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7 signs a food may not be as healthy as you think it is

Article by Sarah Fielding
(Photo by Martin Cooper)

Do you ever feel like no matter how healthy you try to eat, there's something bad sneaking into all your meals? It can be frustrating figuring out what makes a food healthy or not and how a food will impact your body.

A great way to decide if a food is secretly unhealthy is by looking at all the ingredients. If you think a food is healthy, it may surprise you to see the additives or other annoyances that have been slipped into it. If you're looking to figure out the truth, here are signs a food is unhealthy, even if it appears not to be.


1. It claims to be "reduced-fat"

You may be more inclined to pick up products that tout that they're "reduced-fat" or "low-fat" on their packages, but that doesn't exactly mean it's healthy.

When producers make low-fat or reduced-fat foods, even if they're lowering the fat content, they're likely increasing other aspects to make it taste better, including added sugar.

Take a good hard look at the nutrition label to determine if it's actually the best option for you.

2. It's gluten-free.

Of course, if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you should absolutely be picking up gluten-free options. But, if you're just trying to cut out gluten because you think gluten-free options are "healthier" you're sorely mistaken.

Gluten-free food often contains sugary starches and additives often meant to replicate gluten. Plus, studies suggest that gluten-free foods are not healthier overall, containing more salt and fat than other, similar foods, according to The Washington Post.

3. It claims to be made of whole-grains.

You've probably seen a lot of cereals and bread tout that they're now made with "whole grains" in a claim that they're now healthier for you. But that isn't always exactly true.

Because of some loopholes in the definition of "whole grain," these foods may actually contain all parts of the grain in a fine flour form, something that your body often processes as sugar.

4. It claims that there's "no sugar added."

(Photo by Charles Haynes)

Although some foods will brag about being "no added sugar," sometimes that just means there is no sugar in its traditional form. Oftentimes, manufacturers skimp around it by claiming that label but including high-fructose corn syrup or other names for sugar.

While you may only think of syrup as something you'd put on your pancakes, high-fructose corn syrup can be found in most processed foods, according to Healthline. Sure candy may have it, but even foods like deli meat can find it added in. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but more research is needed.

It's important to know all of the ways that sugar can be labeled and not to just go off the front of the label.

5. It's labeled "organic sugar."

Although there are foods that experts say are best to buy organic, if you're debating on buying something with "organic" sugar versus "regular" sugar, it doesn't really make a difference.

The chemical compound of "organic" sugar is exactly the same, according to HealthLine, so if you're looking for a healthier choice, this probably isn't it.

6. It claims to be baked, not fried.

(Photo by Valters Krontals)

To be clear, baking a food yourself will pretty much always be healthier than getting it fried. But when it comes to processed "junk food," such as potato chips, just because it's "baked" doesn't mean it's healthy.

In fact, US News blogger Yoni Freedhoff, MD, found that a brand of baked chips had only 38 fewer calories than a classic competitor and contained more salt.

7. It touts that it's "free-range."

You may think the chickens that laid your "free-range eggs" are running around, uninhibited and therefore healthier. But the US Department of Agriculture's guidelines about what "free-range" actually means is basically non-existent. It basically just means that the chickens have access to the outside, according to Salon.

Additionally, a study led by food technologist Deana Jones and cited by Time magazine, claims that "free-range" eggs were not found to be any healthier than "normal" eggs, so sounds like this may be better off ignored altogether.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.