Health foods are everywhere we look these days, but Dr. Ali Zentner says some of them are just hype. From energy bars to coconut water, she investigates which really have health benefits and which do not.
The claim: Energy bars are supplemental bars containing cereals and other high energy foods targeted at people who require quick energy but don't have time for a meal.
The verdict: Depending on the brand, energy bars are often just glorified chocolate bars. Most are highly processed and made with refined sugars. They way they're marketed doesn't make it any easier to tell the good ones from candy bars with a few added vitamins. All calories provide energy, so literally anything can be called an "energy bar."
The claim: Coconut water is rich in potassium, a great all natural beverage to stay hydrated through electrolytes.
The verdict: Hype! When consuming coconut water, you're drinking your calories. Although it's a good source of potassium, coconut water is still pretty high in sugar. Stick with water to stay hydrated.
The claim: Quinoa's a whole grain that was prized by the Incas for its nutritive value. In fact, it's the only grain that contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
The verdict: Healthy! Quinoa's a starch that is indeed higher in fibre and protein relative to regular rice, for example. Is it healthier than spinach? No. Is it healthier than rice? Absolutely.
The claim: A multigrain is one that contains two or more types of different grains. Products with this term may contain any mixture of wheat, corn, barely, rice, oats, buckwheat, flax, and millet, for example.
The verdict: Healthy! These products are higher in fibre, but be sure to read the labels as some aren't as high asy ou may think. Further, none of the grains in multigran products are necessarily whole grains. Whole grain means all parts of the grain kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) are used, making them better for you.
The claim: A life-long gluten-free diet is the only way to avoid the symptoms and the complications of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet will also help with weight loss and bloating.
The verdict: Healthy and hype! You only have to switch to a gluten-free diet if you're truly celiac or gluten intolerant, as determined by your doctor. While there is mounting medical evidence on the benefits of a diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugars, food comparnies are slapping all of their food with gluten-free labels. This creates hype that gluten-free is the way to go, which is the case only if you've been tested.
The claim: Coconut oil is one of the best sources of heart-healthy medium-chain fatty acids, notably lauric acid, which enhance the immune system through antiviral and antibacterial effects. These acids also stimulate metabolism, and can aid weight loss.
The verdict: Hype! There's still no data to prove coconut oil is any better for you than olive oil. It's still a saturated fat. The evidence that coconut oil is super-healthful is not convincing and these claims are based more on testimonials than clinical evidence. Olive oil is a better option with data to back it up.