Food & Beverages You Thought Were Healthy… but really AREN’T!By Work. Train. Compete!|Sara & Natalie|2012-06-20 | Comments: 0For years we have been tricked into thinking these foods and beverages are healthy and will facilitate weight loss. Let’s uncover the culprits and devise some healthier physique-friendly alternatives!
Offender #1: GRANOLA
Although high in fiber, granola is also loaded with excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup, both of which are linked to diabetes. If you must indulge in this fattening, high calorie snack, then purchase granola cereal and bars that are low in sugar. This means reading the label is a must! Avoid brands that list sugar as the first ingredient: ideally a whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient. Look for at least 3g of fiber per serving. Do not be seduced by granola bars with sugary fruit filling and chocolate or powdered yogurt coating. A better option is to make your own granola.
- A bowl of a 1/2 cup of rolled oats with real fruit (1 cup of berries or 1 chopped apple) and cinnamon.
Offender # 2: RICE CAKES:
Although low in calories, rice cakes are devoid of nutrients. They also lack fiber, which makes them a less filling snack. This explains why we tend to binge on them. And to make matters worse, they are a high glycemic index carbohydrate (GI = 82). This means they will spike your insulin, which as we know, promotes fat storage. And if you opt for the flavored versions, then you will also be ingesting “white poison:” sugar and sodium, which we all know is linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you absolutely love them and insist on consuming them, then lessen their impact on your blood sugar levels by slathering 2 of them with up to 2 TBSP of all-natural zero-sodium nut butter sprinkled with cinnamon. To reap some benefit from this high glycemic index carbohydrate snack, consume 2 rice cakes within 30 minutes of your strength-training workout with a protein shake to facilitate muscle building and recovery. Why? Because your high blood sugar levels will cause insulin to shuttle glycogen into your glycogen-depleted muscles.
- I prefer to use wholegrain rye crispbread in place of rice cakes because they are high in fiber. High-fiber foods take longer to digest and therefore produce a slower rise in blood glucose levels. Rye crispbread has a moderate glycemic index (GI) of 63. Please note that it is not gluten-free. I slather my “chocolate peanut butter” (see recipe below) onto 2 pieces of wholegrain rye crispbread to further slow the release of glucose into my bloodstream. You can also elect to use other nut butter options such as cashew butter, all-natural peanut butter, almond butter or pumpkin seed butter.
Offender #3: REGULAR and FLAVOURED PEANUT BUTTER
Regular peanut butter contains dangerous hydrogenated oils (to prevent oil separation), sugar and salt. And do not be fooled by flavoured peanut butter such as chocolate flavoured peanut butter. The label may read “no hydrogenated oils,” “no trans fats,” “no cholesterol,” and “all natural” but upon examination of the ingredients, you will see it contains a variety of offenders such as evaporated cane juice (which is nothing more than a less refined table sugar) and salt.
- All natural peanut butter (no sodium and no flavouring). Unlike regular peanut butter, all natural peanut butter does not contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, sugar or salt. They are made solely with peanuts! A freshly opened jar contains a layer of oil on top. I store the jar upside down in my pantry to keep the oil at the bottom. I also stir to blend the oil with the rest of the butter upon opening.
- Instead of purchasing flavoured peanut butter loaded with extra carbs, sodium and sugar, make my “Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe” which is low-carb, virtually sugar-free, low in sodium and packed with protein! The best part of this recipe is that it prevents you from over-indulging in peanut butter because the mixture with the whey protein not only produces a greater yield, but also promotes satiety. This is a great trick for people with nut butter portion control issues (and I speak from experience: one time I ate half a jar of chocolate-flavoured peanut butter in under 10 minutes!)
Sara’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe:
- 1 scoop of chocolate flavoured whey protein isolate
- 1 TBSP all natural (sodium-free) peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
Nutrition Info: Calories: 173, Fat: 8g, Saturated fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium 5.1mg, Carbohydrates 4g, Fiber: 1.7g, Sugars: 1g, Protein: 25.1g
Offender #4: LOW FAT FOOD
Fat has become the “new F word” thanks to its bad reputation for causing weight gain. The media and junk food industry try to convince us that eating “fat-free” foods will actually make us thin and healthy. I used to buy into this concept – and was left feeling confused when my daily ritual of eating fat-free licorice made me fat. So exactly why is the North American population getting fatter and fatter while consuming this “low-fat/fat-free” food?
A) Low-fat is a synonym for HIGH SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES (SUGARS!)
Check the labels on low-fat/fat-free foods. Look how high the sugar and carbohydrate levels are! We learned in my carbohydrates blog that simple carbohydrates (sugars) spike our insulin levels, causing the body to store fat.
B) Low-fat diets increase your appetite
Fat sends a signal to your brain telling you when you are full. This means eating low-fat/fat-free food will actually cause you to eat larger portions because your brain will not receive the “I’m full” signal.
Eating fat does not make you fat! We already established that excessive caloric intake of any food is what makes you fat. And the most notorious offenders for promoting fat storage are simple sugars/carbohydrates.
- It is in your best interest to avoid fat-free/low-fat foods. Whenever fat is removed from a food product, the only way the company can keep the food palatable is by overcompensating with more sugar, sodium, artificial sweeteners and other questionable chemicals that sabotage your health and promote fat storage. If you want a lean physique, then eat healthy fat such as salmon, walnuts, omega-3 eggs, avocado, ground flaxseed and fish oil. Be sure to obey your portions!
- If you are craving fat-free candy such as licorice or jujubes, then opt for low-glycemic index (GI = 29) Goji berries instead. Not only is this superfood packed with protein and fiber, but it is also high in vitamin C, beta-carotene and iron. Because of the low glycemic index, goji berries will not spike your blood sugar level or lead to energy crashes or sugar cravings. Fat-free candy, however, has a very high glycemic index rating, which will spike your blood sugar levels and trigger insulin to store fat. This means eating fat-free food will make you fat... quite the paradox!
Offender #5: Muffins (including Bran and Low-Fat varieties!)
I decided to research the nutritional information (or in this case, nutrashional information) on a variety of “seemingly healthy” muffins sold in popular coffee shop and bakery chains, and uncovered the following:
Low Fat Blueberry
Muffins are notorious for containing between 300 and 600 calories each. They are nothing more than cakes in wrappers! Yes, the bran muffins may be high in fiber, but they are also alarmingly high in sodium, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol, calories and sugar! Opting for a low-fat muffin instead of a conventional one still overloads your system with the same high levels of sodium, carbohydrates and sugars! What is the message here? As long as the fat levels are low, then the rest doesn’t matter??? I strongly disagree with this nutritionally backwards message for the following reasons:
A) 32 grams of sugar and over 60 grams of carbohydrates!
Did you know that 32g of sugar is equivalent to eating 8 sugar cubes? Here is the bottom line: if you consume a meal containing more sugars and simple carbohydrates than your body can utilize, then the extra sugar will be stored as unsightly fat. So how do you prevent this? According to Donald Layman, Ph.D, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, non-exercisers should be consuming less than 40g of carbohydrates at each meal, which is the most your body can effectively process 2 hours postprandial. Ideally, you should be exercising and consuming a portion-controlled diet comprised of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats.
It’s no secret that excess sugar consumption is implicated in obesity. According to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) report published in the journal Circulation, several studies have linked high sugar intake to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and type 2 diabetes. To quote Jeff O’Connell, author of Sugar Nation, “Your bloodstream is supposed to contain a teaspoon or so of glucose at any given moment. Tissues begin suffering damage when this small amount rises by even one-fourth... The linings of arteries and capillaries begin suffering damage... High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and diabetes likely aren’t far behind”.
B) over 750mg of sodium!
Health Canada has set the adequate daily intake of sodium at 1500mg (with an upper tolerable limit of 2300mg). Would you have predicted that over 50% of your daily sodium intake would be in your muffin? Salt is ubiquitous, and thanks to sodium-laced processed and restaurant foods, Canadians are now consuming an average of 3100mg of sodium a day! Excessive sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, which is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Bottom line: cut salt, improve health.
Try these healthy muffin recipes written by Oxygen readers!
And now let’s investigate liquid nutrition….
Offender #6: SPORTS/ELECTROLYTE DRINKS
Sports drinks were created for high-level athletes who engage in INTENSE exercise in hot outdoor temperatures. A typical 12 oz bottle contains 300 calories, 200mg of sodium, a whopping 78g of carbohydrates and 42g of sugar!!! Unless you need to replenish lost electrolytes because you are competing in an Iron Man in the middle of the Sahara desert, then opt for water. Drinking a sports drink would be the equivalent of swallowing 10.5 sugar cubes, which is heinous! As previously discussed in this blog, unused sugar is inevitably stored as FAT. Since the average person’s body will not require this much sugar to fuel a typical workout, you are, in essence, ruining the desired outcome of your workout by consuming this beverage. Instead of burning fat during your workout, you are storing it thanks to your workout drink. And we all know that storing fat increases the risk of obesity and obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. And if that is not enough reason to abstain from sports drinks, then consider this: Sports drinks often contain artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and food dyes. According to research presented in the Journal of Hepatology (2008: 48:993-9), high amounts of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to diabetes.
- Trade in your high calorie, high carb, high sugar and high sodium sports/electrolyte drinks for water.
Offender #7: Juice, Smoothies, Flavoured Waters
Did you know that flavoured waters, iced teas and juice are typically loaded with excessive sugars, carbohydrates and empty calories? Fruit juice labels often try to disguise their high sugar content by bombarding us with statements such as “contains real fruit juice.” And reconsider drinking 100% real fruit juice because it is high in calories and devoid of fiber.
You may be surprised to learn that the fruit smoothies you have been purchasing are often loaded with excessive sugar, carbohydrates, calories and sodium. I decided to research some common restaurant smoothies, and uncovered the following:
Restaurant Chain Fruit Smoothie
530 7g 180mg 118g 106g 1.9g 5g
Yes, you may be getting your daily recommended fruit serving, but not without cost! With nearly 120g of carbohydrates, you are consuming nearly a day’s worth of carbohydrates in one beverage! And do not turn a blind eye to the whopping 106 g of sugar, which is equivalent to eating 26.5 sugar cubes! This exceeds the AHA’s daily-recommended sugar intake of 20g for women by over 5 times! Why are these levels so unreasonably high? Not only do these smoothies contain excessive portions of dairy and fruit, but they also contain added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup.
- Make your own flavoured water by adding some lemon, lime, orange, cucumber or strawberries to your glass of water.
- Trade in your flavoured iced tea for Matcha Green Tea or Oolong Tea. The many purported health benefits of these teas include their potential to fight cancer and heart disease, lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, burn fat, prevent diabetes and stroke and even ward off dementia.
- Trade in your fruit juice (which lacks fiber) for real fruit naturally packed with satiating fiber!
- Make homemade fruit smoothies using 8 oz of unsweetened almond milk or water, crushed ice, 1 scoop of sugar-free (naturally sweetened with stevia) lower carb whey isolate protein powder (in the flavour of your choice), 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 1 serving of low-glycemic index fruit (such as strawberries or blueberries). You can even add a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed to provide you with fiber and heart-heathy omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe (with water) compared to the restaurant brand smoothie has 10 times less sugar, nearly 8 times less carbohydrates, 5 times more protein, 4 times less sodium, 3 times less calories and it will not spike your insulin levels or promote fat storage!
- Stay clear of diet pop. It may have zero calories and zero sugar, but it is loaded with artificial sweeteners, which studies have demonstrated can actually increase your sugar cravings and indirectly lead to weight gain.
Offender #7: Fat-Free Salad Dressing:
Similar to the foods discussed thus far, fat-free salad dressing is also chock-full of extra sodium, sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. In order to be “fat-free”, the heart-healthy olive oil has unfortunately been excluded.
- balsamic vinegar or lemon juice mixed with extra virgin olive oil
- apple cider vinegar (discussed in previous blogs).
I confess I used to eat the above mentioned food and beverages because I had no idea these “seemingly healthy” items were actually causing my weight gain or increasing my risk of disease. As an Oxygen Success Story, my goal is to help people identify and trade in their unhealthy habits for healthier ones. If we all work together sharing our knowledge, we can succeed in steering society in a healthier direction. Please share your unhealthy food and drink recipe alternatives in the comments section below.
For your better health,
Dr. Sara Solomon
Follow dentists, Dr. Sara Solomon, WBFF Pro and Dr. Natalie Pennington, IFBB Pro, as they work, train and compete! Find out how these fit gals balance professional careers with fitness competition prep – plus get their tips on eating clean, training hard and staying motivated!