Monday, December 19, 2011

The Biggest Health Food Scams of 2011

The Biggest Health Food Scams of 2011

You might think you’re doing a good thing for your body when you buy the following 15 trendy foods. But do any actually live up to the hype?
Food marketing is a powerful thing. The right buzzword on a label or a convincing ad campaign can be enough to cause a run on acai berries, almond milk, or whatever else they’re selling. Because it’s natural! And fresh! And gluten-free! And delicious! And packed with fiber! And made with honey! You get the idea. The scary thing is that these claims sometimes work better than we think. In a recent study, participants who were asked to compare conventional and organic foods described organic cookies, potato chips, and yogurt as being tastier, higher in fiber, and lower in calories and fat, even though the foods in the two groups were identical. This “halo effect” (what is this?) that leads consumers to blindly believe a food is more nutritious than others is all too common, and it was in full force this year. From “fresh” fast food to all-natural Fritos, there were plenty of misleading “health foods” on the market in 2011, but no amount of spin can change the fact that these edibles are anything but wholesome. Here’s a look at 15 of the most deceiving items in stores and restaurants, and the facts about what’s really being sold.

Fruit and Vegetable Juices

Fruit and vegetables are good for you. And because you can squeeze way more of them into one glass of juice, liquefying them is the ultimate, no-hassle way to fill up on nutrients. At least that was the thought process behind the cleanse craze of 2011 . Yes, fruit and vegetable juice contains many   of the same vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals as whole produce.  But when the part you chew is removed, what’s left is not only concentrated nutrients, but also sugar  “Then with no fat or fiber to slow down the digestive process, hello insulin spike and hunger,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It. In addition to this nutritional pitfall, some scary questions were raised this year about the healthfulness of certain juices. In September, TV show host Mehmet Oz, MD, announced he’d found high levels of arsenic in several common apple juice products, and a recent Consumer Reports study found high levels of lead and arsenic in samples of 88 juices—mostly apple juice—of popular brands found in grocery stores. (Related: Is your drink making you fat? Make the most of every sip with
Diet Soda

It was a good year for diet soda—in the cola wars, Diet Coke overtook Pepsi as the second most popular soft drink in the United States. Diet Pepsi released a "taller, sassier new Skinny Can" in February that the company says is a "celebration of beautiful, confident women" and Diet Coke debuted a fancy, limited-edition can in September to mark Coca-Cola’s 125 birthday. Also in February, Dr. Pepper released a new diet soda aimed at men, Dr. Pepper 10. What these products are not advertising: Drinking diet soda actually causes weight gain and blood sugar spikes. According to new studies presented at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Diego, study subjects who drank two or more diet sodas a day had waist-size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn’t drink diet soda.
Natural Sweeteners

It was sweet to be a “natural” sugar this year. Natural sweeteners now rank second on the list of most-looked-for items on the ingredient label, after the type of fat/oil. But “to the body, sugar is sugar, whether it's in the form of honey, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, or whatever,” says Robert Davis, PhD, author of Coffee Is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims. Though these alternatives may sound healthier than regular sugar, there's scant evidence that our gut processes them any differently. Some people believe that the bee pollen in honey is a superfood with the potential to treat conditions such as allergies and asthma, but almost no scientific studies have backed up medical claims. Plus, a new report shows that most honey sold in the United States has had all the pollen filtered out, which negates any supposed health benefits and may indicate that it’s been ultrafiltered, a process that results in a substance that is not technically honey.
Flavored Greek Yogurt

With all the hype around its digestive health benefits, low sugar, and high protein content, Greek yogurt became a major health food player in 2011. Sales went through the roof—with the top 10 brands raking in over $1.9 billion for the year. Yoplait joined the party, too, but its version is dubious at best—made with "milk protein concentrate" and additives like gelatin instead of 100% strained yogurt like those made by Chobani, Fage, and Oikos. While plain, low-fat Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse, some of the flavored options pack more sugar per ounce than soda and ice cream  . Ouch. The worst offenders  Fage Total 2% With Honey at 29 g, Cabot 2% Strawberry at 24 g, Dannon 0% Honey and Chobani Blueberry Nonfat, each with 20 g. “One cup of milk has about 12 g of sugar, so a carton of Greek yogurt shouldn’t have much more than that,” says Taub-Dix.
The Healthy Happy Meal

Following McDonald’s Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices initiative announced in July, the company launched a new Happy Meal menu in September. The kids’ meal now touts a smaller serving of french fries   a 1.2-ounce helping of apple slices  and fat-free chocolate or 1% white milk instead of soda. But the price is the same even if diners request more fries or soda. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction. But a measly half serving of fruit and sugary chocolate milk can’t save a meal based on a fatty hamburger, cheeseburger, or Chicken McNuggets, plus fried potatoes. “I wouldn't call this meal ‘healthy’ by any stretch of the imagination,” says Davis.
Gluten-Free Foods

The latest villain in the diet world, gluten—a protein compound found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye—has been blamed for things like headaches and weight gain. In 2011, gluten-free labels popped up on everything from coffee  to snack foods   Sales reached $1.2 billion last year, more than double that of 5 years ago. Sure, skipping the giant bowl of pasta, garlic bread, and croissants in favor of meat, fresh produce, and dairy can do a body good. But “processed foods specially formulated to be gluten-free are often higher in calories and sugar, and lower in fiber and B vitamins than their gluten-containing counterparts—and they’re twice as expensive,” says Davis. While these items are great for people diagnosed with celiac disease  or gluten intolerance—“they offer zero health benefits to the vast majority of us,” he says.
Pasta Made with Veggies

Kraft is the latest food giant to promote hiding veggies in packaged foods. Walmart and Target started stocking Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner Veggie Pasta in June, and the Barilla Piccolini Veggie line hit shelves just a few weeks later. Both tout a whole serving of vegetables in each helping of pasta. But can you really get the same benefits of vegetables from neon-orange mac and cheese? Take a guess. “Vegetables that are freeze-dried, powdered, and mixed into processed foods don't pack the same nutritional punch as whole vegetables,” says Davis. Plus, you’re losing one of the top benefits of whole veggies for people trying to fill up their bellies for fewer calories: volume, points out Taub-Dix
Sea Salt

Wendy’s released a sea salt version of its french fries at the end of 2010—just a glimpse of what was to come in 2011. Almost every major brand of potato chip offers a sea salt flavor, and other big brands like Planters and Campbell’s also has jumped on this bandwagon. Unfortunately, salt is salt. “By weight, both sea salt and regular table salt contain the same amount of sodium, which is what poses a health risk,” says Davis. Another thing you may not realize—it doesn’t matter what form those little white crystals take, or what it says on the package label, all salt comes from the sea.
All-Natural" Snacks

The FDA hasn’t officially defined “natural” yet, but it was one of the hottest buzzwords of 2011. Sales of all-natural products grew about 14% over the past 2 years, compared with 4% for the whole savory snack category. On cue, Frito-Lay announced in March that it will ditch monosodium glutamate  and other artificial ingredients in more than 60 snack varieties   by the end of 2011. But even without chemical additives, these snacks are still fat, salt, and sugar bombs that should be eaten in very small quantities. In related news: Doritos and Cheetos will remain unabashedly unnatural. “Those products, with bold flavors, are harder to retool and are marketed to teens and other consumers who might be turned off if told the chips were all-natural,” reports the Wall Street Journal. So natural is a marketing term after all. We thought so.

Shoppers are more interested than ever in knowing where their food comes from and 83% say food traditions are important. When a food is made with care it means the ingredients are high-quality, which makes it healthy, right? Not necessarily. Take Domino’s new line of artisan thin crust pizzas with toppings like spinach and feta, sausage and peppers, and salami and roasted veggies. Each box bears an inscription that reads: “Though we may not be artisans in the traditional sense, inside this box you’ll find a handmade pizza crafted with the kind of passion and integrity that just might convince you we are. Which is why every single Domino's Artisan Pizza we make comes signed by the person responsible for it.” A nice sentiment, but even if the Domino’s employees really do lovingly craft these pies, it doesn’t change the provenance of the ingredients. With 150 to 160 calories and 7 g of fat or less per slice, the artisan pizzas have a reasonable nutrition profile, but they’re no better than any other thin crust option with veggie toppings.
"High Fiber" Claims

Almost 50% of shoppers now look for fiber content in packaged products, and as people want to take in more nutrients at every meal, it’s no wonder fiber claims spiked in 2011—especially on dessert items like Fiber One’s 90-calorie Brownie. The catch? You’ll pay more for these products with added fiber, which food companies use to jack up their numbers to impressive-sounding levels. With ingredients like inulin , maltodextrin , and sorbitol , these fakers don’t have the same health benefits as naturally occurring fiber, says Taub-Dix. Plus, they cause major bloating and stomachaches, she adds. That piece of fruit is looking mighty appealing after all
"Light" Restaurant Options

The Cheesecake Factory, infamous for its endless variety of diet-wrecking appetizers and massive entrées that contain a full day’s worth of calories, introduced the lower-cal SkinnyLicious menu in August. Featuring 40 dishes that have fewer than 590 calories and five Skinny cocktails with less than 150 calories, it sounds promising. And it is. Better than the rest of the menu, that is. But many of the dishes still come in massive portions, are served with refined carbs like white rice or fried tortilla strips, and are dripping with oil, dressing, and sauce.
EVOO Can Do No Wrong

Just because a dish is made with extra virgin olive oil doesn’t make it healthy. Olive oil is still fattening (it contains 2,000 calories per cup!). Canola oil has a similar nutritional profile, and some products that tout it—like Weaver’s gold popcorn, which hit shelves in April—still hide hydrogenated oil   in the ingredient list. “While olive oil is definitely a good alternative to butter, margarine, or shortening, it may not even be the best option,” says Davis. It's been praised because it’s relatively high in monounsaturated fat. “But research overall suggests that polyunsaturated fat may be more beneficial than monounsaturated fat,” he says.
"Fresh" Fast Food

The latest company to join Wendy’s and Subway by latching on to the fresh, whole-food trend that gained major momentum in 2011? Fast food giant, Burger King, home of the enormous, messy Whopper. In an attempt to overhaul its image, the company released a new version of its beloved burger in August: the limited-time California version is “fresh” because it features—gasp—guacamole!  The accompanying TV commercial plays up the freshness of the ingredients with visuals of lettuce and tomatoes being washed and sliced in slow motion, set to pulsating music. Before you go into a trance and actually start believing a “guac’d and grilled” Whopper with “ripe tomatoes and crisp lettuce” is any better for you than the flame-broiled Whopper of yesteryear, here’s a little reality check: At 820 calories, it has almost 25% more calories than a regular Whopper, at 670 calories.

"Healthy" Candy

Natural candy certified as organic infused with antioxidants made with honey and touting lower calories (Skinny Cow’s chocolate candy), exploded in 2011. But guess what the number one ingredient in candy is? Some type of sugar. And as established earlier, natural doesn’t always mean nutritious, and all sugar is created equal once it goes into our mouths. Plus, most of these “healthy” candies are comparable to conventional kinds. For example, six pieces of Skinny Cow Dreamy Clusters packs 120 calories—exactly the amount found in six Hershey’s Caramel Kisses. And even though they’re nutritionally similar, the diet candy may be less satisfying: A recent study from Yale University found that people who were told they were drinking a 620-calorie milk shake experienced a faster drop in the hunger hormone ghrelin compared with those drinking a milk shake they were told contained 140 calories  The slower drop in ghrelin can cause a delay in satiety that may lead people to take in more calories from foods labeled as healthy.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best Buy Coupons