We’ve all been there: you took it too far last weekend, so now it’s time to be ‘healthy’.
In 2017, that probably means turning to a green juice, avocado toast, or an acai bowl, all of which are tipped as cleansing and fat-busting.
But are these fads really that good for you? Not always.
Registered nutritionist Amy Shapiro and registered dietitian Maria Bella warn many of today’s top trends are loaded with sugar and calories, which throw your diet off balance.
They warn it is important to pay attention to the ingredients when you are buying items at the store or going to a restaurant.
Here, they break down the benefits and downsides of the nine most popular health trends this year, and whether you should rethink your approach next time you detox.
1. ACAI BOWLS
Amy Shapiro, registered nutritionist, dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition in New York City, said that these bowls are full of antioxidants.
These are important for the body because they protect against damage caused by harmful molecules.
Maria Bella, registered dietitian and founder of Top Balance Nutrition in New York City said that acai bowls also add more vitamins and health fats to the diet when consumed.
Acai bowls are loaded with antioxidants but the added sugars from fruit and other toppings make some experts wary about consistently consuming these food items
‘(There is) too much sugar from all the added fruit and topping,’ Shapiro said.
People have to pay attention to the ingredients when they are buying one at a store or restaurant because it could increase your sugar levels quickly.
Bella said the addition of vitamins and health fats can carry a hefty calorie tag due to ingredients such as nut butter and seeds added in most bowls.
Be careful with what acai bowls you’re buying and what ingredients are in the bowl.
The amount of calories added by ingredients such as seeds and nut butter can make the bowl not worth it in the end.
Bella recommends making your own acai bowl at home to help control the sugar levels and fat content.
2. AVOCADO TOAST
Shapiro said avocado toast has a lot of heart-healthy fats.
This trendy health food contains a good fat that helps lower cholesterol levels and is free of sodium.
It is important to pay attention to the type of bread you are using when you make the avocado toast.
‘Sprouted grains are amazing for cholesterol and blood sugar control and have been shown to cause less gastrointestinal distress in runners,’ Bella said.
If you are using whole wheat bread, make sure it has at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Avocado toast can have good benefits because of the heart-healthy fats it adds to your diet. If you are making toast at home, only add a quarter of an avocado onto one piece of toast
Switch up your avocado toast recipe with these ingredients
Sriracha Egg & Cheese
Top a thin layer of avocado mash with a cooked egg, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a Sriracha drizzle.
Top your mash with 1/4 cup of whole, cooked chickpeas, chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkle of dukkah.
Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil.
Green Eggs and Ham
Top your green avocado layer with a slice of deli ham, then a fried sunny-side up egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Source: Maria Bella, RD
There is such a thing as eating too much of an ingredient.
Shapiro said people need to avoid adding too much avocado to the toast when they are making it.
Restaurants tend to add an entire avocado on one slice of bread instead of the her recommended quarter amount.
Avocado toast is a good option to get your fill of heart-healthy fats and make you feel full.
There is a wide variety of ingredients that can be used when you are making the toast.
So avoid using too much avocado and add other ingredients such as eggs, smoked salmon or sunflower seeds to boost the benefits.
‘(Granola) can be gluten-free and full of healthy ingredients like nuts, seeds and oats,’ Shapiro said.
It also has added heart-healthy unsaturated fats and some protein.
Bella only recommends this to clients who are trying to gain weight because of the amount of calories one cup can have.
This tends to be the worst health food that people can consume.
There can be a lot of hidden sugars and fats in the granola that you purchase from the store.
It can contain on average 450-600 calories for a cup-sized serving, which is an obscene amount.
‘If you add some milk, you’re consuming over half your calories before lunch time,’ Bella said.
Granola is 460-500 calories per cup. Dietitian Maria Bella considers it to be the worst health food that people can consume because of how fattening it can be
This is not the best option for you if you are looking to lose weight.
If one cup mixed with milk can take out more than half of your calorie allowance for the day, then it is not a worthy health food to consume.
While there is an option to make your own at home, that can be time consuming and yield poor results.
Pay attention to the label when you are buying it to make sure it is free of hidden sugars and fats.
4. NUTRITION BARS
Nutrition bars are an easy snack to grab on the go when you are in a rush.
‘I recommend whole ingredients like dates, nuts, chocolate chips and peanut butter,’ Shapiro said.
You should be able to recognize what is in the bar when you read the label.
Bella said bars with fewer than 150 calories and have more than five grams of fiber are best for people that are looking for a nutritious option.
Nutrition bars can be great if you need a snack on-the-go but make sure to pay attention to the ingredient list. You want ingredients that you can recognize such as dates and nuts
‘I always prefer real food over a packaged bar,’ Bella said.
Sugar levels can be hiked up in the bar and many alternatives added.
‘Nutrient bars are over processed and could derail the diet’, Shapiro said.
The bar shouldn’t have more than 11 or 12g of sugar if you want to get the full-health benefits without the unnecessary sugar rush.
If you don’t recognize the ingredients in the bar, then it probably isn’t as good for you as you may think.
Pay attention to the labels when picking out the best bars for you to make sure that are no sugar additives and that you can recognize the ingredients.
If the bar is over 11 or 12g in sugar then it is probably best to choose a different snack such as a handful of almonds if you are on the go.
5. ALMOND MILK
‘The good part is that it is low in calories,’ Bella said.
Almond milk has a lot of flavor options for people that are looking for something tasty that is diary-free.
Shapiro recommends buying unsweetened almond milk because it gets rid of the added sugars.
Avoid almond milk with added sugars and carrageenan. Also, almond milk is low in protein and calcium, so if you are drinking it make sure you make up for that in other foods
‘The bad is that it is low in protein,’ Bella said
Even though almonds are a good source for protein, the almond milk is not.
It is also low in calcium compared to regular milk.
Some almond milk has carrageenan in it. This additive has no nutrition benefits to it and is used to thicken products such as milk and yogurt.
Shapiro said there have been reports on carrageenan causing illnesses in people and it doesn’t have any added benefits to it.
She thinks if you are buying almond milk, it is best to avoid that ingredient.
Choose what type of milk you are getting based on what your body needs.
Almond milk could be best for your diet if you are looking for a low-calorie option.
But if you are low in calcium or protein, you might need to switch to another type of milk.
6. GREEN JUICES
Juices add more fruits and vegetables to your diet if you are lacking in them, but both Shapiro and Bella usually don’t recommend this option for their clients.
‘People often confuse juices and smoothies,’ Bella said. ‘Juices discard invaluable fiber and lead to quick sugar spikes and crashes later on.’
Juicing strips fruits from their fibers and leaves behind the sugars. You also have to put more fruit in the blender when juicing then you would normally eat on its own.
Shapiro said she prefers her clients to eat their fruits and vegetables instead of drinking them.
Experts don’t recommend juicing to help lose weight. It strips the fruit of its healthy fiber and adds a lot of unnecessary sugars to your diet
Juicing is best if only one fruit is used and the rest are vegetables.
This helps lower the amount of sugar in the drink.
But if you’re trying to lose weight, it might just be better to eat the fruits and vegetables instead of blending them together.
‘An average adult woman needs 25g of fiber and an adult male 38g, whereas an average-adult American only gets 12g per day,’ Bella said.
So if you are low in fiber, avoid juicing because of how it strips it from the fruits.
7. PROTEIN DRINKS
‘If ordering a smoothie or a shake, opt for all natural ingredients and limit any added sugar in the form of honey or agave,’ Bella said.
Protein shakes can provide a quick form of protein for the body.
Since it is in liquid-form, it is digested more quickly by the body making it fast-acting.
This is good for rebuilding muscles after an intense workout.
‘As a meal, it helps slow down the digestion of the sugars,’ Shapiro said.
Protein shakes are good at rebuilding muscle after an intense workout
‘Studies do show that chewing solid foods sends signals to our hypothalamus, a brain region responsible for satiety and hunger symptoms, that we are full,’ Bella said.
‘So if given a choice between drinking blended produce or eating real fruits and veggies, I would recommend the latter.’
‘Depends on what they are putting in it and when they are drinking it,’ Shapiro said.
If you are drinking the protein shake to help after working it then it could be good for the muscles in the body.
But these shakes won’t help you lose weight if that is your health goal.
8. DRINKING VINEGAR
Drinking apple cider vinegar can help with acid reflux and is a good anti-fungal liquid.
It also has been proven to lower blood sugar levels and help with people who have diabetes.
There is loose research around apple cider vinegar helping with weight loss, but Shapiro said she hasn’t seen enough evidence that it does.
It can also slightly increase the metabolic rate in your body when you are digesting foods.
Apple cider vinegar can help increase metabolic rate slightly, but it isn’t enough to combat a large meal such as a burger and fries
‘Remember that most foods/drinks such as green tea, spicy foods or capsaicin found in red pepper and apple cider vinegar can only slightly increase the metabolic rate – not enough to negate a large burger with french fries,’ Bella said.
So it isn’t the best option if you are trying to use it to combat what you have already eaten for the day.
If you are looking for a solution to acid reflux or lower blood sugar levels then this could be a good option for you.
But there is still not enough data to show that it can help with weight loss.
9. CHARCOAL SUPPLEMENTS
Interest in charcoal supplements has increased due to potential for it to help get rid of toxins in the body and help with weight loss.
Shapiro doesn’t recommend this product to her clients because of lack of evidence.
Bella said that there have been some studies showing that charcoal can help with whitening teeth and symptoms of food poisoning.
‘Our body detoxes itself enough on its own,’ Shapiro said.
She doesn’t think there is enough research on charcoal supplements to prove they are beneficial to the body.
Also, studies have found that ingesting charcoal can make some medications like birth control stop working for you.
Charcoal supplements are one of the newer fads circulating the health market. Make sure to check with a doctor before taking a supplement that could have harmful ingredients
Maybe this is one new trend that you should avoid until more proof comes out about its benefits.
Always check with your doctor before ingesting new supplements that you aren’t sure about.
‘Avoid products that claim to be “miracle cures,” “breakthroughs,” or “new discoveries,” as well as those that claim to have benefits but no side effects, or are based on a “secret ingredient” or method,’ Bella said.
‘Such claims are almost always fraudulent, and the product may contain harmful substances, drugs, or contaminants.’