March 13, 2013
If you’ve had a sneaking suspicion that certain foods touted for their health benefits may not be as good as you think, you may be right. Take a peek at these four foods and find out why they don’t quite live up to the hype.
You’ve probably heard that acai is the miracle fruit, capable of everything from preventing heart disease and curing cancer to causing miraculous weight loss. Much of these benefits are credited to acai berries’ potent anthocyanins and flavonoids—powerful antioxidants that help defend the body by neutralizing free radicals, which damage the body.
What you should know: So far, there are no known unique health benefits of acai berries. There are plenty of similar fruits high in anthocyanins, such as cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries—all of which you can buy locally and eat fresh. The same, unfortunately, does not hold true for acai unless you live near the Amazon and can purchase acai berries within 24 hours of harvest. Otherwise, they’ll spoil, which is often why you see acai sold as pulp, juice or a supplement with a hefty price tag. At the end of the day, eating the real deal is always better than opting for a powdered form or a watered-down juice. Opting for fresh and frozen berries will not only save you money, but you’ll also get the same nutrients as you’d get from acai berries.
We’re 110% for eating less meat and are avid supporters of Meatless Mondays, so you may be wondering why we’re telling you to give veggie burgers the boot. The fact of the matter is not all veggie burgers are created equal, and in fact, those made with soy protein isolate should take a long vacation away.
What you should know: There are two types of soy: whole soy — found in protein-packed edamame and soy nuts — and soy protein isolate, a highly refined, nutrient-stripped product found in foods like soy "meats" such as Tofurkey. With soy consumption already unhealthily high in America and with 95% of the soy consumed in the U.S. being potentially damaging GMO (genetically modified organism), it's best to choose vegetarian protein alternatives like beans and split peas.
We’re all for choosing vegetable-based oils over animal fats like butter, which is loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat, but you shouldn’t grab just any vegetable oil. In the United States, most of us get far too much omega-6 fat from highly refined oils like those found in soybean, cottonseed and corn oils. These oils are frequently used in baked goods and the typical American diet tends to crowd out healthy omega-3 acids in favor of these omega-6 fatty acids.
What you should know: Ideally you want your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids to be about 1-to-1 (to give you a perspective, the ratio is currently closer to 15-to-1 in the average American diet). While the science is still unclear as to whether or not a lack of balance may lead to chronic inflammation, it’s best to opt for oils high in omega-3 fatty acids, like olive and canola oil.
Many people believe this “natural” sugar is healthier than table sugar, however although agave starts out in a natural state since it comes from the agave plant, it is processed and refined just like all other sugars, including high fructose corn sugar.
What you need to know: Agave nectar actually contains about the same number of calories as high fructose corn sugar, and many consist of 70% to 80% fructose – which is even more than what's found in high-fructose corn syrup! We’d all be a lot healthier if we reduced our intake of all sugars, which includes table sugar, honey, raw sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and agave.
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The Nutrition TwinsContributor
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.