Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Pseudo-Healthy Foods—and 5 That Are Healthier Than You Think

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and Nutrition Director, Prevention

Diet Soda
It may seem like the perfect way to save calories and slash your sugar intake, but studies show that diet drinkers actually weigh more than regular soda drinkers. For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese tied to a 2-can-a-day habit is 57 percent compared to 46 percent for regular soda drinkers. Diet soda may throw off your natural appetite regulation, causing you to eat more sweets. It may also trick you into thinking it’s OK to indulge in high calorie foods because you “saved” by choosing diet soda.

Pretzels
The label may shout ‘fat free’ and seem like a better alternative to chips, but they’re made with refined white flour stripped of its vitamins and antioxidants. They’re also dense so they pack a ton of carb calories for a very small amount and they’re not filling. Think of it this way-one 15- ounce bag contains the equivalent of 24 slices of white bread.

Spinach Wrap
It looks green and good for you but spinach powder is only a scant ingredient. These wraps are typically made from refined white flour and the green hue primarily comes from food colorings (Blue No. 1 and Yellow No. 5.). In other words you can’t rely on the immune boosting vitamins A and C found in fresh spinach and it’s much higher in calories. One cup of cooked spinach provides 65 calories, 105 less than a spinach wrap, which doesn’t count as a veggie serving. Not to mention the fact that the fillings often include ingredients like fried chicken, ranch dressing, cheese and bacon!

Blueberry Scone
Even a trans-fat-free wild blueberry scone packs over 400 calories (the amount an entire meal should supply) and over 50 percent of the maximum amount of artery-clogging saturated fat intake for an entire day. They also don’t count as a serving of fruit and they’re devoid of dietary fiber.

Vitamin Water
Yes, it has vitamins, but at up to 200 calories per bottle (50 per serving with 4 servings per jug), just one of these a day can cause a 20 pound weight gain in a year’s time if the calories aren’t burned off.

Here’s the flip side of the so-called unhealthy foods that really aren’t-these 5 often-criticized foods don’t deserve to be shunned. Here’s why and how to eat them:

Dried Fruit
It’s simply fresh fruit with most of the water removed. When you buy unsweetened dried fruit, no sugar has been added, so aside from shrinking in size (i.e. grape vs. raisin), all the good stuff (vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, etc.) is maintained. You can find dried versions of just about every fruit these days (berries, mango, peaches) but one of the healthiest is figs-two dried figs provide just 100 calories but are chock full of nutrients, including 20 percent of all the dietary fiber we need daily, plus potassium, calcium, and iron. They’re also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols-the same type that make red wine and tea so healthful (polyphenols are linked to lowering the risk of both heart disease and cancer, our nation’s top two killers). Just stick with unsweetened and since they’re ‘shrunk,’ limit the portion to about the size of a golf ball to control calories.

Frozen Vegetables
A recent study found that the vitamin C content of fresh broccoli plummeted 56 percent in seven days, but dipped just 10 percent in a year’s time when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius. In addition, the levels of a disease fighting antioxidant called anthocyanins, and some minerals, including potassium (which helps control blood pressure) actually increased after freezing. Just look for veggies with one ingredient (the veggie itself) and no additives, preservatives and sauces.

Bananas
It’s true that bananas are low in water compared to other fruits. That means there’s more carbohydrate (and therefore more calories) per bite compared to watery fruits like melon. But-that doesn’t mean you should shun them-even if you’re watching your weight. Bananas provide no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and they’re incredibly nutritious. You’ve probably heard that they’re high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. But they’re also a good source of vitamin B6 (which helps maintain blood sugar levels and is needed to build protein in the body as well as nerves and immune cells), vitamin C (for immunity) and fiber (for cholesterol control and digestive health). To keep calories in check, just choose “baby” bananas, the ones about the size of long fingers, which are naturally portion controlled (and neatly wrapped!). One of these little guys provides just 50-60 calories (less than a small apple) and amounts to about half a cup when sliced.

White Potatoes
When scientists from the USDA tested more than 100 potato varieties, they discovered 60 different vitamins and antioxidants. Spuds are also packed with resistant starch, a fibrous substance that could help you burn more body fat and lose weight. One cup (size of a baseball) of a baked potato with the skin provides over 25 percent of the vitamin C we need daily, along with 15-20 percent of a day’s vitamin B6, copper, and potassium-all key nutrients for health. In fact, a tater provides more potassium than a banana, and scientists have linked a natural spud substance called kukoamines to blood pressure control. And, the calorie price tag is minimal-about 130 per cup (roughly 6% of an average healthy adult’s daily calories needs). They also pack about 3 grams of filling dietary fiber.

Juice
It does have less fiber than whole fruit and juices go down fast but cup for cup, 100-percent juice counts as fruit, and some common juices score very high as antioxidant-boosters. One recent study found that adding citrus juice to tea boosts the antioxidant absorption by up to 13 times. Another ranked the antioxidant capacity of several juices and found the 8 highest were: pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, black cherry juice, açaí juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, and apple juice. Juices do contain sugar, but it’s natural, not added-natural sugars are those put there by Mother Nature, and don’t create the same negative effects in the body that added sugars do (the refined kinds food manufacturers mix in)-and those natural sugars are naturally bundled with lots of important nutrients.

Advertisements

August 26, 2008 - Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition | ,

3 Comments »

  1. Great article – I swear diet soda will kill you! Then again – I’ll never give up my pretzles – no way – no how.
    On the juice side – I have been drinking CherryPharm – and love it.
    Ohh – and banananananas make me gag! 🙂

    Comment by Phil Jensen | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Nice blog! Keep up the good work.

    Comment by health day | August 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. 1. Hey, as long as weight and insulin resistance are not a problem, I say enjoy the pretzels. In moderation of course!

    2. Thank you!

    Comment by cristidemarco | September 3, 2008 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: