iStock
iStock

11 “Healthy” Foods That Are Actually No Good

iStock
iStock

Eating well is hard enough without imposters and secret saboteurs getting in the way. We’re calling bluff on these 11 sneakily sinful foods masquerading as healthy. 

1. CEREAL

You should always turn a more discerning eye toward processed foods, and cereal is one of the worst offenders when it comes to misleading labels. The big trouble here is sugar. Cereals that are marketed as healthy often contain even more sugar than those traditionally considered sweet and unwholesome, and a single bowl can often account for your entire recommended daily intake of the sweet stuff. That fact is often overlooked by shoppers who zero in on the promise of whole grains, fiber, or protein, and fail to check out the nitty-gritty on the label. While those ingredients are good—though often synthetically added—their benefits don’t outweigh the sugar overload. 

2. FRUIT JUICE 

It’s pretty well established that store-bought fruit juice can be troublesome because it contains high fructose corn syrup. But it’s okay if you sip all-natural, 100 percent juice, right? Not so much. While a glass of orange juice might be better than a can of soda, it still contains a lot of sugar—several fruits worth—without many of the benefits you reap by eating a piece of nature’s candy in its entirely, like nutrients and fiber. If you’re going to drink juice, keep portions small and consider diluting with water. Same goes for smoothies and dried fruit, which are also known for hiding a lot of extra calories and sugar behind a healthful mask.

3. LOW OR REDUCED FAT FOODS

Low fat foods were all the rage years ago until people started realizing that in order to get rid of one bad thing, you often had to replace it with another bad thing. When they took the good, healthy fats out of peanut butter, for example, manufacturers found they needed to add more sugar and sodium in order to keep the taste the same. As such, the new, low-fat product usually has the same amount of calories as the original, but less fat and more sugar. That's a losing trade for those looking to make the healthiest choice. Among their many virtues, healthy fats (the unsaturated variety) help to tell your body when it's full and will therefore keep you from overeating.

4. MUFFINS 

Muffins are great. Part of the reason they’re so great? They often taste a lot like cake. Even the healthiest-seeming muffin type, the beloved bran, is often full of sugar, salt, and other unhealthy added ingredients like preservatives. Store-bought muffins are particularly dangerous, so if you’re craving the sweet breakfast treat, it’s best to make it from scratch. This way you can reduce the processed ingredients and control the portions, which are often outrageously hefty at the corner café (muffin sizes have increased by up to four times since the 1980s). 

5. EGG SUBSTITUTES

This is another case where fat gets a bad rap. People opt for egg white-only products because they contain all the protein of whole eggs and none of the fat or cholesterol. The truth is, the yolks in whole eggs can help increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) when eaten in moderation. Plus, they’re full of real nutrients like iron and vitamins. Generally speaking, egg substitutes aren't bad for you, but they’re often touted as a healthier option when the real thing is in fact the better choice for most of us. 

6. AVOCADOS

While we’re on the subject of healthy fats, let’s turn our attention to everyone’s favorite health food: the avocado. It’s delicious, nutritious (hello monounsaturated fats), and, unfortunately, super easy to overindulge in. Snacking on too many avocados can lead to weight gain when people don’t adjust their diets accordingly, as one avocado has almost a third of your recommended daily fat intake. Just like eggs, moderation is the name of the game here. If you stay mindful, you and your precious fruit (it’s actually a berry!) will never have to break up. 

7. BARS (PROTEIN, GRANOLA, ENERGY, CEREAL)

Few things in this world are as convenient as a granola bar. It’s fast, easy, ready-to-go, and easy to pack. Unfortunately, that convenience comes at a price. Generally speaking, the snackable bars contain a lot of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, carbohydrates, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and a whole lot of calories. More specifically, the soy protein found in protein bars is heavily processed and stripped of most of its nutritional value, and energy bars are usually meant for people like athletes who use them as a meal replacement or to compensate for the large amount of calories they’re burning on the regular. Many energy and protein bars have more calories than a candy bar. 

8. SPORTS DRINKS 

If you’re not a hardcore athlete, you probably don’t need a sports drink. These colorful concoctions are full of electrolytes that help athletes refuel after intense workouts, but they also have a lot of sugar and calories. Sports drinks are rarely better than plain old water for most of us who need to hydrate after 30 minutes on the treadmill. 

9. “WHOLE GRAIN” and “WHOLE WHEAT” BREADS

When standing in front of the bread shelf at the grocery store, it seems like every package contains words like “multi-grain” or “whole wheat”—but you must look to the nutrition label to make sure your breadbasket is stocked with the healthiest goods. The imposters are often made with enriched, refined grains that have fewer nutritional benefits, so flip that loaf over and check to make sure the first ingredient is “whole wheat flour” and not “wheat flour" or "enriched wheat flour." As for grains, look for ingredients like oats, brown rice, wheat berries, bran, buckwheat, whole-grain sorghum, whole rye, buckwheat or barley. Basically, ask your bread to name names before you take it home with you.

10. SALAD

In pure concept, salad is a great choice if you want to eat right and stay healthy. The problem comes when we try to gussy our salads up with things like glazed nuts, fried chicken, cheese, bread, dried fruit, and worst of all, salad dressing. Bottled salad dressings—especially creamy ones—are loaded with fat, sugar, and calories, with almost no nutritional value. You’re better off mixing your own dressings at home, which is a lot easier than you might think: All you need is a little balsamic vinegar or olive oil and lemon. Lastly, choose your lettuce wisely: Arugula and spinach are princes to iceberg’s pauper (if we’re equating nutrients with wealth).

11. WRAPS

The healthy eater is drawn to a wrap as a lighter sandwich alternative, but the tortillas and flatbreads they come in can be deceptively high in calories. A better bet is whole grain bread (a good source of fiber), which also has plenty of room to stack up your favorite healthy sandwich ingredients.

Sorry we’re not sorry if we just ruined your “healthy” afternoon snack. For more truth bombs, tune in to Adam Ruins Everything on truTV Tuesdays at 10/9C.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
11 Vacation Scams That Dupe Tourists
iStock
iStock

Vacation is a time to unwind, have a few beers or tropical cocktails, and let your guard down a bit. Which is exactly why con artists have come up with so many vacation-themed scams. Unfortunately for vacationers looking to soak in some sun or explore a new city, con artists know that the best time to dupe someone is when they’re taking a break in an unfamiliar place. Here are few vacation scams—ranging from predictable to truly bizarre—to look out for on your next vacation.

1. MONEY WIRING

Watch out for hijacked Craigslist ads for vacation rentals: Some scam artists not only post fake ads, but also copy real ones. They simply change the contact information and ask unsuspecting victims to wire them payment. Before you know it, your money is gone.

2. FAKE BOOKING WEBSITES

A plague of fake hotel booking websites is upon us! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning to travelers about third-party hotel booking websites that will happily take your money but “forget” to book your hotel.

3. FAKE BUS SERVICES IN VIETNAM

For almost every legitimate tourist bus service in Vietnam, there’s an identically named scam bus company. The imposter companies range in insidiousness from simply providing an inferior service to scamming you into paying for an overpriced hotel—with which they are in cahoots. 

4. CD BULLIES IN NEW YORK CITY 

The routine goes like this: A guy hands you a copy of his CD and asks you to check out his music. But when you try to walk away, he’ll scream that the seemingly free CD costs $10. There are different versions of this scam all over the world: In some European countries, the scam artists will sell you a leather jacket; in Madrid and New Delhi, they’ll sell you rosemary. 

5. “FREE” VACATIONS 

While a lot of scams are easy to spot, some come from seemingly legitimate corporations. Some travel clubs—clubs that offer discounts and other special privileges for travelers—offer a free vacation when you sign up, but then make it near impossible to actually book the trip. For example, the club will tell you that you have a year to cash in on the free vacation, but whenever you try to do so, they’ll say that you’ve missed the deadline. 

6. FAKE PIZZA DELIVERY 

If you find a pizza menu under the door at your hotel, think twice about ordering from it—even if they offer free toppings. A lot of these are actually fake menus. When you call to place your order, you’ll be connected to an identity thief, not a restaurant employee, who will gladly take down your credit card information.

7. CAMEL SCAM IN CAIRO 

When you visit the pyramids in Giza, you can also pay a few dollars to pose in front of the pyramids on a camel. Unfortunately, some camel wranglers will hold you hostage on the back of the 8-foot-tall animal until you pay an additional fee to get off.

8. THE STRING TRICK IN FRANCE 

If someone on the street in France offers to make you a friendship bracelet on the spot, refuse. They’ve been known to wrap a string around their victim’s wrist and refuse to let go until they are paid. So much for friendship…

9. THE RING TRICK 

If you find what looks like a gold ring on the street in any European city, it’s probably best to just leave it alone. Scam artists will try to convince you to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the fake gold.

10. A ROSE FOR YOUR GIRLFRIEND 

This one’s similar to the CD bullies of New York, except that in addition to cheating you out of your money, this scam embarrasses you in front of your significant other. Generally, someone will approach you and your girlfriend and offer her a rose. If she accepts the gift, the scammer will ask you to pay him an exorbitant amount of money for it. 

11. TIME SHARES 

Most people get lured into lengthy timeshare lectures with the promise of free food or other goodies. Even if they don’t fall for the timeshare itself, they’ll end up wasting an entire afternoon of vacation sitting through a boring lecture just for some free dinner or cocktails.

Nothing is sacred—not even your vacation. For more widespread misconceptions about everything you thought you knew, tune in to Adam Ruins Everything on truTV Tuesdays at 10/9C

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
11 Harsh Truths About Hangovers
iStock
iStock

You know the symptoms: splitting headache, shaking, nausea, and general despair. Although conveniently shoved to the far recesses of your mind while you’re enjoying your night out, your hangover becomes impossible to ignore the next morning when your alarm clock is blaring in your ear. In addition to their undisputed existence, here are 11 more unfortunate truths about hangovers.

1. WE'RE NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHY WE GET THEM.

Despite what your college friends may have told you, hangovers are not the result of dehydration or low blood sugar. The real cause is still shrouded in mystery. One hypothesis suggests that drinking leads to a build up of acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that is created when enzymes in your liver break down alcohol. When your body can’t process the acetaldehyde quickly enough, it hangs around, making you feel horrible.

Another hypothesis points to cytokines, proteins that will signal for an inflammatory response to fight infection. Drinking can activate this signal, leading to flu-like symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and headaches. This is why anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help ease hangover symptoms.

2. THEY GET WORSE WITH AGE.

Another fun aspect of adulthood: Hangovers get worse as you get older. Scientists think this has to do with the depletion of enzymes that are needed to break down alcohol. Enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenase, or ALDH, and alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH, work together to break down the booze first into acetaldehyde (mentioned earlier), and then into a non-toxic substance called acetic acid. Without these enzymes working in full force, hangovers last longer. 

However, at least one recent Danish study has shown that hangovers actually get easier as you age. If true, the reason may have more to do with human behavior than with the alcohol itself: It might simply be because as we get older, the people who get severe hangovers stop drinking, while the people who aren’t prone to hangovers see no reason to stop. 

3. YOU CAN'T "SOAK UP THE ALCOHOL" BY EATING STARCHY FOODS.

Despite one popular myth about a bacon sandwich being the ultimate hangover cure, there is no evidence to support the popular theory that carbs and greasy foods will cure your hangover. However, more forward thinkers can prevent the whole mess from happening by drinking Asian pear juice before hitting the bottle. The fruit acts on the enzymes that break down alcohol, so a glass before going out could be your saving grace. Another study looked into prickly pear skin extract and found that it reduced the chances of a severe hangover by half. But again, it had to be consumed several hours before drinking began.

4. THERE'S NO MAGICAL HANGOVER FAIRY. 

But if you’re really hurting (and willing to pay a pretty penny), you can always turn to the Internet for help. Services now exist that send helpful messengers, armed with non-alcohol drinks and breakfast, to your home for some tidying up so you can get some R&R.

5. IT'S UNLIKELY WE WILL EVER SEE A HANGOVER-FREE BEER.

A few years ago, a story about Australian scientists who were concocting a beer that wouldn’t give you a hangover made the rounds. It was believed that by adding electrolytes to the drink you could counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects, and you’d therefore feel fine in the morning. Unfortunately, dehydration is not the cause of a hangover, so the effects would be minor at best. 

6. SMOKING MAKES THEM WORSE.

Studies have shown that drinkers are much more likely to smoke tobacco. And to add insult to injury, doing so only adds to the problem. The exact reason is not clear, but it could be because tobacco has acetaldehyde, a possible culprit for why we get hangovers from alcohol. In hangover terms, lighting up a cigarette could be the equivalent of knocking back another drink, and should therefore be avoided if possible.

7. THERE'S A PATRON SAINT OF HANGOVERS—BUT EVEN SHE CAN'T MAKE THE ROOM STOP SPINNING.

St. Bibiana, Roman virgin and martyr, is the patron saint of hangovers. She’s also the patron saint of headaches, epilepsy, and insanity (go figure). 

8. JUICE AND COFFEE CAN'T SAVE YOU.

You might be tempted to roll out of bed and reach for the OJ or coffee, but these beverages aren’t going to do you any favors. There is no evidence that either will lessen the effects of your hangover. Plus, sugar and caffeine crashes are very real things—and are not fun when mixed with your already-throbbing headache.

9. WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET HANGOVERS. 

Unfortunately for female drinkers, the negative effects of alcohol are much more prevalent for them than for their male counterparts. Studies have shown that women are much more likely to feel the effects of their drinking in the morning, especially if they didn’t eat before imbibing the night before. One survey found that 12.6 percent of women said they always or almost always get a hangover after five drinks. In comparison, only 6.1 percent of men said the same.

10. YOUR HANGOVER IS BAD FOR THE ECONOMY.

You may think the only one who suffers when you come to work with a pounding headache is you, but you’d be wrong. The economy experiences $1.37 in lost productivity for every beer thrown back the night before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hangovers cost the American economy over $160 billion in 2006.  So the next time you show up disheveled and sluggish, remember that your lack of productivity comes with a heavy price tag.

11. THE SILVER LINING: WE CAN THANK OUR HANGOVERS FOR BRUNCH.

It probably comes as no surprise that the Bloody Mary cocktail was invented as a hangover cure, but you might not have known that some food historians believe Eggs Benedict and the world’s most popular cola drink were both created for the same reason. In fact, the entire tradition of brunch was started to let Saturday night partiers catch up on their sleep and eat a later first meal. 

Nothing ruins a fun night of drinking like the specter of a hangover—and no one ruins all the things you think you know like College Humor comedian Adam Conover. Tune in to Adam Ruins Everything on truTV Tuesdays at 10/9C

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios