Feel Like Losing Weight? Know This About These 9 Trendy Health Foods
it’s all about balance, people
Food needs to feed your soul as much as it feeds your stomach. If that weren’t true, we’d all be eating raw vegetables and lentils all day and glowing like Natalie Portman. The thing is, if your goal is to feel more energetic, slim down or balance out the nutrition you take in every day, there are some delicious foods that seem (or are) healthy but aren’t perfect. Dr. Niket Sonpal, NYC gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, tells us to take note of these trendy foods—and what about them isn’t perfectly healthy.
Gluten-free baked goods
Despite the fact that less than 1% of Americans are believed to have celiac disease, customers and food brands alike have gotten caught in the gluten-free food obsession. Dr. Sonpal explains, “To mimic the taste and texture of wheat gluten, companies will use corn, oat and rice flours, which aren’t necessarily better for you.” One study found that participants who consumed rice-flour-based baked goods had higher levels of metals within their system than the control group, which is linked to rice’s natural arsenic and metal content.
Their vibrant colors and pleasant toppings give smoothie bowls the appearance of a well-balanced breakfast, but don’t be fooled: they’re usually loaded with sugar. Smoothie bowls tend have more surface area, which makes it easy to add additional toppings. For example, the Chunky Strawberry Bowl from Jamba Juice contains 590 calories and 58 grams of sugar.
Google “acai berry” and a wealth of purported benefits like weight loss and antiaging results will return. Does this trendy health food hail from Brazil really live up to the hype? Dr. Sonpal says, “While the fiber-rich fruit does tout more antioxidant properties than pomegranates and blueberries, many health claims don’t mention that it logs in 247 calories per 100 grams, 26 grams of which are carbohydrates.” The takeaway? Unless you’re using acai at home and controlling your portions, an acai bowl could cost you almost 600 calories per serving.
The fact that it’s dairy-free and low in calories has made it the default milk among many people who try to eat healthily, but Dr. Sonpal explains that “though unsweetened almond milk, like dairy milk, is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, it’s really low in protein. (Just 1 or 2g protein in a one-cup serving.)
Protein bars, which are sometimes also energy bars, contain numerous artificial ingredients and have as much nutritional value as a milk chocolate bar. That said, some protein bars can be healthy if they contain healthy, whole (and very few) ingredients that make up the bar. Dr. Sonpal cautions, “If you see upwards of 15 ingredients in your protein bar, I would say stay away from it.”
The pieces of actual veggies in veggie chips are so thin and processed that most of the nutrition from the vegetable is gone. “Instead, try whole-grain pretzels, baked corn chips, crackers made with seeds and nuts, or popcorn,” Dr. Sonpal suggests. To keep from turning a bag of chips or box of crackers into a meal, divide them up into sensible portions ahead of time.
Cold pressed juices have risen in popularity over the past few years, and with the hefty price tag tacked on to them (one serving of juice can be as much as $12!) one would assume guzzling some would provide you with all the nutrients you could possibly need. Unfortunately for your wallets, such is not the case. While made of whole, raw fruits and veggies, the fiber from these foods are often stripped during the juicing process. On top of that, fruits like apples can be added to cut the bitter flavor of leafy greens, which can bump the carbohydrate content up to 20-30 grams of carbs per juice! Dr. Sonpal warns that “because there is no fiber or protein in these juices, guzzling one can cause blood sugar levels to spike too, leaving you right back where you started: hungry and craving something nutrient-dense.”
Matcha is one food trend that’s taken the center stage. While matcha is packed with antioxidants and provides detox health benefits that cannot be disputed, ordering up a latte may not be the magic elixir you bargained for. A 12-ounce matcha latte from a popular coffee chain packs 24 grams of sugar and will set you back 190 calories.
Agave syrup is derived from the sweet nectar of the Agave tequila plant and is often perceived as a “natural” alternative to processed cane or beet sugar or other zero-calorie sweeteners. The syrup is touted by manufacturers as a safer sweetener for diabetics because it is lower on the glycemic index (a measurement of how certain foods affect blood sugar levels), Dr. Sonpal says that “no reliable human studies exist reinforcing this claim. Agave syrup is just like any other sweetener—no better, no worse.”
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