Special Report

20 Foods and Drinks You Only Think Are Healthy

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16. Fruit juices

“People don’t realize the amount of sugar juices have,” said Donovan Maycock, a nutritionist at Perfect Solutions, a nutrition and weight loss center in San Antonio. “The body was designed to eat an orange, not to drink five oranges.” A lot of the fruit’s healthy nutrients have been lost during when an orange is processed into juice and have been replaced by sugar, he noted, so in a way you’re drinking liquid candy. In addition, juices don’t have the same levels fruit does of fiber, which can reduce blood pressure and inflammation and help control blood sugar levels, or phytonutrients, natural compounds that can prevent multiple diseases.

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17. Gluten-free

Gluten is a family of proteins found in such grains as wheat, rye, and barley, and in the flours made from them. While those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease must avoid these, there isn’t a lot of research as to whether such substitutes as potato or rice flour are better or worse for non-sufferers, Maycock said. But gluten-free flour is still flour, and often a heavily-processed one. “So now you’re adding foods that are even more processed and that may be even more harmful if you don’t have celiac disease,” Maycock added. Another issue is that gluten-free products — one of the biggest food fads of the past 50 years — are not usually fortified with vitamins, so avoiding them may result in nutritional deficiencies. A 2017 study also found that people who don’t have celiac disease are doing a disservice to their bodies because they don’t eat whole grains, which have many heart benefits.

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18. Pretzels

Maycock calls them “best of the worst.” They are still heavily processed, but they are better than Doritos, he noted. Pretzels are much smaller, which in a way forces you to exercise portion control, and aren’t made with the artificial dyes that many snack chips contain. They are not as healthy as you think, though, because they lack nutritional value and contain a lot of sodium, which increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Some brands contain, in just one ounce, 359 mg of salt (the American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily sodium intake of no more than 2,300 mg). High sodium intake is one of several dangerous things experts have linked to heart disease.

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19. Veggie chips

“People think they are great because they see something that looks like vegetables,” Maycock said. “But they are cooked in oil and heavily processed.” The healthy ingredients have been lost in the process. As the label indicates, there are no actual vegetables in the chips, just vegetable powders, along with salt and one or more kinds of oil. Veggies chips contain slightly less the same amount of calories and fat as potato chips.

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20. Hummus

Not all hummus is made equally, Maycock said. The kind that has just chickpeas and olive oil makes for a healthy dip, he noted. The problem is that many of the brands you find at stores didn’t use olive oil. They opted for canola oil or some other kind that is not as healthy, according to Maycock. Canola oil is generally considered safe and it contains high amounts of healthy fat, but there are some concerns that it turns rancid when exposed to heat in the production process, destroying the omega-3s, and possibly even creating trans fats. This is also what makes certain items in fast-food chains the absolute unhealthiest you can eat.