‘Five ‘healthy’ foods I now avoid eating – and why they’re not what they seem’ – Daily Record

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When you’re trying to lose weight or simply just improve your diet, it makes sense that you’d reach for ‘healthy’ snacks whilst out doing the food shop – such as cereal bars and smoothies.

However, several health experts have warned that certain foods may not always be as beneficial as they seem, despite sometimes being marketed as more weight-loss friendly options compared to crisps and fizzy juice.

Lydia Stephens, a journalist for Wales Online, was ‘shocked’ to discover just how unhealthy some of these foods could be. After reading up on ultra-processed foods, and taking advice from the likes of Tim Spector and Michael Mosley, there are now certain options she tries to avoid altogether in order to live a healthier life.

Processed foods are not always bad for you. However, eating too many ultra-processed foods could cause a number of health problems, as they’ve been linked to the likes of cancer and heart disease.

Dr Chris van Tulleken, who researches and writes about ultra-processed foods, describes it in a very simple way. Ultra-processed food, according to Dr Tulleken “boils down to if it’s wrapped in plastic and it contains at least one ingredient that you don’t typically find in a domestic kitchen, then it’s ultra-processed food.”

While Lydia doesn’t believe in cutting out any type of food completely, she has learned that some things she once viewed as ‘healthy’ options simply aren’t. Here are five things she now tries to avoid.

1. ‘Low calorie’ snack bars

Cereal bars along with other low calorie snack bars such as mini “fibre” brownies, or yoghurt coated crisp bars are often marketed to us as a healthier alternative to chocolate. But just like chocolate, most of these bars actually contain a high amount of sugar, and other ingredients like sweeteners if they have been stripped of sugar.

Looking at the ingredients in a very popular low calorie chocolate brownie, which are just 90 calories each, there are around 15 ingredients, some traditional ones like flour, but mostly things you won’t find in a domestic kitchen, like raising agents, thickeners (xanthan gum) and humectant (glycerol.) Making a chocolate brownie at home should take only six ingredients – dark chocolate, butter, flour, eggs, cocoa powder and sugar.

Dr Tulleken warns that there is a growing amount of research that shows the “inherent dangers in consuming complex mixtures of substances that humans have never encountered before”. Tim Spector claims there is also growing evidence that UPFs like these are driving obesity in the western world.

2. Fruity yoghurts

These are often seen as healthy snacks or beneficial for gut health, but many varieties include ingredients like stabilisers, sweeteners, and regulators.

Compare this to an all natural kefir, which is milk with live bacterial cultures and yeasts – an actual great gut health drink. There is growing evidence that sweeteners have distinct effects on our gut, so it is clearly counter productive to consume a yoghurt that is marketed for “gut health” when it contains the very ingredient that scientists have raised concerns about.

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3. Butter alternatives

Like with the above two examples, Lydia previously used to opt for a vegetable spread instead of a typical butter due to thinking the ‘low fat’ option was the healthiest.

But a lot of these products contain emulsifiers, which according to a study in the British Medical Journal, can increase your risk of heart disease. Now, Lydia prefers a ‘bog-standard’ butter, where the only ingredient is milk.

4. Orange juice

While the sugar in orange juice is natural, it is still very high. According to the British Heart Foundation, one small 150ml glass of orange juice is the equivalent of three oranges, but with less fibre.

There are 39 grams of sugar in a 12 oz Coca-Cola can. According to the USDA, there is 2.6g of sugar per 1oz of orange juice – meaning a 12oz glass of orange juice has 31.2 oz of sugar in it, just over seven grams less than a can of coke.

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5. Smoothies

Lydia previously used to drink smoothies as a way to pack extra fruit into her diet. And while this may still be healthier than a can of Coke, blending fruit breaks down the cell wall, exposing the natural sugars within.

This effectively turns them into “free sugars”, which we are often told to avoid or at least reduce.

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