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8 "Healthy" Foods That Are Not Actually Healthy

Don't be misled by the health halo of these seemingly healthy foods.
8 "Healthy" Foods That Are Not Actually Healthy
Last updated:
7/19/2022
Medically Reviewed by:

Proper nutrition and a healthy diet can support proper thyroid function. Key nutrients drive thyroid hormone production, and deficiencies can worsen symptoms and prevent thyroid medication from doing its job. With chronic illnesses at near-epidemic proportions, understanding what you eat has never been more critical.


Ahead, a look at eight "healthy" foods that are, in fact, possibly unhealthy for you.


1. Most salad dressings


The vegetables that you put in your salad have numerous health benefits. But when you coat that salad in dressing, it takes away many of the benefits. Processed or commercial-grade salad dressing is often full of sugar, trans fats, vegetable oils, and chemicals that extend their shelf life. Furthermore, most of us find the taste of dry salad alone to be less than appealing, so we load up on the dressing.


To reap the benefits of all the beautiful nutrients packed in the greens, consider adding a home-made dressing to control the ingredients. Try mixing three parts olive oil (healthy fat with anti-inflammatory properties) to one part lemon juice or vinegar and top with your favorite herbs. 


2. Processed low-fat or fat-free foods


Years ago, fats found in food were deemed as bad. And indeed, excess quantities of saturated fats can have health consequences. However, food manufacturers took what little was understood about fats and ran with it, removing the fat content from foods. 


Unfortunately, when there is no fat in food, it does not taste the same as when the product is in its original form. Hence, manufacturers added sugar to increase the taste. Keep in mind that some fats are an essential part of your diet and lower your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. 


Be wary of foods marketed as "low-fat" or "fat-free." These foods likely have additives or sugar that carry more health consequences than products left in their original form.  


3. Gluten-free snacks


Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat products that can cause sensitivities, allergies, and even illness in people with celiac disease. We often think of gluten-free foods as healthy. And indeed, foods that are naturally gluten-free, like meats and produce, are generally healthier. However, sometimes when foods are made gluten-free, other ingredients take its place like refined sugars or starches. Therefore, many gluten-free snacks tend to be nutrient-poor and may cause your blood sugar to increase.


4. Sports drinks


When a company markets a product to athletes, it must be full of good things to keep your body energized, right? Well, not necessarily. 


Energy from food comes in different forms - not all of which are good for you. Sports drinks tend to be high in electrolytes (salts) and sugar, which can help if you need quick bursts of energy. But when people drink them when they are not expending a lot of energy, these drinks elevate your sodium and raise your blood sugar


Whether you are working out or just going about your day-to-day activities, water is generally best.


5. Diet soda


Diet soda contains carbonated water, artificial or natural sweeteners, dyes, flavorings, and food additives. Most diet sodas are calorie-free, yet, scientific evidence conflicts about whether diet soda has adverse effects on your health. Some studies show that the sweeteners in diet soda increase your satiety, making you less likely to eat foods with valuable calories. 


6. Processed low carb snacks


Low-carb diets are effective in helping people lose weight. In light of this, food manufacturing companies have realized that people are finding success with low-carb diets, so they create processed low-carb snacks. These snacks are often laden with refined ingredients and chemicals, leaving them void of any real food. Thus, even though these snacks are low in carbohydrates, they lack no real nutrients.


7. Most cereals


Regrettably, our favorite way to start our day tends to be highly processed and modified. Cereals are often made with refined grains, sugars, and artificial chemicals to enhance flavor, texture, and prolong shelf life—even those that claim to be "whole grain" or "heart-healthy." Instead, look for items that list a whole grain first in the ingredients instead of enriched flour or "multi-grain."


8. Agave nectar


The standard American diet has too much sugar, which has lead to a rise in chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity. Thus, many people opt for natural sweeteners to satisfy their sweet tooth without spiking their blood sugar. 


Agave nectar was all the rage for quite a while. Still, studies show that agave contains even higher fructose levels than corn syrup, making you more likely to gain weight and develop insulin resistance.  


Tips for grocery shopping


Make a list

Plan your meals for the week ahead of time and make a list for the grocery store. A list helps you stay focused, avoid buying less-healthy items, and stick to your budget. 


Whole foods are best

Look for foods that are untampered with, such as fruits, vegetables, and meat. A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that do not require an ingredients label. 


Read the nutrition labels

Read the entire nutrition label, not just the claims on the front of the item that says "fat-free" or "low-carb."


Shop the perimeter

The grocery store's outer edges mostly contain whole foods, whereas the inner aisles typically store processed foods. 


Avoid shopping on an empty stomach

Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to impulse purchases out of hunger.


A note from Paloma Health

Many nutritional and lifestyle factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. Paloma Health offers you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist in collaboration with a thyroid physician to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health and build healthy habits.

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Julia Walker, RN, BSN

Clinical Nurse

Julia Walker, RN, BSN, is a clinical nurse specializing in helping patients with thyroid disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Regis University in Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Medicine from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She believes managing chronic illnesses requires a balance of medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Her background includes caring for patients in women’s health, critical care, pediatrics, allergy, and immunology.

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