Top 5 health cons you should avoid

Libby Limon BSc NT mBANT / Dec 14, 2015

Libby Limon, VITL's head of nutrition dispels some myths and give you the facts.


Here at VITL we are dedicated to finding the best nutritional products that have sound evidence that they will enhance your wellbeing and optimal function. However, as the health and wellness industry grows there are many products out there that are billed and marketed as healthy but behind the smoke and mirrors they may not be as healthy as they seem. Some of them may even be bad for you. 

1. Agave syrup.

It is true that in its unprocessed form the sugar from the agave plant contains some beneficial polyphenols. However modern agave syrup that you find in plastic bottles on supermarket shelves is a long way from its indigenous use. It is processed in a similar way to high fructose corn syrup, the heat destroying the health benefits and just leaving a fructose base sweetener. Fructose was one of the reasons why it originally marketed as ‘healthy’ as the body does not recognise it as sugar. However, it is now understood that fructose has to be metabolised in the liver and high amounts in the diet are associated with obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardio-vascular disease, high cholesterol and leptin (your satiation hormone) resistance.  It really isn’t the health food it cracked up to be and should be avoided in large quantities

2. Popcorn

The ‘healthy low fat’ snack alternative to potato chips often marketed with words like  “skinny”, “guilt-free”, “gluten-free” . But is it all it’s popped up to be?!

Of all the wholegrains corn or maize is one of the least nutrient dense foods in terms of vitamins and minerals.  It is also very high in carbohydrate, with not a lot of fibre or protein to balance blood sugar. Thus it has the potential to trigger cravings.  Many popcorn products have lots of added sugars, salts and added flavours which again can be detrimental to health if eaten in large quantities.

3. Dried Fruit and Dried Fruit Bars

Imagine eating 8 dried apricots… tasty light snack. Now imagine eating 8 fresh apricots, seems like a lot of fruit to consume. When you dry fruit you loose the main ingredient, which is water. What is left is a high sugar content snack.  There are many ‘healthy’ snack bars that the first ingredient is dates. A great natural sweetener in small quantities but as an everyday snack, they will load your diet with excess sugars.  Look for protein based snack bars instead, with high quality vegetarian proteins such as hemp or rice protein.

4. Green juice

I am a big fan of getting your greens via a daily juice, and many big chains as well as niche stores have been cashing in on this health craze. However, be mindful that you read the label. A true healthy juice that will confer health benefit needs to be at least 80% vegetables. Unfortunately, many on the market are more than 90% apple or other fruits juice. Many juices end up having the equivalent amount of sugar as chocolate bar or can of coke. Don’t be fooled and pay a premium for green juice that isn’t just that 100% full of greens.

5. Gluten-Free

Gluten free doesn’t always translate to healthier. When manufacturers create a gluten-free product, they swap out wheat flour for another flour such as almond, rice, corn or even bean. They also need to replicate the missing glutens effect of texture, structure and shape. Additives such as xanthum gum, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or corn starch are introduced. Extra sugar and fat are also added to the products to make them tastier. This often means the final product is less nutritious with more nasties than the non gluten-free product. When choosing a gluten-free substitute always read the ingredients label and avoid if there are lots of ingredients that you have never heard of and can’t pronounce.