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10 health foods that aren't really good for you

You are running from meeting to meeting with no time for a proper meal so you dash into the nearest mall to grab a quick bite. You don't want to settle for junk food so you are happy to spot a health food shop. You order a bran muffin and a fresh fruit smoothieand walk out with a spring in your step you have done your body a favour. Except you haven't. You, like countless other women, have fallen prey to the health food marketing trap. Yes, many foods promoted as healthy quite simply are not. To help you make better food choices and do your body a real favour here are the top ten healthy foods to avoid.

The muffin
Even with added bran or fruit, muffins are still made with the same basic ingredients as cake. They are full of sugar and starches simply a carb bomb.

Healthy alternative: Snack on fresh fruit and nuts or make yourself a slice of low-GI or wholegrain toast with peanut butter.

Sports drinks
You are supposed to have these at the gym, right? That is what they are designed for? Not really. Sports drinks are made to replace electrolytes and give an energy boost to athletes doing intense and long cardiovascular workouts, like running marathons. Sports drinks are packed with calories and sugars that the average exerciser just doesn't need.

Healthy alternative: Drink water. That is it. Seriously.

Brown bread
While they are still marginally better than plain old white bread, most brown breads simply have only a portion of wholegrain flour and even brown colouring added to their mix. Check labels for breads that are made with wheat flour as the main ingredient (it will appear first on the label) and pass on those.

Healthy alternative: Whole grain, multigrain or Low-GI breads made with a large proportion (they will appear first on the label) of wholegrain flour or meal.

Juices and smoothies
The problem with drinking fruit juices is that you are gulping down a huge amount of sugar with no beneficial fibre. Although smoothies contain fruit fibre it has generally been destroyed by the blending process. Also, if you eat fruit, you will generally stop at one serving, but if you drink a juice or smoothie, you are getting the sugar from multiple servings of fruit!

Healthy alternative: Eat your fruit; drink water. Put a slice of lemon in your water if you want to add some flavour and make it more palatable.

Dressed salads
You know that salads are good for your health but did you know that many foods on the salad section of the menu are more like desserts? Caramelised nuts, bacon, creamy dressings and croutons are not health foods.

Healthy alternative: Order a real salad with the least troublesome ingredients and dress it yourself with lemon, vinegar and olive oil.

Low-fat yoghurts, drinking yoghurts and frozen yoghurts
The common denominator here is the word yoghurt, which has been given a free pass as a healthy food no matter what else has been added to it. Low-fat fruit yoghurts and drinking yoghurts generally have loads of added sugar and frozen yoghurts are packed full of additives and flavourants.

Healthy alternative: Choose a low-fat or full-fat unsweetened yoghurt and add your own fruits (berries are great) and minimal sugar or honey if you must.

Honey
Honey is really just sugar refined by bees - both contain glucose and fructose. Honey has more calories than sugar but is sweeter so people may use less. While honey does contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals these are not enough to justify heaping spoons of the stuff into your tea.

Healthy alternative: There really is no alternative, because artificial sweeteners are not that great for you either. Use sugar or honey in moderation, and try to curb your sweet tooth. If you must use a sweetener, go for something with xylitol and be sure to avoid aspartame.

Sugar-free soft drinks
Aspartame is really bad for you. It can trigger or worsen a host of diseases, including brain tumours, diabetes, lymphoma and epilepsy. And soft drinks are full of other chemicals almost none of them natural and almost all of them bad for you.

Healthy alternative: You guessed it… drink water.

Health bars
Remember, just because they are called health doesn't mean they are healthy. These bars may promise you high fibre or protein, but that is usually all they have to offer. And again, they are packed full of sugar.

Healthy alternative: Snack on an apple, a slice of cheese and some dried fruit for all the purported benefits of a health bar and none of the downsides.

Your healthy breakfast cereal
The box promises you added nutrients or vitamins but that does not mean that the cerealthey have been added to is good for you. Cereals are generally made by a process called extrusion, which destroys nutrients and forms new, synthetic compounds. Even granola and muesli often have too much added sugar.

Healthy alternative: Select cereal or muesli made with whole grains and containing lots of fibre. Check that the sugar content is not too high (the American Heart Association says that women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, so check your muesli's ingredients label and keep track of your other sources of sugar.

Final word
Remember, there is no reason to drop all these foods entirely. Just remember that despite the healthy branding they aren't good for you. Enjoy them as often as you would a slice of cake or an English breakfast.

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