Why Some “Healthy” Food Choices Aren’t What They Seem

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Easy Guidelines for Eating HealthyThere was a time when I found eating healthy was trickier than it seemed. Sometimes, a person can think they’re eating right, but they aren’t. Seemingly healthy (or healthier) foods can have hidden health consequences. Picking healthy foods certainly is tricky and making choices that benefit your health can be more difficult than it might seem, but it’s possible—especially if you know a few of the facts first.

A food’s value and overall healthfulness should be judged by where it sits on the glycemic index (GI). This scale is used to measure the effect of food on a person’s blood sugar level and insulin response. The more sugar a food contains and the more refined it is, the higher it tends to sit on the scale because it causes spikes in blood sugar.

But sometimes foods you don’t expect to have high sugar content can get you. For example, your breakfast might not be as healthy as you think. Surprisingly, the classic greasy bacon or sausage and eggs, an English muffin, or even a donut might be healthier than some popular alternatives.

A bagel with a 4.4-inch diameter, for example, has more than twice the calories and carbohydrate content than a plain English muffin. In fact, it has as many calories and even more carbs than a glazed donut! A bagel of this size clocks in at 240 calories and 58 grams of carbohydrates.

Another example of tricky healthy-eating choices may be fruit. Fruit is almost always viewed as a healthy snack, but not all forms of fruit offer the same nutritional benefits. If you choose to eat dried fruit or drink fruit juice, you’re likely going to add all kinds of unwanted sugar to your diet.

Dried fruits are extremely sugary because all the water has been sucked out of them, making them far more dense and sweet. For example, 10 grapes weighing roughly 1.75 ounces contain 34 calories and eight grams of sugar. On the other hand, a single-serve package of raisins (dried grapes) weighs 1.5 ounces and contains 129 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Also, you’re likely to eat more dried fruit because there is no water to fill you up.

Likewise, fruit juice has a much higher sugar content than fruit in its natural form. In fact, a Harvard study found that people who ate at least two servings a week of certain whole fruits—blueberries, grapes, and apples—reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23%. People who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day, on the other hand, increased their risk of developing the disease by 21%. Swapping the juice for the real thing can offer substantial health benefits!

So while it may seem difficult to know what foods to choose for better health, there are ways to approach food choices that could help to make your decision a little easier. First and foremost, if you’re buying packaged foods, read the nutritional tables on the labels; these numbers can tell you a lot about the food inside. Try to stay away from foods with added sugars, which can also be identified by reading the label. Finally, whenever possible, choose a whole, unaltered food over its variants; dried fruit and fruit juice versus whole fruit is a good example for this rule. Following these guidelines, you can start to make healthy eating easier and your body will reap the rewards!

Sources for Today’s Article:
Collins, S., “Foods and Drinks That Can Cause Blood Sugar Swings,” WebMD web site, June 23, 2014; http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/foods-drinks-blood-sugar-swings, last accessed September 10, 2014.
Roeder, A., “Skip the juice, go for whole fruit,” Harvard Gazette web site, August 29, 2013; http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/08/reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk/, last accessed September 10, 2014.