Health

Nutrition Mistakes People Don’t Realize They’re Making

The world of nutrition is a complicated one. Just when you think that you have it figured out, new research emerges. All of a sudden, you… Simi - September 23, 2018

The world of nutrition is a complicated one. Just when you think that you have it figured out, new research emerges. All of a sudden, you need to adjust your diet again. It’s as if dieticians and scientists are deliberately trying to confuse laymen out there. To a large degree, they’ve done a pretty good job in keeping people out of the loop concerning what is healthy and what not. Not too long ago, you had to stay away from full-cream dairy products or risk heart disease. Nowadays, the shelves are packed with double-cream goodies and the rules have changed once again.

Now, you should stay away from low-fat products and stick to higher fat content. However, keeping you guessing what’s actually healthy isn’t the only way the average guy is duped into a certain diet. There are other blatant lies you are fed to keep you in the dark. The main reason behind all the smoke and mirrors is, of course, money. The nutrition world is a wealthy one, and there is plenty of money to be made. Here are some of the most blatant lies you can ignore.

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1. Saturated fat is bad for your health

Not too long ago, the black sheep of the nutritional world were saturated fats. They were seen as the main culprit for their role in heart disease. For nearly fifty years, we were led to believe in the so-called gold standard of scientific research. Recently, the low-fat-diet craze was blown out of the water. Turns out, cutting out saturated fats doesn’t really do a thing to decrease the risk of heart disease. On the contrary, the new research has revealed that saturated fats are actually quite critical to your diet.

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The truth was literally sugar-coated, and the real culprit for increasing coronary heart disease was downplayed. Saturated fats got a bum wrap for diseases, and were replaced by hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils in the West. In small amounts, these oils are actually not that bad for you, but they contain large amounts of omega-6 fats. That could lead to an omega-6 / omega-3 imbalance. What you end up with is chronic inflammation and a host of other nasty conditions. New research has shown that coconut oil and ghee are some of the healthiest oils around

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2. Keto diet is dangerous to your health

It really seems like there is nothing new under the sun. Recently, the keto diet was labeled as just another fad. However, this high-fat, low-carb diet has been around for more than a hundred years. It might even have more ancient roots if one dug deep enough. When it was first scientifically tested, weight loss was only a bonus: The main purpose behind the diet was actually neurological. Ketosis influences brain function, and the diet’s benefit was related to a reduction in symptoms of epilepsy. So how does the diet work?

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It’s not a matter of starving yourself, or sacrificing the things you love to eat. Rather, the diet focuses on limiting all carbs and increasing intake of healthy fats. In limiting carbs, the body goes into fat-burning mode. It then uses the fats as a source of energy instead of glucose. The benefits of a keto diet range from losing weight to gaining muscle and increasing energy levels. It even helps to lift that annoying brain fog.

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3. Organic food does not make any difference

One has to wonder why all the actually healthy products cost an arm and a leg. Take organic food, for example. Not everyone has the luxury of buying organic goods. Some advocates say organic food is just another fad designed to make you spend more money on food that is just as good as the mass-produced crops. However, every year, The Environmental Working Group releases a list of pesticides used on non-organic foods. However you slice it, ingesting those chemicals is really bad for you.

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There is a silver lining. Even though you don’t have to go all organic, you can buy selectively. The Environmental Working Group releases another list that details 15 products least likely to be sprayed with pesticides. At least you can then go non-organic on those items. Meats, on the other hand, are a bit trickier. To be on the safe side, stay away from processed meats. If you can’t buy free-range, at least search for grass-fed and grain-fed produce. It might cost a bit more, but you will save thousands on medical bills later on in life.

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4. Meat protein is bad for kidney health

Meat lovers no longer have to fear the dreaded speech of ‘too much animal protein’. Long ago, it was thought that too much protein could contribute to a decreased function of the liver and kidneys. This is simply not true. Past research revealed isolated incidents where individuals with high-protein diets suffered from kidney and liver disease. However, these numbers were not enough to constitute a correlation. Instead, it was merely coincidental. Researchers who study kidney and liver disease maintain that there is no evidence to support this claim.

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Not only are meat proteins not bad for you, they are essential for hormone building and bone health. Protein is necessary for just about every living cell and process in your body. It contains crucial amino acids that improve bone health and decrease the risk of fractures. If you want to improve your health, it’s a good idea to ingest a wide variety of both meat and vegetable proteins. If there is something you need to abstain from though, it is processed meats.

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5. All fish is good for your health

There are arguments that fish is the best source of protein and that all fish is healthy for you. However, the way fish is sourced can be the difference between healthy-source omega-3 and mercury poisoning. Farmed fish can be just as bad as eating bacon. These fish have an unhealthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This could be problematic for people who suffer from arthritis, heart disease or any other inflammatory condition.

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The wrong type of sourced fish doesn’t just pose a risk of mercury poisoning. It also poses a sustainability risk that could be detrimental to the way the fish reproduce and live. There are a number of fish, like bluefin tuna, that are over-harvested, and their numbers are dwindling fast. This could have a ripple effect on the ecosystem and the repercussions on ocean could lead to major catastrophes. However, there are fish like Pacific sardines and Atlantic mackerel that are in high supply and still good for you.

Eggs give you an assortment of vitamins – namely vitamin D, that will keep your hair shiny. Shutterstock.

6. Eggs are bad for your health

For years, cholesterol and eggs have gone hand-in-hand. Common thought was that eggs were one of the foods that increased your cholesterol the most. Cholesterol, of course, was blamed for coronary heart disease. However, these claims were refuted back in the 1980’s. There was no correlation between eggs and cholesterol, nor was there any indication that consuming eggs could increase the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, the counterargument was only published in 2016, and eggs have been walking around with a false stigma for a long time. It is still widely believed that eggs are rotten for your health.

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The truth is that eggs are actually not bad for you at all. A study published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition showed that eggs didn’t influence cardiovascular disease in men. In another study, cholesterol was cleared as a contributor to coronary heart disease or mortality. The egg yolks were the bad guys due to the saturated fat the contain, but it turns out they contribute to higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, related to good eye health. So feel free to stock up on those free-range eggs for breakfast.

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7. Eating small meals boosts metabolism

For some bizarre reason, someone got it into their head that frequent snacking, or eating five or six small meals a day, was a good idea. It was thought a person would lose weight this way by activating the metabolism and giving it a boost. Constant eating, then, would result in an ongoing metabolism that would result in weight loss. However, the amount of meals don’t have as big an influence on metabolism a the amount of food you actually ingest. Intermittent fasting might actually be a better weight-loss strategy.

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When you practice intermittent fasting, you allow your body to burn fat easier. This is because your insulin levels are lower when you enter a state of fasting. However, you only enter this state of fasting once you have gone without food for about 12 hours. When you spread your meals out over the day, you actually postpone this state, and you don’t burn as much fat. If you can’t fast every other day, you could always try and have all your meals within an eight-hour span and fast the other sixteen.

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8. Sodium is bad for your health

You probably grew up with the notion that salt was bad for you. So, for the average Westerner, it isn’t that difficult to consume less than the daily dietary recommendation of 5.75g. Salt has been associated with heart disease and high blood pressure for a long time. The truth about salt paints a whole different picture. There are many brands of salt that contain unhealthy substances, but this is not to be confused with natural salt.

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Your body – and you heart – actually need salt to function. New research has shown you are quite safe to eat between 7.5 and 15 grams of salt a day, nearly three times the “recommended” dose. Although lowering salt intake can marginally decrease blood pressure, too little sodium has been associated with insulin resistance, increased mortality rates in people with diabetes and a higher risk of falling in the elderly. So don’t shy away from your salty treats. Just choose your salts more wisely. Pink Himalayan and Celtic sea salt are among the healthiest available.

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9. All forms of sugar are bad

Sugar is like a curse word in the dietary world. Refined sugar is definitely like poison to your body. It is linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Any parent would be able to testify of the adverse effects of refined sugar on their children. One moment they are full of life and energy and the next, they crash down faster than an airplane. Not all sugars are created even, though. Natural sugars can actually provide your body with many health benefits.

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Our bodies are extremely complex machines that need a wide variety of nutrients to function properly. These nutrients include natural sugars, which can be found in a variety of foods and forms. Coconut sugar, raw stevia, dates, monkfruit, blackstrap molasses and honey are some of the more well-known natural sugars available. They work wonders in food. Raw honey is probably one of the best alternatives to use. It has a great taste and is packed with amino acids, the B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and other essential minerals. 

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10. Supplements can become replacements

Modern society has made it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. The main factor is time. People are so busy trying to advance their careers or just stay on top of their workloads that they don’t get the time to prepare balanced meals. As a compromise, supplements have been hailed as the answer to get all the nutrients you need. The truth is, pills just can’t replace the microfibers, proteins and fats contained in food.

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There is definitely a place for supplements, but they should remain just that, supplements. They should never become a replacement, because they just don’t stack up to the real food. If health is a priority in your life, you’ll make time to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and proteins. The pills are there only to fill the gap or boost the goodness that you get from your food. Your body was designed to digest natural foods easier than manufactured foods, and this includes nutritional supplements.

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11. Keep counting calories if you want to lose weight

No one can argue with the fact that being overweight is bad for your health. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for maintaining a slow internal aging process and reducing the risk of various diseases. However, how you maintain this weight is just as important. One of the more popular yet unhealthy ways people maintain health is through calorie counting. There is a notion that you should carefully monitor the calories you ingest and keep the number at a particular level. In doing so, you will gradually lose unwanted fat. Unfortunately, people who follow a calorie-in, calorie-out diet show frequent fluctuation in their body weight.

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The reason for this fluctuation is because of the type of calories, not the quantity. You can either  yourself up with healthy food or junk food with the same calorie count using the same calorie count, and get vastly different results. Given a choice, many people will opt for the unhealthy food and justify it by counting calories. In the long run, unhealthy snacks stack up and overall health takes a dive. If you really want to lose weight and keep healthy, stop counting calories and focus on what you eat. If it is refined or processed, stay away.

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12. Coffee is responsible for many health problems

If there is a guilty pleasure the western world has adopted, it’s coffee. Up until recently, coffee has had a very bad reputation and has been blamed for a multitude of conditions, including elevated blood pressure. However, the adverse effects of coffee have been greatly exaggerated. To some degree, coffee has shown to only mildly elevate blood pressure in the short-term, but there is no evidence to show it’s linked to serious cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, new research is revealing coffee might actually reduce a number of long-term illnesses.

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No longer does coffee have to carry with it the bad reputation it has received over the years. Research has shown that coffee drinkers are 67% less likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, they are at a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. If you are an athlete or want to lose weight, you’re in for a treat because coffee actually boosts one’s metabolism. It has also shown to increase exercise performance by as much as 12%. Fresh coffee is loaded with antioxidants, but if the caffeine keeps you awake, you can always opt for a milder green tea.

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13. Artificial sweeteners are good for diabetics

Since sugar is the devil of the nutritional world, artificial sweeteners have been hailed as the answer to the diabetic who craves sweetness in their life. To the person who wants to lose weight, turning to artificial sweeteners might also look like an attractive option. Unfortunately, there are no good studies that show artificial sweeteners are a healthy alternative to refined sugar. On the contrary, almost all of studies show there are more side effects than anything.

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For the diabetic, studies show sweeteners might actually be worse than sugar itself. Sweeteners are responsible for one of the biggest ironies in the world of nutrition. Diet soda, for example, is more likely to increase chances of serious weight gain than a regular soda. A long-term study showed people who drank diet soda were 41% more likely to become obese and 65% more likely to become overweight. The biggest culprit is by far aspartame. The case against this sweetener is getting stronger each year, and word is slowly spreading of how bad it actually is for you.

Pesticides and nitrates are injected into vegetables and fruits with a syringe. Image via Freepik

14. GMO’s are good for you

Many people are blissfully unaware they are consuming Genetically Engineered, or GE, foods. Not many people know the corn we see at the store today hardly resembles the original corn before it was tampered with. These foods are extremely bad for your health, not necessarily because of plant cells have been altered, but because of the herbicides used to keep crops free from bug infestations. Glyphosate is a particularly nasty herbicide that fuses with the plant and therefore cannot be washed off.

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The full effects of GE foods, or GMOs, are not yet known, but studies have shown they are particularly bad for us in the long run. Animal tests proved a link between GE foods and increased diseases, infertility and birth defects. Recently, a lifetime study showed an increase in organ damage, cancer and ultimately a reduced lifespan. It is highly advisable to avoid processed foods whenever possible. Also, when buying fresh produce, look for USDA 100% organic, or non-GMO labels.

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15. Added vitamins and minerals on the label means a product is great

We truly are gullible creatures. As soon as someone slaps a tag on a product that states that it has added vitamins and minerals, we assume the product is healthy for us. It’s almost as if we want to justify the junk we eat. Marketing companies have picked up on this human trait and are exploiting it. What could possibly be unhealthy about a chocolate bar, filled with ample amounts of sugar, if it has added vitamins? Unfortunately, synthetic vitamins don’t neutralize the sugar and its effects.

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These companies have to add vitamins and minerals because the products have nearly no nutritional value otherwise. However, when they add the vitamins to a product, they don’t put a limit on how much you can ingest. Consuming too much of certain vitamins can actually be unhealthy for children. Pregnant ladies, cancer patients and the elderly should stay clear of fortified foods. Most of these products contain folate, which is very dangerous to these people. The best thing action is to avoid these products all together.

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16. Packed fruit juice is healthy for you

Most people believe that fruit juice is healthy for you, especially when it is made from 100% juice with no additives. Many families grew up with fruit juice as the main natural contributor to their vitamin needs. Blissfully unaware of how they are poisoning their own bodies, they keep buying gallon after gallon of fruit juice to stay healthy. However, there is a very good reason why fruit is made up of a fleshy body that needs to be chewed.

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When you eat oranges, you can hardly get two into your body. That is because of the fiber that you ingest while enjoying your favorite fruit. Fiber is the key ingredient that separates fruit from being just another sugar-and-water drink. It is the substance that enables your body to digest the sugars of the fruit in an appropriate manner. Without the fiber, fruit juice acts like a sugary, cold drink that your body doesn’t digest properly. All the fructose sugar in the fruit juice is digested instantly, and your body doesn’t know what else to do other than store the excess energy as fat.

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17. Balanced diet – Bad can be balanced with good

How many times have you seen a label that says “healthy as part of a balanced diet”? When you think about the products with those labels, chances are you saw them a form of junk food. Just because a label lays claim to a vague statement doesn’t mean that it holds any water. When you mix trans fats, refined sugar and processed vegetable oils with fruit and vegetables, the product doesn’t all of a sudden become healthy for you. Balancing the bad out with the good just doesn’t cut it.

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A balanced diet is a very vague statement, but the rule of nutrition stands resolute when it comes to what a balanced diet really entails. If you’re thinking of fine-tuning your diet to be balanced, you’ll need to avoid anything processed, instant, diet or manufactured. Although that is what really constitutes a balanced diet, you’ll be missing out on some seriously tasty foods along the way. Instead of going cold turkey on your old diet and taking on a new one, you should first try and limit your processed intake. Having a donut with coffee is a lot healthier than a diet that mainly consists of junk food.

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18. Fat consumption makes you fat

If you don’t know any better, logic would tell you that eating fat will make you fat. After all, when we pick up unnecessary weight, the bulk of it is fat. It would be a fair assumption that an increased amount of fat intake would, in turn, make you even fatter. However, our bodies are complex machines that don’t always follow a logical path. More studies show that a high-fat diet actually complements your weight-loss diet.

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Research also shows that a diet that high in fat and low in carbs will more likely lead to weight loss. Fat outnumbers the calorie count of meats and carbs, yet the nature of the fat molecules makes them easy to break up. However, when you decide to eat carbs with your fat, you will certainly gain weight as well. The body sees the fat as a source of stored energy, and seeing with plenty of energy to go around, the fat is stored and you gain weight.

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19. Margarine is good for your body

Not too long ago, saturated fats were shunned because they were believed to be one of the leading causes of heart disease. Because butter was among the food types with ample saturated fats, it was also cast aside and replaced with a more artificial spread, margarine. More and more people turned their back on the golden goodness to opt for the counterfeit. What they didn’t know was that they were trading goodness for poison. Margarine was, in fact, the culprit with the ability to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.

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Luckily, some butter lovers wouldn’t give up on their favorite bread lube and came up with a counter study. The results were conclusive, and margarine turned out to be the spread that caused health hazards. As the battle is still raging on, better margarine is being developed that doesn’t have trans fats or cause heart disease. Regardless of whether you use margarine or butter, one thing is for sure: Too much of either one of them and you might be in for a nasty surprise.

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20. Soy is a good meat replacement

Soy has been hailed as the meat replacement for vegetarians the world over. That is mainly because it is so high in protein. The versatility of soy is almost unmatched because it can be used in many ways, from making flour to making milk. However, one has to wonder how healthy a bean can be when it is poisonous to humans if eaten raw. There are arguments for and against soy, and each make valid points. It should be noted, however, that it cannot be regarded as the superfood vegans so often make it out to be. There are just too many negatives involved.

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Soy is what is called an endocrine disruptor. In short, it activates estrogen hormone receptors, and before you know it, you have a hormone imbalance. Now, although the isoflavones might decrease the symptoms of menopause and reduce the risk of bone loss in the elderly, they can potentially be a cause of breast cancer. Recent animal tests seem to indicate soy can cause cancer. Men are also a bit at risk, as soy seems to have a direct influence on a man’s reproductive health. One particular study showed that men who ate soy regularly had a lower sperm count. There are too many contradictory studies around it, but this food remains clouded in doubt.

21. Milk is good for you

Whenever you see an advertisement that’s trying to promote strong and healthy bones, someone is chugging a big glass of milk. The claim is that milk is packed with protein and calcium, which are needed for healthy bones. That might have been a true statement a couple of years ago, but modern production methods have watered down the benefits of milk, and and it just doesn’t have the same nutritional value.

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The majority of milk in stores nowadays is pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics and a handful of synthetic vitamins. The only time you benefit from drinking milk is by making sure it originates from an organic source where the cows are grain-fed. The truth is, you don’t need to consume copious amounts of milk. Many cultures around the world don’t ingest a single drop, yet they are as healthy as they come.

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22. Breakfast is the ultimate meal

For many of us, the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been engraved into our daily lives. For the most part, we just follow the pack. There has been a recent movement in the nutritional world to question those rules of the past, and breakfast is one of those rules to come into question. It’s almost as if the research of the past is being scrutinized for any loopholes. In many cases, modern research has been able to debunk some of the ritualistic truths we have been fed for ages.

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The truth is, breakfast is an important meal. However, there is no clear evidence that it is the ultimate meal. No conclusive evidence supports the health benefits of breakfast, save for the fact that some people might prefer to get an early meal. The only place where the notion has been proven is with school children. Research shows a direct correlation between cognitive function and breakfast in youths.

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23. You must pack your diet with grains

Humans have not changed much over the past couple hundred years, which makes the notion that we should include copious amounts of grains into our diets somewhat arbitrary. The agricultural revolution, which happened only recently in our history, has somehow convinced us that we need plenty of grains. We have been hoodwinked into thinking that grains keep us regular, or that they help clean the bowels. The fiber is awesome for our digestive systems. However, when you look at the numbers, the rest just doesn’t make sense.

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Compared to vegetables and other whole foods, grains have fairly low amounts of nutrients. What they do have plenty of is phytic acid, which binds with essential minerals in the intestines and prevents your body from absorbing them. What’s more, grains like wheat, which is by far the most popular one around, are high in gluten. It seems like a bad idea when a great portion of the population is sensitive to it.

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24. Stack up on carbs

Let’s get one thing straight: There are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs are associated with any refined or processed food, and they should be eaten at a minimum. The good carbs should become a large chunk of your diet. Carbohydrates are the fuel for your body, and when you don’t ingest enough carbs, your body starts to use the protein and fats in your body to drive it. Again, you should steer clear of things like added sugar and base your meals on starchy carbs.

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The three main forms of carbs are sugar, starch and fiber. Natural sugar, which is found in fruits, is not unhealthy. The fiber helps the body absorb the energy at a much slower and controlled rate. When you cut the other forms as well, you run the risk of depleting your body of much-needed nutrients, not to mention the energy.

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25. Energy drinks are great for… energy?

Okay, so after a long weekend, most of us are down and out when Monday morning hits. No one would look at you funny if you decided to give yourself a bit of a boost with some fizzy instant energy. Regardless of the temporary lift it might give you, the aftereffects of energy drinks on your body is something completely different. So much so, that you might reconsider your next fix when given the opportunity.

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The most common adverse effect of energy drinks is that they mess with your sleeping patterns. Sleep deprivation, however, is the least of your problems. The more research that is done, the more grim the picture looks. Recently, studies have found that energy drinks could be associated with other problems such as substance abuse, higher risk of diabetes, mental health issues, tooth decay and kidney damage.

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26. Smoothies contribute to weight loss

Smoothies are among the foods that look healthy and nutritious. Some smoothies, however, are more like junk food mixed with a bit of nutrition. Not all of them are bad, but the majority of smoothies tend to be packed with sugar and unhealthy carbs you don’t need. What’s more, smoothies are often devoid of protein, save for the milk you add to thin out the mix. This is by no means a health drink.

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The basic composition of a smoothie generally contains a generous amount of sugar, which should already tell you something’s fishy. Real fruit – which could mean something for you in terms of fiber – is often substituted with another concentrate. The ice cream, sorbet and other sweeteners only add to calories and what you end up with is a glorified milkshake aimed at letting you gain weight instead of lose it.

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27. Energy bars are healthy snacks

If there’s one thing marketers have gotten right, it’s to sell a lie dressed in goodness. The energy bar is no different. Most of these glorified candy bars are sold with the promise of added vitamins and nutrients. For some reason, companies forget to mention the amount of sugar these bars contain. They conveniently leave out the fact that one bar could be packed with more than 500 calories.

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You might get some temporary relief from your fatigue, but once the sugar wears off you’re back to square one. What’s more is that due to their small size, many people will eat more than one bar. You don’t have to hold a degree in nutrition to notice that energy bars are not healthy. However, if you absolutely have to have a fix, go for bars that have less than 200 calories and at least a bit of protein to soften the blow when you eventually crash.

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28. Turkey hot dogs are healthy

No one is going to deny the fact that life has become busier and busier. There is barely enough time to wolf down a packed lunch, never mind the time it takes to make the meal. Turkey hot dogs seem like a good compromise then, when you want to save some time but keep some semblance of a healthy meal. The truth is, turkey hot dogs are not the answer. They might be made from a fairly healthy source, but they still rank up there as an unhealthy alternative.

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Turkey hot dogs are loaded with saturated fats, and even though the label might say that this particular brand has less fat, there is still enough to go around and grease you up from the inside out. If you want to ensure that you get at least a healthy brand, you should look for turkey hot dogs with the lowest fat content. Or, just eat a lot less of them.

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29.  Cereal is a great start to the day

Breakfast is not having a good year in terms of new research on the health benefits it holds. Breakfast cereal is another food under the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Most of the dry cereals you buy claim to have health benefits, but these nutritional wonders are all synthetic and you wind up eating lab-manufactured vitamins and nutrients.

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The production process should be your first clue how healthy these cereals aren’t. Firstly, the grains are processed into a fine powder, mixed with sugar, chocolate and water. From there, cereals are put through extrusion, which is a high-temperature shaping of sorts. Then, the cereal is shaped and dried. Other than the grains that were refined, there is very little natural substance. Therefore, they have to add all the “fake” goodness if they want to sell something that has at least some nutritional value.

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30. Multigrain products are better for you

Once again, marketing companies took a product and highlighted certain areas of truth to overshadow the low points. Multigrain products seem like a good idea before you buy them, but when you inspect the label, you’ll learn a whole different story. When a product is advertised as “multigrain,” you’ll likely be disappointed in the variety used to make the product. Most of these products are made from refined grains like white flour, which is very poor in fiber and other nutrients.

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Instead, try to stick with the old-fashioned 100% whole grain (oats and wheat) if you want to have a bit of grains in your diet. If you can’t find a decent-looking whole-grain alternative, at least scope out one of your favorite brands that is packed with fiber. At least then you know you’ll be regular.

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