Dr. Vivek Baliga B. is a consultant physician and cardiologist, and director of Baliga Diagnostics in Bengaluru. He is a keen advocate of patient education and loves to blog about all things health related. Learn more about him at drvivekbaliga.com.
The advertising world has changed a great deal over the last 2 decades. People who watch adverts playing over and over again, will many a times go on to believe that they need the product as it would be of some use to them. The same holds good for many foods that we eat. We buy them thinking they are 'healthy', but many a time they are everything but healthy.
Let's take Maggi noodles for example. For years it has been a favourite and holds an important place in the memories of one's childhood. The recent past has seen it laden with controversy, and its allegedly high lead content means that people now refrain from seeking it at shopping isles. There does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel for Nestle, and some countries where Maggi was being exported to have now started selling the product again, offering Nestle some relief.
So, are we really eating what is best for us by believing that they are healthy? Here we take a look at some of the common foods that we eat thinking are healthy but are not, in reality.
1. Fruit juices
There are many fruit juices currently available in the market, and many of these are advertised as 'healthy'. Words like 'fresh', 'packed with vitamins' and 'refreshing' are thrown at us, making us believe that drinking these juices every day can keep our body and mind healthy or give us a great start to the day. Unfortunately, fruit juices can in fact be quite unhealthy.
This may sound a little confusing for you; after all, how can something that is made from fruit be bad for you? Well, it's not the fruit content really-it's the sugar that is added to the juices to enhance its taste. Sugar in fruit juices is empty calories (calories that do not provide the body with energy). Empty calories are not utilised by the body and are instead converted to fat. Over time, this can lead to weight gain. This fact aside, fruit juices rarely have the fiber that they claim to contain. Most of the fiber is lost in the juicing process.
Finally, it takes more than one piece of fruit to make a glass of juice, and this can be a little too much.
Eat fresh fruit instead of drinking juices. Alternatively, you can make some fresh vegetable juices at home instead, which are significantly lower in calories.
2. Bakery foods
When walking past a bakery, the welcoming smell of fresh bread and other baked goods is sometimes enough to make you stop in your tracks. Indulging in bakery foods can sometimes be a devil in disguise - weight gain is an inevitable consequence. You may have thought that these foods are healthy, but that is far from the truth.
Most of the baked goods made in bakeries contain high quantities of maida (refined, bleached wheat flour) which does not possess any important health benefits. It can cause a drastic increase in sugar levels, and is particularly bad for people suffering from diabetes. Maida is used in the preparation of numerous baked foods, including doughnuts, pizzas and biscuits, all of which can cause weight gain if eaten regularly.
The health conscious are now pursuing alternatives such as 'fat-free foods' and 'sugar-free' baked foods. While these may sound like healthy foods, they have a number of additives in them such as sweetened dates and raisins which are a source of calories.
1. Opt for whole wheat items instead. Most bakeries now bake whole wheat bread and similar products, most of which are healthier than simple maida based foods.
2. Limit your visits to the bakery. If you feel like eating something sweet, have a piece of fruit instead.
3. Make sure you have a regular exercise plan to burn any extra calories you may consume.
3. Cereal bars
While these are not yet too popular in India, their use is rising amongst those who are on-the-go and prefer to eat breakfast on the way to work. Once again, cereal bars are packed with oats, fiber, seeds, vitamins, minerals etc., which we all know are great for our health.
But, many of these also contain a ton of sugar and other additives, all of which can be quite unhealthy. The portion size may look small, but over time the calorie intake adds up. In fact, some authorities have clearly stated that cereal bars do not deserve the 'healthy foods' tag that many attach to them. Some people have gone on to humorously call them 'cereal offenders'! And no, they are not a healthy snack for your kids!
Opt for fresh cooked oats in the morning instead. Add a few slices of fresh fruits or berries to it to make it even healthier.
4. Salad dressings
Salads are portrayed as a healthy food, and this has remained a fact for years. In the recent years however, salads are losing their reputation, and we can owe this change entirely to salad dressings.
Salads, on their own, can be quite tasteless, and adding a dressing to it makes it (to many) a delectable meal replacement. Salad dressings however, can be loaded with sugars, oils and artificial chemicals, all of which can impact your weight and ruin your diet. Take a look at the label on salad dressing bottles, and you will find a bunch of ingredients that you have never heard of. Trans fat contents in salad dressings can also be quite high, and this can lead to obesity and similar health problems.
Scoff down your salad without the dressing. If you need it, add a dash of olive oil or a splash of balsamic vinegar to make your salad a treat! These are just some of the foods that are currently available in India that are not really as healthy as you think they are.
This is just a brief list. We can find many more such items when we visit the local supermarket.
This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe Magazine November 2021 edition.