Fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free – when it comes to eating healthy, we’re given an abundance of options that all claim to be better for your body. But does the box of Oreos that you’ve just picked up with “sugar-free” printed across the box really mean that we can tuck in without feeling any guilt? Here to clear things up once and for all is certified mindfulness life coach and blogger, Living Life with Jen, who gives us the lowdown on how these so called “healthy” foods can affect our body, and what we can do to eat better.
1. Sugar-free Labels
While diet Coke and sugar-free cookies may sound like a more sensible way to go about curbing your sugar cravings, the truth is, they have the complete opposite effect of what you think. Not only do all the artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohol, and other chemicals used to replace sugar, load up your calorie intake, they can actually damage your brain, liver, and other vital organs. So even when something claims to be “sugar-free”, if there are any ingredients in the food labelling that you can barely even pronounce, then it’s probably safer for you to throw it back on the shelf.
2. Fat-free Labels
Ever wondered why certain brands of fat-free yoghurt taste exactly the same as regular ones? The answer is sugar – lots and lots of sugar. Next time you’re about to pick up something in the supermarket that is labelled “fat-free”, “low-fat”, or “reduced fat”, check the sugar and sodium level of the product, and you will be surprised just how much hidden sugar, carbs, and salt you have been consuming.
3. Gluten-free Labels
We’re always hearing gluten-free this, and gluten-free that, but is it really good for you? While gluten-free foods can be good for you to a certain extent (after all, gluten can damage the gut lining and cause digestion problems), they are likely to spike your blood sugar levels far higher and quicker than other foods that contain gluten. In addition, it is important to be aware of all the “gluten-free” cookies, chips, pizzas, and brownies etc, as they can be highly processed and contain cheap grains, refined oil, artificial sugar, and GMOs.
4. Natural Labels
Food and beverages which claim to be “natural” are just products which don’t contain anything artificial. This label does not mean that the product is hormone-free, GMO-free, or even organic. Foods labelled as natural, all natural, or 100% natural, such as fruit juices, can be high in sodium, sugar, and fat. In fact, even foods with high fructose corn syrup (one of the most addictive sugars) can be labeled as natural too!
5. How to Eat Safe
Want to consume better food and drink? Well first of all, make sure you always read the food labelling whenever you purchase packaged foods. Check the sugar and sodium level, and remember that our bodies only need 6 to 9 tsp (1tsp = 4g) of sugar, and 1,500 mg of sodium, per day.
Secondly, choose real foods and whole foods. You can buy fresh, local, and organic produce at any wet market you go to, so instead of wracking your brain trying to make sense of all the misleading food labels, be responsible for your own health, and choose food without packaging whenever possible.
Finally, get some expert help. No matter how conscious you think you are on your health journey, there are always blind spots. Getting someone professional to help steer you in the right direction can make all the difference.
Read more! Check out our 6 Tried and Tested Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress, and explore the rest of our Wellness section.