You’re too smart for that!—deceptive health halos

HealthHaloCollageWith all the nutrition trends out there, it is tough to identify the better choices. Food companies pick a specific health claim to market their products, hoping the consumer believes that product is healthier. It must work.

Beware of the following health halos:

  1. Gluten Free. Gluten free does NOT mean healthy. If you have celiac disease or true gluten intolerance you need to follow this diet because your body cannot digest the gluten protein. However, gluten free products are not lower calorie, and don’t necessarily have a better nutrition profile. You may feel better and lose weight on a gluten-free diet because you cut out junk food and refined carbohydrates. The problem wasn’t the gluten; it was the junk food. But if you just switch to gluten-free junk food like brownies and cookies, you likely won’t see any benefit.
  2. Organic. Organic foods are not nutritionally superior to conventionally grown foods. Organic products are grown in a way that does not use conventional methods to control weeds or insect pests, or treat livestock (ie. not using pesticides or antibiotics). This does not affect the nutrients in these products; so organic bread has similar calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as regular bread. Nutrient content depends on many things including: soil, growing conditions, weather, plant and animal varieties. Whether or not a food is grown organic will not have an impact on the nutrition of the product.
  3. Sugar Free. Sugar free products are exactly what they sound like: sugar free. This does not mean they have less calories, fat, or sodium than their full sugar alternatives. In fact, sugar free products usually contain more additives to compensate for loss of flavor. A few recent studies link sugar-free sweeteners to increased food consumption. Some researchers believe those artificial sweeteners can affect insulin levels and appetite.
  4. Protein rich. According to the USDA, protein should make up around 10-35% of your daily calorie intake. Eating excess protein is a waste. Excess protein is metabolized to glucose. If that glucose isn’t burned for energy it can be turned into fat. Athletes and people with certain diseases have increased protein needs. Unless you are exercising a great amount, eating excess protein will not help you build muscle, and has no benefits.

Use these tips help you to steer through some of the nutritional health halos that have been created to trick you into buying specific food and beverage products.

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