But you know what they say … if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Such fads get tricky, though, when they seem to make sense or claim to be supported by valid research.
Even seemingly ‘official’ fads — like eating low-fat — or those that seem certainly beneficial — like vitamin waters — may not only be a waste of your money … they may actually make your health worse.
Are you wondering which health fads have failed to live up to their hype? You’re not alone, believe me. This is such a popular question that I want to address it here now, so hopefully you won’t waste any more of your money (or, worse, risk your health) by following these nonsense unhealthy health fads.
Unhealthy Health Fads: 6 to Avoid
6. Low-Fat and Fat-Free
Low-fat and fat-free processed foods are typically far from healthy. Most have large amounts of sugar added in to replace the fat, along with refined carbs that will make you fat. Plus, in many ways fat is your friend. Your body needs healthful fats for energy, nutrient absorption, rebuilding cells, hormone production and more.
And it’s a myth that eating (natural, healthy) fat will make you fat. Supplementing your diet with coconut oil (rich in saturated fat) helps to reduce abdominal obesity, for instance.[i] Two recent studies also found that people who eat high-fat dairy products (whole milk, butter, cream, etc.) are less likely to become obese and do not have a higher risk of heart disease as was previously thought![ii][iii]
5. Vitamin Waters
What could be bad about vitamins and water? Unfortunately, that’s not all that these trendy beverages contain. Most also contain artificial sweeteners or added sugars. In fact, one popular brand has 32 grams of sugar per serving — that’s almost as much as a can of soda.
As for artificial sweeteners, they’ve been linked to health problems ranging from cancer to brain damage to kidney problems. Plus, studies have linked artificial sweeteners to increased carb cravings, and they’re known to stimulate appetite and fat storage. That’s right, artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain!
If you want vitamins, get them from fruits and vegetables … not these expensive sugar (or artificially sweetened) waters.
4. All Natural
If you buy a processed food that claims to be all natural, you may feel like it’s not that bad for you … and maybe even healthy. This is what the food marketers want you to think, but, surprising as it may seem, the term “natural” on a food label means nada, zilch, zip! While meat, poultry and egg products that claim to be natural must be minimally processed with no artificial ingredients, any other food product can be heavily processed, pumped full of preservatives and even contain food coloring and artificial flavors, and still claim to be natural. The term simply has no legal or regulatory definition.
3. Organic Processed Foods
I’m all in favor of organic standards, but keep in mind that every food labeled organic isn’t necessarily good for you. Organic potato chips are still chips. Organic ice cream should still be reserved for an occasional treat. Organic frozen meals … they’re still TV dinners (admittedly with less junky additives). To get the most health bang for your buck when buying organic, stick with organic whole foods like meats, dairy, eggs and produce instead of organic processed foods.
2. “Healthy” Fructose-Rich Sweeteners
You may be aware that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a dietary no-no, but fructose is hidden in places you wouldn’t expect, like “healthy” agave sweeteners and fruit juice. These ‘natural’ sweeteners have become all the rage, but fructose is not the healthy sugar alternative it’s made out to be.
When you consume food and drinks made with regular old-fashioned cane sugar or beet sugar you get a perfectly balanced 50/50 match of fructose and glucose. This means every fructose molecule is bound to a glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it becomes fuel for your body. When you eat a sugar that has more fructose than glucose, those extra fructose molecules go straight to your gut to be stored as extra fat.
So keep in mind that even ‘healthy’ sweeteners like agave and fruit juice are just as detrimental to your health as excess sugar (and possibly even more so).
1. Juice Fasts or Cleanses
I strongly recommend cleansing and detoxing your body on a regular basis — and drinking fresh vegetable juice is one way to do it. I’m also not opposed to occasional fasting, which has been shown to help with weight loss, prevent metabolic diseases, support brain health and also boost human growth hormone (HGH).
What I recommend avoiding, however, are the trendy pre-packaged juice cleanses that offer you various combinations of fruit, vegetable and almond milk drinks for five- or seven-day cleanses. If they contain fruit juice, you’ll be getting a hefty dose of sugar without any of the supporting fiber-rich benefits of eating a whole piece of fruit. Plus, these drinks are needlessly expensive — you can create a healthful green drink in your own kitchen for a fraction of the cost (and it will be fresher, too).
For more details you can find my 7 top steps for natural detoxification here (none of which involve drinking juices for days at a time).
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Written By: Updated: March 10,2014