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Sham Health Foods

Paul Aitken considers if some of these health foods are as beneficial to us as they promoted to be.

Every week there seems to be a new superfood hitting the market. There is something else we should be eating to boost our health and wellbeing and to prolong our lives. It is hard to keep up, especially when a lot of the so-called "health" food out there may actually be doing you more harm than good.

Detox Teas and Slimming Teas

The word "detox" has been overused and incorrectly used. But it is a broad term, one that could define many aspects of many drugs. "Slimming teas", however, are a different story altogether.

Slimming teas are often used interchangeably with detox teas. There are some brands who will use the same two buzzwords on their product packaging. They are designed to help you lose weight and to get rid of these "toxins" that the health food companies keep warning us about. But most of it is nonsense and some of it may actually be doing you more harm than good.

There are slimming teas out there that are loaded with senna, a potent laxative which will do nothing but make you go to the toilet. They do this because many of us are constipated to some degree and if we take a natural laxative like this then we will have fuller bowel movements. That will make us feel lighter and may even shed a pound off the scales. Add some diuretics in as many of them do and you will also expel a lot of excess water.

You are technically losing weight, so they are not lying, but it is a deceptive form of weight-loss and if you drink these teas regularly as many customers do then you run the risk of developing bowel and bladder problems. It is not just dodgy slimming websites selling teas like this either as many Holland and Barrett slimming teas fall into the same category.

Agave Syrup

This supposedly natural sugar alternative was touted as a healthier sugar. It has been used as a replacement for sugar and sweeteners and a couple of years ago you would have to look long and hard to find a health site that did not claim it to be the best thing since sliced bread.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case and many health sites are now waking up to the truth, something that a handful of experts have known for a long time: agave syrup is much worse than sugar.

It is highly processed and very high in fructose, much more so than high-fructose corn syrup in fact. Fructose is the root of all evil when it comes to sugar and agave syrup is basically 100% fructose. It can lead to increased fat storage, insulin sensitivity and other serious issues that drastically reduce your lifespan.

Low-Fat Foods

Fats are not the root of all evil. They might make you fat if you eat a lot of them because they are calorie dense and have a lower thermic effect than other macronutrients, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are actually good for you and even saturated fats may be beneficial.

Not only do low-fat foods cut down on all of this, but they contain other ingredients to make up for the lack of them. They tend to contain more sugar than full-fat versions and they also add gelatine and other additives to create the "full-mouth feel" that is lost when you take away the fat.

Olive Oil

Let us get one thing out of the way: olive oil is very good for you. it has been connected with many health benefits and is a great thing to include in your diet.

However, it is not the magical elixir that many seem to think it is. Olive oil is very calorie dense. One cup of olive oil contains nearly 2,000 calories, while 1 tablespoon has 120. What is more, if you use olive oil to cook with then it is just as unhealthy as other oils. It produces carcinogenic compounds when heated past its smoke point and it begins to break down, losing health benefits.

Olive oil is a little better at resisting this than other oils, but it is still at its best when eaten in small amounts completely raw.

Olive oil is added to hair care products and skin care products, even though there is little supporting data to say it is beneficial, and there are also many proponents who think that this "superfood" is so good it can be given to pets. Olive oil should not be given to cats or dogs because it can cause many health problems short-term and long-term. It should go without saying (after all, they live on a diet rich in protein and low in fat) but unfortunately, there are still those who have not grasped this and think olive oil will cure everything.

As good as it is, that is just not the case.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • ATKIN, P. (2018) Sham Health Foods [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article326.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Paul Aitken is a freelance writer and the author of The Online Writer's Companion. He writes under several different pseudonyms and his work has featured on many of the web's biggest sites, including many major print publications in the UK and US.

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