Informational Articles

5 Trendy Health Foods That Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be

PHOTOGRAPH BY SCHON & PROBST/GETTY IMAGES
If your next-door neighbor, your college pal who you still follow on Facebook, and your yoga instructor are all buzzing about a miracle food, it’s gotta be good, right? Sure, maybe. Or maybe not. When it comes to health foods, the trendiness-as-truthfulness model doesn’t always apply.

Skeptical? Just look at these 5 crazy popular picks. They might be flooding your Pinterest feed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve a daily spot in your diet.

Coconut oil

It’s touted as the clean, healthy lipid. But there isn’t actually much research showing that coconut oil is better for you than other types of saturated fat. (Sorry!) In fact, a recent Nutrition Reviews analysis of 21 studies concluded that swapping coconut oil for a source of unsaturated fat—like olive oil—would be more beneficial for cholesterol levels and heart health.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need to avoid coconut oil. Just make an effort to mix things up, experts suggest. If you add coconut oil (we like thisOrganic Coconut Oil for Dietary Health) to your smoothie at breakfast, for instance, use olive oil when you roast vegetables for dinner. All things in moderation, right?

If you don’t have celiac disease and still want to give a gluten-free diet a try, fine. Though there’s no proof that it offers any benefits, plenty of people do say that it leaves them feeling better. But don’t be fooled into thinking that GF bread is automatically healthier than your trusty loaf of whole wheat. Most gluten-free breads are made from refined flours and starches, and are loaded with extra fat and sugar to achieve a bread-like texture.

If you opt to eat gluten-free bread, make sure it’s made from whole grains (like brown rice or oats), is low in sugar, and is high in fiber. Or, just get your carbs from unprocessed sources, like gluten-free whole grains or sweet potatoes.

The tart, fizzy drink is credited as a cure for everything from digestive woes to joint pain to cancer. But you shouldn’t fall for the hype, because there’s virtually no evidence that kombucha can help with any of these things. And while nutritional stats differ by brand (or homemade batch), most kombuchas contain some amount of refined sugar—something none of us need more of in our diets.

What about the beneficial probiotics, you say? Yes, kombucha is a fermented food, and fermented foods promote better gut health. So sip it once in a while, if you really crave the stuff, and opt for a low-sugar variety with less than 4 grams per bottle. Just know that you’re better off getting the majority of your happy-belly bugs from foods that offer other good for you stuff, like plain yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut, or tempeh.

Juices made with kale, spinach, and other green vegetables are obviously loaded with good-for-you vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. But they’re also completely devoid of fiber, and if your juice is made with lots of fruit to make it sweet, it’s also likely loaded with sugar. That’s the kind of combo that can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash, leaving you cranky and hungry within an hour or two after downing your drink.

If you want to drink your vegetables, you’re better off adding them to a smoothie. By sipping the whole vegetable—fiber and all—you’ll reap the digestion-slowing benefits. And if you don’t want to abandon your beloved green juice completely? Fine, you don’t have to. Just stick with these simple guidelines to ensure you’re getting one that’s relatively good for you.

The fact that it’s dairy-free and low in calories has pretty much made it the default milk among health-conscious eaters. And though unsweetened almond milk, like dairy milk, is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, it’s really low in protein. (Just 1 or 2g protein in a one-cup serving.) So if you’re using it in a smoothie, with cereal, or in oatmeal, you’ve gotta make sure you have another source of protein—like whole nuts or seeds, nut butter, or an egg.

More concerning is the fact that many store-bought almond milks contain the thickener carrageenan. Even though it’s derived from natural sources, like red seaweed, some findings suggest could be linked to inflammation and gut irritation. If you opt to drink the stuff, consider making your own, or look for carrageenan-free almond milks (like Whole Foods’ 365 brand or Califia Farms)

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