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins but there are no studies to say that acai on its own can improve your health, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. That doesn’t mean that acai isn’t worth eating. But just don’t expect any magic from it. Most importantly, when used in these “bowls”, the health benefits of acai berries diminish further as the dish is packed with sugar, fat, and other calorie-laden products.