Be sure foods labeled 'healthy' aren't doing more harm than good
Great romances - "Phantom of the Opera," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Wuthering Heights" - prove you can't always tell what's inside by looking at the packaging. But who thought that was true for coleslaw or a million other packaged "healthy" foods that fill grocery-store shelves? Often these so-called healthy foods have as many calories and more sodium and sugar than the standard versions. They can even block health-bestowing nutrients from getting into your body. Fat-free dressings are an example: They're lower in calories than dressings with heart-friendly canola or olive oil, but sometimes their ingredients prevent absorption of vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables. Another common mistake: You want to avoid dairy, so you opt for a flavored vanilla or chocolate almond milk and end up with 15 to 20 grams of sugar in a cup - as much as ice cream. Or, to avoid emulsifiers and additives, you get a standard brand peanut butter's "natural" version, but it contains saturated-fat-laden, inflammation-causing palm oil. Rule No. 1: Read the labels! One more "healthy food" trap to be aware of: You think because it's "healthy" you can eat more, more, more. You end up shoveling in extra calories and heart- and brain-damaging salt and sweeteners! Follow portion-size recommendations - even with lower calorie and healthy foods. Your plate (9-inch diameter is a good size) should be two-thirds whole grains and vegetables; one-third protein (lean, skinless poultry or fish such as salmon and ocean trout, legumes and nuts). Fruit makes a great dessert! v vToday's artificial sweeteners aren't necessarily sweet to your system; some can deliver a nasty shock.The latest info indicates that sucralose is not inactive metabolically (and we worry the same also is true of other artificial sweeteners). Sucralose actively conspires to deceive receptors in the stomach and intestines that detect sweetness. That causes two problems: It stimulates extra-high blood glucose levels - seems the sucralose increases absorption of glucose from food (such as carbs) and that spike high blood sugar levels. It also raises insulin levels by 20 percent; too much of that good thing can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Our (oft-repeated) recommendation is: "Avoid all added sugars and sugar syrups." We'd like to expand that to say avoid added fake sugars, too. Stick with nature's own, found in veggies and fruits. At breakfast, enjoy nonfat Greek yogurt with the sweet flavor of 100 percent whole grains, such as steel-cut oatmeal or shredded wheat, topped with blueberries and strawberries, the real sweets. For lunch, a mango-chili pepper-lime-and-cilantro salsa on salmon or tuna salad will electrify your taste buds. And for dinner, try a baked beta-carotene-loaded sweet potato topped with a veggie compote of zucchini, onions, red peppers, garlic and fresh thyme. It'll feel very sweet to get your sugars from the healthy foods you love. Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.