Healthy Foods That Turned out to Be Unhealthy

Dieters and curious minds alike are obsessed with healthy foods. The avocado craze didn’t descend upon us simply because avocados look pretty. Everyone wants to know the potential benefits — and harms — of every ingredient that shows up in our food.

While many superfoods like kale and quinoa mostly live up to their claims to fame, there have been plenty of others that haven’t. Here are a few tricky foods you may have thought were mostly healthy — but aren’t.

1. Granola

Granola, often on lists of healthy foods, really doesn't belong in the health food category.

Love granola? Try making your own. | iStock.com/Elenathewise

Granola is often made with whole grains, so it’s easy to assume its fiber and protein content make it healthy to eat all the time. These kinds of snacks are good at hiding sugar and excess fat. Bear Naked Fruit & Nut Granola, for example, adds 7 grams of sugar and 6 grams of fat to your daily total with every ¼ cup. You can enjoy a good handful of granola without all that sugar — you just can’t rely on most brands to make it for you.

Instead of settling for unhealthy packaged granola, dare to be creative and try making your own.

2. Trail mix

Trail mix is healthier when you make it at home.

Dried fruit is kind of like fresh fruit, except smaller and coated in extra sugar. | iStock.com/ideabug

Trail mix is full of nuts and fruit, which have plenty of healthy fats and fiber, respectively. While it’s healthy in that regard, it’s not going to win any awards for its lack of sodium or sugar. For starters, it might be better without the dried fruit, which Harvard Health Publications warns can be high in added sugars and calories. However, replacing fruit with M&Ms definitely doesn’t help.

Avoid these brands specifically if you’re trying to stay away from snacks that take sweet and salty a little bit too far.

3. Breakfast cereal

Many breakfast cereals are high in sugar and low in fiber and protein.

It’s basically just dessert at 7:00 in the morning (and that’s bad). | iStock.com/bhofack2

Fruity Pebbles and Froot Loops don’t have real fruit in them, but that’s not their only offense. According to Authority Nutrition, the majority of breakfast cereals like your childhood favorites are heavily processed, high in sugar, and lack much nutritional value. Though many cereals are fortified with vitamins and made with whole grains, that really doesn’t make up for everything else that’s missing.

These healthy cereals can add fiber and even some protein to your breakfast.

4. Gluten-free everything

Many gluten-free snacks aren't actually healthy foods.

Gluten-free does not always equal healthy. | iStock.com

The good news is gluten-free diets have the potential to improve a person’s health while still allowing them to eat a variety of foods. Unfortunately, the foods they choose often come with appealing labels and little nutrition to accompany them. LiveScience says more people are going gluten-free than necessary, which is great news for food companies. There’s just something about a gluten-free cookie that, for some reason, makes it sound a lot healthier than it actually is.

If you’re going gluten-free, choose healthy snacks that are more than just junk foods without gluten in them.

5. Raisins

Raisins are often high in calories and sugar.

They aren’t the smartest snack on the shelf. | iStock.com

Raisins seem like the perfect thing to snack on when you’re trying to lose weight. They’re high in fiber, so eating a handful of raisins instead of a piece of candy can fend off cravings for unhealthy foods. Healthline warns, however, that raisins aren’t all that healthy themselves. Like other dried fruits in your favorite trail mix, they’re packed with sugar and calories in each tiny piece.

Incorporating small portions of raisins into other foods is the best way to take advantage of their antioxidant benefits without overloading your body with added sugars.

6. Muesli

Muesli isn't as healthy as you might think.

Would you eat this as a meal? | iStock.com/etienne voss

Don’t confuse foods that can be part of a nutritious meal or snack with foods that are healthy on their own. Muesli, a close relative of granola, is not really a healthy food by itself. For example, there are 140 calories and 5 grams of sugar per ¼-cup serving of Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli. And there are almost 3 grams of fat in every serving. With a smaller serving size, and paired with a healthier food, that extra fat wouldn’t matter quite so much.

If you still want to enjoy muesli every once in awhile, steer clear of brands that add too much sugar and saturated fat.

7. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is 90 percent saturated fat.

Probably don’t even put it in your mouth, ever. | iStock.com

Somewhere along the road to discovering healthier fats, coconut oil earned a reputation for being the ideal stand-in. It never really deserved it, though. According to Harvard Health Publications, coconut oil has a higher percentage of saturated fat than butter and lard. Too much saturated fat contributes to a number of diseases — which you’re increasing your risk for if you’ve fallen victim to the claim that oil from coconuts is healthy.

Coconut oil is great for your skin, nails, hair, and even your teeth.

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