While many of us do our best to eat right and steer clear of those “bad” foods we hear so much about (basically anything that tastes super delicious), we still may be sabotaging our health and diet goals unknowingly.
As it turns out, there are a number of supposedly good-for-you foods that, well, aren’t actually that good for you. Or, at least, we shouldn’t be eating them in large quantities as if they are super low in calories and fat-free.
So before you fill up your grocery basket with these 10 not-so-awesome edibles, heed expert advice on why these superfoods don’t always live up to their hype.
While yogurt contains protein and calcium with good bacteria, most brands have too much sugar, according to fitness and nutrition expert Jenny Schatzle, creator of the Jenny Schatzle Program. “Make sure to read labels! A label that says low fat can still, and usually does, have high sugar,” she explains. “I have found some flavored yogurt containing up to 24 grams of sugar. The recommended daily sugar intake for men is 36 grams and for women is 20 grams—thus making that one rarely filling yogurt nearly all or over your recommended daily intake for the day.”
While fresh fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, it also contains a lot of sugar, albeit the natural kind. “Ideally, one should only consume two servings of fresh whole fruit, such as apples, mangoes, grapefruit, blueberries, and strawberries, a day, suggests Brian Tanzer, nutritionist (MS, CNS) and product formulator for the Vitamin Shoppe.
Schatzle adds that it’s even more important to limit your consumption of dried fruit. “When it is dehydrated, it literally becomes smaller, so we tend to eat more of it but still think we’re eating less,” she says. “One cup of fresh fruit equals a serving, while a dried fruit serving is only 1/4 of a cup. Also, make sure you read labels when consuming dried fruit—the only thing listed should be the fruit itself! If you see added sweeteners, like sugar, corn syrup, put it back on the shelf.”
3. Fresh Juice
While drinking juice can be amazing for the body, a great way to get your veggies in, and really good for your digestion, Schatzle says the problem is that fruit juice contains a lot of sugar without the fiber. “I recommend fresh veggie juice to my clients, while saying its better to eat your fruit than drink it.”
4. Soy “Foods”
According to clinical nutritionist Amanda Hayes Morgan, soy is not a health food. “A vast majority of non-fermented soy in the United States is genetically modified and highly processed, leaving us with a ‘food’ that has a nutritional profile similar to plastic,” she says. “So, forget your soy burgers, soy cheese, soy milk, and yes, your ThinkThin bars, and opt for fermented versions of soy including miso, tamari, and tempeh.”
Processed or not, soy can be harmful in high doses, says Dana Kofsky of Nutrition Styles, since it contains plant compounds that resemble human estrogen. “This can block your normal estrogen and disrupt endocrine function, cause infertility, and increase your risk for breast cancer,” she explains.
5. Protein Bars
“Protein Bars” should really be called “Glorified Candy Bars,” according to Morgan. “Most protein bars are loaded with sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients. The protein source is typically whey-based or soy protein isolate-based, which are both denatured versions of protein that are extremely difficult to digest,” she says. “And, because of their high sugar content, many protein bars will leave you hungry by mid-afternoon.”
Morgan says that if you really need to buy bars for snacks, make sure to check the labels and steer clear of any with artificial ingredients, including sugar alcohols (malitol and sorbitol), BHT, canola, and corn oil.
Schatzle says that nuts are packed with nutrient dense vitamins, proteins, and good fats—meaning that they can be a great grab-and-go, good-for-you snack… if you watch your portion size. “One serving of nuts is only 1/4 of a cup, and because we tend to be visual eaters, sometimes it’s hard to stay within the serving size,” she explains. “One serving of nuts contains anywhere from 160-220 calories, and if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to consume 3-4 servings without even realizing it.” Always portion out your nuts to take the guessing out of it and make sure to buy raw or dry-roasted nuts to avoid extra salt and oils.
7. Leafy Greens
This one might not cause you to gain weight, but nonetheless, this tip has to do with your health! While spinach and kale rank at the top of the list for nutrient density—they are both rich in vitamin A, C, and K and are loaded with protective antioxidants—eating too much of them is not good, according to Tanzer. “Unfortunately, both of these nutrient powerhouses are also high in oxalates,” he says. “Oxalates are compounds that, when combined with calcium, can form stones in the kidneys. Consuming kale and spinach in excess can increase the risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.” So when it comes to fruits and vegetables, variety is key. Try alternating a variety of colored vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peppers, and eggplant.
While agave is touted as a “natural” healthy sweetener, health and wellness expert Dr. Mona Vand says that it’s really no different than the rest. “The assumption was [that] because it contained no glucose, it was healthy,” she explains. “However, agave contains very high amounts of fructose. Fructose is converted into fat even more rapidly than sugar, and it slows the release of insulin causing blood sugar spikes and uncontrolled appetite.”
Although Kofsky says that quinoa is an excellent source of fiber and contains protein, most people don’t watch their portion sizes when they eat it. Meaning that when someone overeats for their body, this alternative to pasta can cause gas and bloating, as well as weight gain.