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6 Foods You Might Think Are Healthy, But Aren't


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By Adam Campbell

They may be lauded as health foods or better-for-you alternatives, but don't be fooled by these seemingly good eats.

Just because the packages proclaim nutritional benefits and commercials flaunt the product's rumored perks, these eats are just big health frauds:

1. Yogurt with Fruit at the Bottom

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The upside: Yogurt and fruit are two of the healthiest foods known to man.

The downside: Corn syrup is not. But that's exactly what's used to make these products super sweet. For example, a six-ounce carton of fruit-flavored yogurt contains 32 grams of sugar, only about half of which is found naturally in the yogurt and fruit. The rest comes from corn syrup, an added sugar or what we prefer to call "unnecessary."

The healthier alternative: Mix 1/2 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup fresh fruit, such as blueberries or raspberries. You'll eliminate the excess sugar while more than doubling the amount of fruit you down.

2. Baked Beans

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The upside: Beans are packed with fiber that helps keep you full and slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.

The downside: The baked kind are typically covered in a sauce made with brown and white sugars. And because the fiber is located inside the bean, it doesn't have a chance to interfere with the speed at which the sugary glaze is digested. Consider that 1 cup of baked beans contains 24 grams of sugar: about the same amount that's in an 8-ounce soft drink. Not drinking regular soda? Then you should skip the baked beans, too.

The healthier alternative: Red kidney beans, packed in water. You get the nutritional benefits of legumes, without the extra sugar. They don't even need to be heated: Just open the can, rinse off the liquid and excess salt they're stored in and serve. Try splashing some hot sauce on top for a spicy variation.

3. California Roll

The upside: The seaweed it's wrapped in contains essential nutrients, such as iodine, calcium and omega-3 fats.

The downside: It's basically a Japanese sugar cube. That's because its two other major components are white rice and imitation crab, both of which are packed with fast-digesting carbohydrates and almost no protein.

The healthier alternative: Opt for real sushi, by choosing a roll that's made with tuna or salmon. This automatically reduces the number of blood sugar-boosting carbohydrates you're eating, while providing a hefty helping of high-quality protein. Or better yet, skip the rice, too, by ordering sashimi.

4. Fat-Free Salad Dressing

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The upside: Cutting out the fat reduces the calories that a dressing contains.

The downside: Sugar is added to provide flavor. Perhaps more important, the removal of fat reduces your body's ability to absorb many of the vitamins found in salad vegetables. In a recent study, Ohio State University researchers discovered that people who ate a salad dressing containing fat absorbed 15 times more beta-carotene and five times more lutein—both powerful antioxidants—than when they downed a salad topped with fat-free dressing.

The healthier alternative: Choose a full-fat dressing that is made with either olive oil or canola oil and that provides less than 2 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Or keep it simple, tangy and completely sugar-free by making any of these 15 homemade salad dressings or just shaking liberal amounts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil over your salad.

5. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

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The upside: Even the reduced-fat version is packed with healthy monounsaturated fat.

The downside: Many commercial brands are sweetened with "icing sugar"—the same finely ground sugar used to decorate cupcakes. And reduced-fat versions are the worst of all because they extract the healthy fat only to infuse more icing sugar. In fact, each tablespoon of reduced-fat Skippy contains 1/2 teaspoon of the sweet stuff. So the label might as well read, "Stick a birthday candle in me."

The healthier alternative: An all-natural, full-fat peanut butter that contains no added sugar.

6. Corn Oil


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The upside: It's considered good for you because it contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acid—an essential polyunsaturated fat that doesn't raise cholesterol.

The downside: Corn oil contains 60 times more omega-6 than omega-3, the type of healthy fat predominantly found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed. This is a problem because research shows that a high intake of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3 fats is associated with increased inflammation that boosts your risk of cancer, arthritis and obesity.

The healthier alternative: Olive or canola oils are some of the healthiest oils, which have a much better balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. They also have also a greater proportion of monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Adapted from The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises


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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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