8 so-called “health foods” that aren’t as healthy as you thought

Some healthy foods can contain large amounts of hidden unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium that can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Amar Shere, a cardiologist at Morristown Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, told HuffPost.

It’s essential to be aware of these potential culprits and make informed choices when dealing with food products marketed as healthy, he said. Here are some foods that nutrition experts recommend limiting or avoiding.

Granola bars

Granola bars can be considered healthy snacks because of their association with whole grains, nuts and seeds, Shere said. But many contain large amounts of sugar, refined grains, hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors and colors. Sometimes they’re also high in calories and low in protein and fiber, which keep you fuller for longer.

Huntriss recommended comparing granola or cereal bar products and choosing those with less sugar and more fiber, and that list whole ingredients.

Flavored yogurt

Yogurt is often promoted as a high-protein, low-calorie option. But the yogurt aisle contains a wide variety of options. Barabasi said many flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. She suggested choosing unflavored yogurt as often as you can, or at least the option with less sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that men consume 36 grams (9 teaspoons) or less of added sugar, and women should have no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons). However, research shows that organic yogurts can have an average of 13 grams of sugar per cup.

Delicious meat

Lean turkey or other tender meat is sometimes recommended as a healthy snack before or after a workout. But not all meats are created equal. Some can be high in sodium and low in protein, and contain nitrates and nitrites, which have been linked to cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The World Health Organization classifies processed meats as carcinogenic.

This type of meat is one that I highly recommend limiting or eliminating in your diet, Shere said. It’s better to choose freshly cooked, unprocessed meat or low-sodium deli meats, or load up your sandwiches with tofu, avocado, or nut butter.

Anything that contains powdered vegetables

Powdered greens for smoothies, such as AG1 or Your Super Green Mix, may contain some nutrients, but Huntriss said they typically lack fiber. Most people don’t get enough fiber, which is found in whole foods and is vital for gut and heart health.

The same goes for veggie straws and other snacks made with other powdered vegetables, Nelson said. These snacks may also contain added salt and sugar. It is best to eat fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables.

coconut oil

Coconut oil can be great for hair and skin, Shere said. But it is not the best cooking oil, despite popular belief that it is healthy. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol, causing plaque to build up in the arteries and increasing the risk of heart disease. Olive, canola, and avocado oils are healthier choices because they are made mostly from unsaturated fats. If you want to use coconut oil in your cooking, use it sparingly.


Store-bought fruit juice often contains added sugar and other additives, so it’s always best to eat a whole piece of fruit that contains fiber. A one-cup serving of orange juice can have about 8 grams of sugar, and apple juice can contain nearly 10 grams. It is recommended that men have no more than 9 grams of sugar a day and women 6 grams. Still, if you want to drink fruit juice, just compare the products to choose the option with less sugar and fewer ingredients. Also, be careful with juice cleanses or detoxes, Huntriss said. We have organs in the body that do this, including the liver.

Plant-based meat substitutes

Cutting back on meat can benefit your health, said Shere, who is vegan. But many plant-based meat substitutes contain excess sugar, salt and fat, and some may even fall into the ultra-processed category, Nelson said.

As HuffPost previously reported, the Beyond and Impossible burgers contain coconut oil, giving them saturated fat levels comparable to beef: Beyond has 6 grams, Impossible 8 grams and beef 7.6 grams.

Instead, Shere suggested choosing avocado, beans, tempeh or tofu, which are highly nutritious plant proteins that are minimally processed.

Organic snacks

Cookies, chips and other snacks labeled as organic can give the impression that they are healthier than they are, Shere said. However, these items are often just as high in sugar, unhealthy fats and calories as the non-organic versions. They are also likely to lack essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Here’s an example: Annies Organic Cheddar Bunnies contain 140 calories per 51 cookies (30 grams), 260 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of fat and 18 grams of carbohydrates. On the other hand, Pepperidge Farms Goldfish Original Crackers have 140 calories per 55 crackers (30 grams), as well as 6 grams of fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 20 grams of carbohydrates.

Balance is the key to a healthy diet

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