We’ve been conditioned to think that particular foods are “healthy” due to wording on the label. Some of our beliefs about labeling might be misleading us into eating foods that are not healthy for us, when we thought the opposite.
In this column, I’ll give you 3 foods you might think are healthy – but they’re not. I’ll call out particular brands, but I want you to know that the brand is called out as one example of many. Focus less on the brand and more on the information you glean from the examples.
- Dannon® Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, 80 calories and 0% fat
Those of you that have the book, Become a Fat-Burning Machine know that we want you to eat healthy fats. More often than not, the absence of fat in a manufactured food product usually means the food is high in carbohydrates, sugar and artificial sweeteners.
In this particular yogurt, out of the 80 calories, 36 of those are carbohydrates. Of the 36 carbohydrate calories, 28 of them are sugar. That’s right, 35% of the calories in a single serving come from sugar. Admittedly some of the sugar comes from milk in the form of lactose, but there is added sugar as well. Big carbohydrate and sugar loaded foods are not good for people that are insulin resistant.
After non-fat milk, the second ingredient is water. Watering down a product helps make the calorie count less per container. It’s not that water is unhealthy, the question is do you want to pay for someone to water down your food?
The fourth ingredient is fructose, or sugar, to add a sweetness. In addition to fructose, there is added sucralose, an artificial sugar that is reported to be 320 to 1,000 times sweeter than sucrose or regular sugar. Still not sweet enough, acesulfame potassium, another artificial sweetener is added to the yogurt.
There is current research that suggests artificial sweeteners raise blood sugar levels more than if you would just indulge in products that are sugar-sweetened. Additionally, because of their extra high level of sweetness, researchers believe that artificial sweeteners increase hunger more than eating regular sugar, therefore adding our weight problems.
Instead: Enjoy a full-fat or 2% Plain Greek Yogurt. Add cinnamon and sliced berries if you want a sweet taste. It may take some time to wean yourself off of artificial sweeteners, but in the long run you will be glad you did.
- Mission Flour Soft Taco Tortillas with 0 grams of trans fat per serving
At 140 calories per tortilla and only 1 gram of sugar, at first glance this seems like a reasonable choice for Fat-Burners. For beginning and intermediate level Fat-Burning Machines, consider using only half of a tortilla for breakfast or lunch.
The misleading part of the labeling is 0 grams of trans fat per serving. You would think 0 means ZERO – as in none – it’s not true. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a product label to claim 0 grams of trans fats if the quantity of trans fat in the food is 0.5 grams, or less, per serving.
If a product claims zero grams of trans fat, check the label. In the case of our flour tortilla example, the third ingredient is trans fat – vegetable shortening (interesterified soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil and/or palm oil). Anytime you see the word “hydrogenated” on a label, that means the fat is a trans fat.
Manufacturers use partially or fully hydrogenated oils to increase shelf life of packaged foods. The use of these trans fats became popular in the form of margarine, shortening and frying oils. They are also cheaper than using butter.
A widely-cited study on monkeys found that those fed trans fat gained more weight than the monkeys fed unsaturated fats (like olive oil) – even though both diets were calorie-matched. Want to know where the trans-fat-fed monkeys put on the extra body fat?
They gained belly fat.
There are more health issues with trans fats and the government recognizes these issues. In 2015, the FDA declared that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Companies have three years to reformulate the foods that contain trans fat.
Instead: If you want to avoid trans fats, use products that do not contain the word hydrogenated on the label. For example, LaTortilla Factory makes a soft wrap tortilla using only extra virgin olive oil.
- Only 140 calories per bar, Nature Valley Trail Mix Chewy Granola Bar, Official Granola Bar of the PGA (Professional Golf Association) and the US Ski Team
For years we’ve been focused on calorie count. Recent research on humans has found that when comparing two diets, one low-fat and one high-fat, that in spite of a higher calorie count those that ate the high-fat diet lost more weight than people that ate the low-fat diet. I will cover more about this research in a future column – but for now, know that just because a food is seemingly low in calories does not mean the food is good, or healthy, for you.
Also know that because a particular food product is endorsed by a top-ranked organization, team or individual does not mean that food product is right for you. For this particular bar, carbohydrates provide 25 grams or 100 carbohydrate calories. That means this bar is nearly 72% carbohydrates. For people that are insulin resistant, as you learned in the book Become a Fat-Burning Machine, high-carb foods are a problem. They cause insulin spikes, fat storage and increased hunger in the hours after consumption.
Instead: If you’re looking for a snack, eat a ¼-cup of raw almonds for 170 calories and only 6 grams of carbohydrates (making it only 14% carbs) or ¼-cup of dry roasted cashew halves at 197 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates (22% carbs).
Now you know that a label that shows zero fat, zero trans fat, low-calorie (or implies low-calorie), or is “endorsed by” does not mean the food is for you. Don’t be fooled again.